What happens from childbirth until the time of purification.
The woman in childbed ties threads of palm-leaves around her forehead, her neck and her wrists. And around the child's wrists they tie threads of palm-leaves, and cords braided of sheep-wool they tie around its neck and its hips. Furthermore, with a cord of wool and with bast they tie outside of the house to the right [as one goes out] a palm-branch on a peg made of the c aqba or the wild olive-tree and drive [the peg] in the ground. And this palm-branch is called rayat.
They also cut two twigs of the aqba tree, and put one of them at the side of the palm-branch, and the other on the roof of the house ; but it is the son of a first wife who cuts them. And the men go out and bring some trunks of the qaras tree ; they put them together for a fire near the door of the house and keep it burning every evening until the purification, and some people sleep near it. Again they tie a pack-needle to the root of a palm-branch with a thread of bast and a braided cord : this is called the rattle because the woman lying in rattles with it. And the woman does not descend from her couch until her time is over, except to take a vapour-bath ; when she descends to take a vapour-bath she rattles with the palm-branch, and when she goes back, [she does] the same. And they tie a little bell to a carrying-pole [of the couch] on the side next to the door, and at day-break, at noon, in the afternoon and at sunset they ring it in the house of the woman lying in. They cut also a little twig of Grewia pilosa for a knocker; and the woman in childbed knocks with it.
And every [day at] day- break, at noon, in the afternoon and at sunset she knocks with the knocker and rattles with the rattle and rings the bell. Again when she hears a thunder-clap or an ass's bray or loud voices; or when they bring milk or grain, butter or water or wood into her house; or when women and girls and small children enter into it: [then] she knocks or rattles or rings the bell. And whenever whatever it be enters her house she does this until the time of her childbed is over. And the attendant woman or the midwife takes a few grains of salt with the tips of her fingers and moves them, three times seven, in a circle around over the head of the woman in childbed while she sits with her face covered; the same she does to the child, and then she drops the salt into the fire-place, and when they fly up bursting and hissing, she says: "May he who envies us burst in this way!" And this she does every morning and evening; it is called naqif ["bursting"]. They do not leave the woman in childbed alone in the house: the attendant stays always with her, and when she wishes to go outside, she leaves other people with the woman in childbed.
Furthermore they stick a piece of iron, a knife or a razor or a pack-needle or an awl in one of the carrying poles of the couch on the side next to the entry. Into the house of a woman lying in men and young men must not enter until her time is over. And when they are about to enter, without knowing, the woman rings the bell or knocks: then they know and go back. When the child is three days old, the midwife or some woman who knows [the art], sticks a needle into a piece of wood and heats it in the fire, and she cauterises the breast and the back of the boy [drawing a short line] downward at the place where the ribs part. This [line] is called the mark: for it is a sign that he is a legitimate child ; and this is done by the two Mansa c , the Bet-juk and the Bogos.
They bring some leaves of a tree called hasasito and then mix them with some red clay; and whatever the woman in childbed eats or drinks or whatever vessel she seizes they touch [with this mixture]. And in some cases, when she is to touch a thing, she first puts ashes on her hand. ') But whenever she is to taste anything, first the attendant tastes it for her. Furthermore, they do not take fire out of her house, nor must the fire of her house ever go out. Those who know the woman in childbed and her relatives bring milk to her; and when the milk comes in a pail of palm-leaves, they bring it closed. And if she has no milk from her own cattle, they go to those who abide near her and ask for milk saying: ["It is] for a woman in childbed;" and the others give [it] to them. And the woman takes a vapour-bath every evening except on those days which are taboo.
And after all this the time of her childbed is over: the mother of a boy stays forty days in the house of her child- bed ; the mother of a girl,however, remains thirty or twenty seven days. And when these days are over, her purification . is perfect, [as] it is said. And [of] the mother of a boy [it is said that she] 'has the hair-dress of full age made' ; and [of] the mother of a girl [that she] 'makes to shave'. [What happens, is the following:] On the last day all the clothes of the woman who has been lying in and also the clothes of the child and the threads of palm-leaves and of wool with which they had been tied, and all the [other] palm-leaves are taken by the midwife down to a river-bed; and she washes [the clothes], and when they are thoroughly clean she spreads them out that they may dry. All thepalm-leaves, however, and the threads she throws in the place of the river, so that they stay behind. On that day the woman who has been lying in bathes. Futhermore they call little children and tell them to hold their hands, [the inside of the palms up], over the fire; and they pour water on them. And the children say: "May the fire go out and the boy succeed !" When the fire is extinct they put the ashes and the charcoal and the rubbish of the whole house on plates and have the children carry them ; and the son of a first wife leads them or a girl when it is for a girl and they tell them not to turn their faces backward, and going away they drop it on an c aqba tree. When they return, they give each one of them both hands full of grain. And a babe is called until this time c enddy. And also in the house of the woman who has been lying in they take a great deal of grain and make a thick soup.
