August 24, 2017

A Bondo woman enacting a birth situation in Southern Orissa. She is grabbing a curtain which simulates a rope--helping her to bear down and birth.

Disaris or Healers among the Bonda Tribals of Southern Odisha—an interview I did with women of that tribe about 10 years ago.

How People Become Disaris

J - Is there a relationship between the jungle and the disari?

M – The person who becomes a disari will be taken by the deptha (a spirit) into the jungle. He will roam in the jungle with the deptha.  He will be fed by the deptha in the jungle and taught by the deptha.  They will say that it was because he was roaming with the deptha, that none of the wild animals harmed him. 

Also, he will be safe from thorns and stones and any accidents.  Even though he will not have returned for 2 or 3 days, he will come back hungry.  After going to the jungle, he would sing a song not in the Bonda language but in dida, kondo or languages of other tribal groups.  When the disari sings songs in this other language the people believe he/she is disari. 

M – Yes, they will go searching for the person.  If they find him, and he refuses to come, they will then know that he is “caught by the deptha

J – Some of the disari’s power is bringing the untamed power of the jungle into ever day life. 

C – Disari can be any gender and from any clan. Deptha spirit can be mountain spirit, water spirit, or grove spirit.  The person will stay in the jungle all night possessed by deptha.  Deptha teaches that person herbal medicines.  They won’t know where they are or what happened to them. The next morning, they will come back home, singing and shouting in different languages. 

J - When he [Kalabathi’s father] became “abnormal”.  What is the literally meaning of “abnormal”?

H – Drunken, mad, possessed, out of the head

J - Do all disaris go through madness in this way? Including the women?

H – No, some may have dreams.  M and B know two women who became disaris and both became through the process of dreams. 

J – Do some become ill or have fever or something else?

M – No sickness

J - Are they understood to be controlled by a spirit?

H – Yes

J – It seems there are three parts to becoming a disaris, or men disaris, (1) madness, (2) knowledge of the herbs, and (3) starting to do the rituals.

J – Do you know of any women disaris?

M – There are two women disaris, but they did not become disaris like the men. 

J – How did they become disaris?

M – They had a dream.  They do not do any of the big sacrifices, just the small, small ones

J – Do they do herbal medicine?

M – Yes, Kalabathi’s mother did know how to use some of the herbal medicines.

Kalabathi’s Father & Mother

Kalabathi’s father name was Budha Sisa who was 23 or 24 when he became a Shaman, when he became abnormal and sang the Shaman song. One day when he became mad and was singing the song, the Deptha (A spirit) asked him to sacrifice a goat. But Budha Sisa said that he cannot offer a goat. Instead, he offered coconut and a white chicken and did a ritual. From then on, he started doing all the rituals all the time.

At the same time, his wife also knew the rituals and Budha Sisa showed his wife the medicines that were used for the rituals. So, after his death, his wife also became strange. Seeing that, Kalabathi’s brother kept one of his mothers’ miniskirt and a cow bone under his mother’s head at night while she slept. He thought that the Deptha might not like her--seeing the miniskirt and the cow bone and she would become alright. However, he died because of the jealousy of others. ???

Kalabathi is from Dumripada village and her mother was aShaman. After her mother’s death, Kalabathi threw all her mother’s medicine and tools in the fire during her cremation.
After the cremation, one day, while Kalabathi was sleeping with her friends at her house, she heard a sound of a bird which was disturbing her sleep. So she got up and searched for the bird in the house. However, she could not see the bird; instead she saw 2 white stones which she threw in the cremation place.

So she said that we threw these stones and again it came back to my house. She once again took it back and threw it in the same place. Then later she had a dream that a husband and wife comes to her and tells her that we want to give you something in your hand. But Kalabathi refused to take it. Therefore, she did not become a Shaman.

2 – Sombari

Sombari from Bodapada says that if a layman does any ritual it will not work. Only the Shaman has the power to do that. Even the use of some medicine by ordinary people will not work. Sombari’s husband was a powerful Shaman. He could do different magic like removing stones, sticks, and bones from the patient’s body.

