8 Surprising Birth Rituals from Near and Far
Globally, the birth of a baby is celebrated in a variety of creative and spiritual ways. Viewed in many cultures as a sacred event, participating in various rituals has become the norm for new parents around the world. While some of the more controversial rituals are presently contested by modern science, many are nonetheless still practiced in religious communities, just the way they have been for centuries.
NOTE: Some of the rituals described in this document are not suitable for all audiences. Since a glimpse into the real world of global birth rituals is the main objective, no efforts were made to obscure the details.
Notable Birth Rituals from Sea to Shining Sea
Although there are birth rituals practiced in almost every region of the world, some are more bizarre or heart-warming than others. Furthermore, the rituals described here are deemed the most popular because there are hundreds (if not thousands) of people who participate, with many of the followers spread out into different regions of the world. It’s obvious that some of these habits have taken on a special meaning for their participants, having inspired them to bring their beliefs along with them to new areas of the globe.
Below are 8 still practiced, yet most unique, ways that modern spiritual families welcome their new bundles of joy into the world.
Parents Shave the Baby’s Head
Within the first few days of being born, and certainly within the first 3 years of life, new parents will shave their little one’s head in certain corners of the Hindu and Muslim traditions. In Islam, it’s a sign of servitude to Allah, while it’s seen as a means to rid the baby’s aura of negative energy by the Hindu believers. Either way, the chopped locks typically end up being thrown into the local river or traded for its equal weight in precious metal.
Family Members Honor the Placenta
As a group event, the baby’s detached placenta is honored in a ritualistic fashion by certain religious denominations. Seen as a dense source of vital nutrients, some people are inclined to perform some odd rites with this otherwise disposable reproductive organ. Among the rituals are activities such as burying it, eating it, and even making jewelry with it. While there are proven nutritional benefits to consumption, medical professionals do not typically recommend it.
Viewed as an acceptable ritual in most parts of the developed world, removing a male baby’s foreskin is commonly known as “circumcision.” Started in ancient Judaea and practiced by many Islamic, Christian, and Muslim faiths today, this removal process is not seen as traumatic in any way to the baby who is, for the most part, less than 8 days old at the time of the procedure.
The Baby Is Submerged in Holy Water
Typically referred to as “baptism,” submerging a newborn baby in water that has been blessed by a religious officiant is a common ritual that’s been practiced for millennia. Believed to be a way to cleanse the child of its original sin, Catholics and other Christian denominations ritualistically baptize their baby in a holy ceremony by either dipping the child into a large bowl or by gently sprinkling its head. In the modern European pagan perspective the Baby Naming Rite – normally held on the 9th day of the infant’s life – resembles this practice except that the child is blessed with an evergreen sprig dipped in holy water.
The Child Is Given Godparents
Godparents are people assigned through a union between God, the biological parents, and the child for the purposes of ensuring proper care for the child in the unfortunate event of the deaths of the biological parents. Seen as a wise plan of action by most, Godparent rituals often have guest lists that include religious and public officials, family members from both parties, friends, and church members. In fact, most Godparent Ceremonies are viewed as legally binding contracts.
The Baby Gets Its Ears Pierced
Some Hindus believe that piercing their baby’s ears in a ritual known as Karnavedha will keep evil spirits from inhabiting the innocent souls of the young. With a dual benefit of being a positive acupuncture point, the ear lobes are pierced in a ceremony that happens on either the 1st or 3rd birthday of the child. At times, it’s even done at the same time as the head shaving ritual since it’s practiced by the same group of religious participants.
Naming the Baby Is Done by Randomly Flipping to a Page in Holy Text
Welcoming a baby to their awaiting community is often done with great fanfare. Parents take their newborn to a temple (usually within 40 days of it birth) to present it to a priest. There, a holy book is opened to a random page and the contents are read aloud. Parents then name their child based on the first letter of the hymn found on the page. Once the baby’s new name is announced to the congregation, a traditional treat is served, and the ceremony comes to a close.
The Baby Is Given Something Sweet with which to Start Life
Families from the Middle East have several mysterious superstitions, but some of them are sweeter than others. For instance, newborn babies are given something sweet tasting within hours of being born. Followers of this ritual believe that it will make the baby speak sweetly as it learns to talk. While honey is typically the food of choice, sweets of all types are used by those who practice this ritual which is most commonly known as Jatakarma.
The List (and the Love) Is Endless
The variation of birth rituals around the world is astounding, not to mention fascinating. The sheer number of naming rite ceremonies alone is enough to fill an entire book. People from all walks of life tend to regard the birth of a child as a sacred experience, reserved for somber celebration by families who value a quality life and commitment to tradition. And while some of the rituals seem off-putting, unhealthy, painful, or even dangerous, it’s still obvious that there’s a lot of love behind them all.