Then when the midwife enters with the clothes of the woman, the latter puts on her clothes and descends from her couch and goes out of the door. And they place a little kindling wood in front of her, and it burns: then embracing her child she treads on it and passes three times over it. After this she sits down wrapping up her head. And of the women who are near her some one says to her: "Woman who hast been lying in, from where doest thou come?" She answers: "From the door of Aksum! J ) That I may open corn and udder; that the young may grow up and the grown-up subsist; that the spear may enter [and stay at home], and the tusk 2 ) grow blunt; that the stranger may arrive [safely] and the people at home stay [in safety], that the pasturing flocks return at night, the flocks at home be [safe] in the morning; that the pregnant woman bring forth and the woman in childbed bring up; that he who is hated shall be loved, and he who is refused, be given ; that he who is far, may draw near [for this] am I come." And they respond each other in this way seven times. Then they bring out a razor for the babe and make the son of a first wife hold it, and while they guide his hand he shaves a little spot of the head of the babe. Thereupon a man shaves the babe; but according to the custom of his family he leaves the gessat or the herora or the debbokat and the gessat or the cadaddeq 3 ) on his head.
The tribe of the Agdub, however, have the custom not to shave their children until they are well grown. Then they say to a boy: "Go away closing thine eyes!" And when he is hidden they pluck two grass-blades and give each one of them a name. Now they call the boy who has closed his eyes and say to him: "Put one of these grass-blades on him !" And when he has put one of them on him, his name becomes such and such; and they say: "May it be lucky for him, may he hold it up !" And the little children call him by this name and say to him: "Come, let us play!" And they give him the name of his grandfather a girl that of her grandmother or of her father's sister , or of his father's brother, if he has died without descendants: they take the names of those [relatives] who are not [among the] living; or they choose a name appropriate to what has happened to them. And the thick soup which they have made they distribute among their neighbours [in the same] row of houses to the right and to the left. And those receiving the soup say: "May the crop of the family of his mother and of his father grow or, of the family of her mother and of ' her father !" And this soup is called "soup of the crop."
And the mother of the boy calls him by a surname ; the same do the women of his family. Now the husband of the woman and other men may enter the house. Thereupon they P. no. put the boy in the arms of his father and his father's brothers, of his grandfathers and of his mother's brothers and they make him a little present consisting of some animal or some money. To the midwife they give some grain: if she has assisted at the birth of a boy, five keffalS; for a girl four keffalo. But they give her the grain in small quantities at a time; the reason why they do not give it to her all at once, is that they fear their children might become few; every time a woman brings forth, they pay up [the rest which is owed to the midwife] for the preceding [birth].
If the mother of the babe has formerly lost children by death, she bites lest this child die too a little piece off the rim of his ear-shell and taking it with a little curdled cooked butter she swallows it; [in this case] a boy is called Cerrum or Qetum, a girl erremet or Qetmet (i. e. "bitten"). Or else she calls him with an ugly name or surname.
And when the child cries much they say: "The father of whining (i. e. the snake of the belly) has seized him;" and his mother chews a little bit of salt or of asa foetida or a grain of pepper and spits it on him; and at once the disease leaves him and he is silent. After half a year the boy's uvula is cut 2 ): the uvula-man comes and cuts a little piece off the uvula of the boy; then they give the man his midday-meal and the drink to which he is accustomed (i. e. coffee or tobacco). And when the child is a year old, they mix grains of dura, wheat and barley and roast them : then they let the child stand upon a [leopard's or a cow's] skin to a boy they give a staff in his hand, to a girl, however, a stirring stick and they pour a little of the roasted grain on its head ; the rest they distribute among their neighbours. This is the "roast grain of its year;" and they say "the roast grain if its year" has been poured in such and such a year.
Thereupon they bless the child saying: "May He let us see growth and health, long life and much luck, the time when thou becomest of age!" And if at the time of its birth or of the "roast grain of its year" a great man who is known to all dies, or if some sign [is. seen] or if there is a war, the parents of the child count after this the year of the birth of their child, and they say; "It was born in such and such a year." And the parents bring up their child taking good care of it and watching it well; and when it falls sick, they give it a drink of domestic and wild bitter herbs, or anoint it, or cauterise it, or cup it. And that it may become accostumed to speech, they ask it questions and tell it stories. And when [the boy] is grown up a little they make him learn the family of his father and of his mother and the names of his ancestors. And by his imitation of work in his play they see whether he is stupid or clever. Not all these rites and customs are performed when a daughter is born. What is omitted is this: they do not give the trilling shouts; they do not take into account a lucky [or unlucky] day; if she is born feet first, it does not matter; the rayat and the c aqba twigs are not put up; they do not make a fire; they do not hang up a bell; they do not give her the "navel-gift" nor the small gift on the day of purification. Now here ends [the description of] the customs connected with childbirth.
1) The woman represents now the Virgin Mary, whose chief sanctuary is at Aksum.
2) I. e. of lion, leopard, hyaena and sntke. 3)