First he was possessed by the mountain spirit and became Shaman later he got a training in Malkangiri on Herbal medicine. He was able to read so he was having some books with him. In 2007, he died in an accident. In the cremation fire they burnt all the books he used. He was sick for 2 months before his death. So he thought that he would die and he told his wife after my death you will not be able to do the rituals that I used to do. Hence, you give back all my tools and destroy all my medicine. So after his death, his wife returned a kind of chain, long knife, Rs 50 and a new cloth to the blacksmith who made those things. However, she had a dream but she refused to become Shaman.

Sombari told that whenever her husband sang songs (mandhra) or does some Puja he gets convulsion and falls down. Then people bring turmeric, water and pour on his face and help him to move his legs which are stiff already then he will become alright after some time.
3. Sombari’s husband, Bodapada

The husband of Sombari, Bodapada stayed in the field to drink liquor without having food for a week. After a week, one day at night, when he was returning to home, he became abnormal and started singing Disari song and then he became unconscious.  He was given incenses by which he became alright. Then he asked for white goat, chicken, coconut and three white chickens from his wife. When his wife agreed to give whatever he asked to give, the spirit left him. Then he did the ritual with white goat, chicken, coconut and three white chickens. In addition to that, he also used 3 mats, 3 coconuts and 3 white chickens. Those things are normally used for all the rituals. Then, two years later, once again he was possessed by the spirit. So, he asked for black sheep, black chicken to do ritual again. His wife once again agreed to give those things for ritual and then the spirit left him and he did the ritual.

August 05, 2017

Cow colostrum for sale...

Speaking of Postpartum...the importance of colostrum...shouldn't it go to the calf?? Traditionally in many places when a cow calved some of the colostrum was made into sweets and distributed to neighbours (if they were of the right caste).

June 21, 2017

Traditional Postpartum Care---Tightening and Binding

These photos are from Florence, a French midwife who worked in rural Afghanistan many years ago. They show a simulation of a postpartum practice—two women using a cloth to gently compress different parts of the new mother’s body.  It is understood that the mother’s body has expanded/swollen with extra fluids while pregnant and birthing. Now this gentle compression is both soothing and helping deal with the extra fluids. Notice the final photo in which the feet are rubbed and the toes are pulled.

Continuing traditional postpartum care techniques

 Maathasthaani is a part of postpartum care, a manoeuvre after childbirth, done especially in Jharkhand. The dai stands the new mother up against wall and presses her forehead on the lower belly just above the pubic bone and moves her head upwards. Dais say that blood clots leave the body and the womb finds its place.

June 06, 2017

 For those 'modern' women who are going to rush around after birth, and view the traditional Indian postpartum seclusion as oppressive, please read the below.

I tried the Chinese
 practice of ‘sitting the month’ after childbirth

By Leslie Hsu Oh January 8
Washington Post
When my aunt learned I was pregnant with my fourth child, she begged me to respect the Chinese tradition of zuo yue zi, or “sitting the month.” Traced back to as early as the year 960, zuo yue zi is a set of diet and lifestyle restrictions practiced after birth to restore a woman’s “broken body.”
Traditionally, your mother enforces zuo yue zi. But my mother died when I turned 21, and I was raised by a father who championed all things Chinese but ridiculed the zuo yue zi restrictions he’d heard about: Do not wash your hair. Do not take showers. Do not brush your teeth. Do not carry your newborn baby, climb stairs, shed tears, drink or eat cold foods. Do not have sex, use the air conditioner, leave the house, read, watch TV or surf the Internet.
Zuo yue zi is somewhat controversial because the advice to take a month’s rest can be interpreted widely. For example, the ideas that one shouldn’t wash hair, take showers, brush teeth, use an air conditioner or leave the house all stem from the belief that childbirth brings significant amounts of fluid and blood loss. According to traditional Chinese medicine, blood carries chi, your “life force,” which fuels all the functions of the body. When you lose blood, you lose chi, and this causes your body to go into a state of yin (cold). When yin (cold) and yang (hot) are out of balance, your body will suffer physical disorders.
Some folks, such as a woman in China who died of heatstroke last year, follow the restrictions to an extreme. Others are more relaxed, taking showers or using air conditioning as long as cold air does not blow directly on them.
Born and raised in the United States and a graduate of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, I could not resist examining the evidence relating to zuo yue zi — and I found inconsistent results. On the plus side were findings that a long recovery period improved a mother’s health-related quality of life and led to better bonding with her child. But a 2014 studyof Chinese women found that limiting physical activity for a month was bad for muscular and cardiovascular health and increased postpartum depression.
Another study found that while sitting the month helped some women return to their pre-pregnancy weight, it also seemed to cause high cholesterol and high blood glucose and created feelings of “extreme sadness” from being homebound.
About the only thing scientists seem to agree on is that zuo yue zi is popular in East Asian and Southeast Asian countries and among migrants from these countries, and that health professionals should understand zuo yue zi to properly advise those who are practicing these cultural beliefs.
Despite the need for more studies to determine whether zuo yue zi adversely affects maternal physical and psychological health or, as its adherents believe, protects against diseases in later life, I was willing to try it. I had already had three rough postpartum experiences, where only my husband helped me — and only for about two weeks each time — with the cooking, cleaning and child care. I never got to stay in bed.
I’m still somewhat traumatized by the third postpartum experience: With our house in various stages of being boxed up for an unplanned move while our newborn wailed in her crib, I worked a nit comb through our older daughter’s long tangled hair, tears running down my face as my husband lathered up head-lice shampoo for our son and me.
For my fourth child, I hoped there was truth to what Shuqi Zhuang — reportedly the first woman to become a traditional Chinese medicine physician in Taiwan — called the “golden opportunity.”
Zhuang believed that proper postpartum recovery every time is critical for a woman’s health. One time would hopefully help repair damage done after previous pregnancies and save me from a future of hemorrhoids, uterine prolapse, urinary incontinence, weight gain, premature aging and body aches.
I figured there must be a reason that affluent women in China are willing to spend 27,000 in luxurious centers that specialize in zuo yue zi. In the United States, some friends have spent about $7,000 to stay at zuo yue zi centers, $3,000 (plus food and transportation expenses) to hire a nanny for 30 days or $2,000 to $4,000 to have a month’s worth of special postpartum meals delivered to their home.
So when my fourth child, a girl, was born, my aunt gifted me 30 days of meals delivered by Jing Mommy, a California-based service that promises “delicious and convenient meals for the postpartum recovery.”
A box large enough for my 3-year-old to enjoy as a playhouse arrived the day after I returned home with our newborn. This 94-pound box contained seven freezer bags, one for each day of that week. Each offered a daily pre-made meal of breakfast (congee, egg), lunch (fish soup, entree made from “yang” foods such as ginseng, vegetables and rice), dinner (a specialized soup of internal organs such as pig trotters or liver, a sesame oil soup, vegetables, rice), two desserts and herbal drinks. It was enough for all of us; we just had to microwave the meals.
I hopped onto Skype to show my aunt the generous spread I would receive each week. “So lucky! Pig feet are very good for joints and milk production,” she said in Chinese, peering through the webcam to see the various foods. Because the English labels read the same each day — “Lunch Fish Soup,” for example — I asked her to translate the Chinese labels. “Bass soup with mushrooms, bass soup with red dates and gojis. ... ” She disappeared into her kitchen and returned with a shriveled-up red berry about the size of a raisin. “Goji,” she said with respect. “Anti-aging, anti-inflammation.” In between her thumb and forefinger, she held a red date about the size of a grape. “I put this in all my soups. Protects the liver.”
Nicole Huang, chief executive and co-founder of Jing Mommy, hosts free tasting parties and seminars. While her meals are based on Zhuang’s rules of detoxification (Week 1), repairing (Week 2) and rejuvenation (Week 3 and Week 4), Huang modifies them by watching the reaction of her customers. Her cooks start preparing meals at 5 every morning in a professional kitchen and deliver them before noon to local moms. Fluent in English and Chinese, her customer service staff members say a typical day begins at about 7 a.m. — when they start answering frantic texts — and lasts until 10 p.m. Jing Mommy’s meal plans range from $2,030 to $3,390 (and, in our case at least, provided enough food for all of us!).
Huang said: “I feel fulfilled when women recover their health from my meals. I want women to enjoy their postpartum time. This is not a business to me but about education and explaining why zuo yue zi is important.”
So does it work?
According to acupuncturist Lia Andrews, author of ”The Postpartum Recovery Program,” too many new mothers rush back to their daily routines after birth. They expect that their weight, energy levels, mood and libido will miraculously bounce back without any assistance; they also believe it is normal for their bodies to feel wrecked from childbearing. Some “modern mothers never fully recover from having children. Instead, they suffer from depression, lack of libido, weight gain, hormonal imbalances, inability to conceive more children, urinary incontinence and other complications,” she writes in her book.
Anne CC Lee is a pediatrician in the department of newborn medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, a Harvard Medical School teaching hospital. Like me, she’s an ABC — an American-born Chinese — and a mother of four. And, like me, she said she responded to emails through labor, worked during what was supposed to be her maternity leave and repeatedly ignored relatives who tried to help her follow zuo yue zi.
Unlike in my case, though, Lee’s mother was still around to help her through all four postpartums. She reveled in her mother’s chicken soup, congee and childcare — but passed on the pig trotters.
The food and the parental help “provided me with the much-needed rest and energy to be able to better care for my newborn and return to family and work stronger,” Lee says. “My parents are Westernized and liberal with the interpretation of zuo yue zi, and fortunately allowed air conditioning — as long as it wasn’t blowing directly on the baby — showers and surfing the Internet.”
Lee points out that Eastern and Western cultures share common customs in the postpartum period — promoting nutrition, hydration and rest, and avoiding infectious exposures. “Many zuo yue zi traditions are beneficial for the mother and newborn, such as eating protein-rich foods, avoiding strenuous physical activity and restricting visitors to allow recuperation and reduce risk for infections,” she says.
“On the other hand, some traditions may have less clear benefit or even potential harm. Herbal supplements are not regulated by the FDA, and there is little information on their active ingredients, transfer into breast milk or effects on breast-feeding infants. Thus, it may be best to tailor the postpartum experience for the individual, considering a mother’s particular needs and circumstances, while balancing the potential benefits and potential risks of the practices.”
By standards of traditional Chinese medicine, I probably didn’t eat enough pork liver to replenish the blood lost during childbirth, pork kidney to heal back pain and pig feet to increase my milk supply.
By reading Andrews’s book, I also discovered that I had ignored a key piece of equipment for zuo yue zi that had come in the Jing Mommy box: a roll of stretchy cloth for a new mother to wrap around her abdomen. Had I known that the binding was supposed to minimize organ prolapse, improve my waistline and return my internal organs to the correct position, I would have tried it. “Without binding, new mothers can be left with a permanent puffy pouch,” Andrews writes.
Looking back, my husband and I regret not having given zuo yue zi a chance with our other children. Even though most women do not have the luxury of staying in bed for a month, we can at least try to rest and eat well. The prepared zuo yue zi meals alone made this postpartum experience much more enjoyable and less stressful than the previous ones. Not having to argue about who was going to prepare a meal or what to eat (fast food being the usual default) allowed us to focus on the health and wellbeing of everyone in the family. Zuo yue zi removed the exhaustion, anger and resentment that had clouded my ability to bond properly in those critical first months of postpartum.
Now three to four months after giving birth, I can more clearly see the long-term benefits. When my baby cries or needs a diaper changed, I am not so exhausted that I’d rather have my husband handle her care. And while I can’t prove that zuo yue zi is the cause, this newborn seems to have the most wonderful disposition: infectiously joyful. Best of all, as a relaxed, unstressed mother, I finally had the luxury of making my baby laugh first — instead of ceding that delight to my husband.