How much do we really know about BIRTH and the ceremony surrounding it?
This Saturday, my baby turns 8. I sometimes pinch myself, as when I look at this young woman, I am amazed that I created this little one inside me. My body made that! She is to me a celebration of what I always wanted to have in my life. I struggled to become a mother; she is what the gods meant to be in this world. I believe that, no matter how crazy it sounds. Today, I want to tackle something, because it vexes me slightly. As modern heathens, we need to do more to understand the other gender, and in that understanding we need to look at an important aspect that will affect a number of women, that is, the aspect of birth. We think to ourselves that the Vikings were likely to see this as specifically a woman’s affair, but actually this is not the case.
“The mother, see, absolutely had to deliver the baby within her household, so once the baby was due in about a month, she did not travel far beyond her home. The father also never left. I don’t care how high-status he was or what commitments he had, he would not leave the village/town/city once the baby was due in a month. And he would find someone else to take care of out-of-village duties if he had them. This was because he had to be at the birth. If he weren’t, then he could not fulfill his side of tradition and then we’d just have this tiny baby existing as a nonperson, because he did not have the rights of a human until his father accepted him (ritual explained below). The father also absolutely had to be present for the actual birth–and I don’t mean in the same building or right outside. Law and tradition and the gods required that he was in the same room. None of that “Oh, I’ll just be sitting outside while you push seven pounds of flesh out of your [edited for content]. That idea is so Victorian it makes me ache. Viking men were in the room. Invariably. Always.”
So, our male partners, it seems you can be there right with us! I only refer to males here, as I have never met same sex partners who refuse to be part of the birth process. I am sure there must be some, I just don’t think it’s as common. Somehow we have made the birthing process this gross thing that men shouldn’t be part of, and that’s daft!
My husband stayed by my face, and was the first person to hold his daughter. It was a moment of joy that I will not forget. I could not have done it alone as he offered me encouragement, told nurses where to stick it, and was there to ensure our daughter met the world with loving arms. Being part of your partner’s pregnancy and birth is natural, and something you may not want to miss! It can be done without you getting the front row seat so to speak!
The second thing to discuss is what traditions can us modern heathens gleam from the past if our birthing rituals and conduct have been chipped away so deeply?
We know that they did practice infanticide if a baby was born ‘defective’ I say this with full understanding that it makes heathens look evil but all cultures did this. Although, there is some evidence that discarded infants may have been taken in by ‘outlying’ dwellers, fostering the myth of the goblin babies. Its likely that if a lone woman somewhere outside of a tribe picked up a discarded child it might not be that well documented, and this is kind of a long shot theory.
“One practice that can be found in Sweden was done by a woman in her 7th month of pregnancy. The mother-to-be would draw blood from her finger with a needle and use the blood to draw protective runes on a piece of wood, before spinning three lengths of linen thread (Viking Answer Lady, 2012). One length of thread would be left white, another dyed red, and the third dyed black, while the rune blooded wood would be burned and the ashes added to beer or mead (Viking Answer Lady, 2012). The sections of linen thread were burned apart into 7″ threads using a brand from the fire, soaked in boiling salt water, and then left to dry in the branches of a tree for 3 days (Viking Answer Lady, 2012). The threads were carefully saved until the day of the birth when the black threads, representing death and bad luck, were burned and the ashes buried, the white thread was used to tie the cord at birth, and the red was strung with a bead [probably amber] and tied on the baby’s wrist for protection (Viking Answer Lady, 2012). This one would actually work just as well in a modern context, although I suppose for those of us that don’t spin we would have to buy the needed thread/yarn.”
Again that spinning reference is right there, but I won’t go back into that again. If we don’t know by now that spinning places into every single facet of our heathen life, then we have not been listening. Other ceremonies are suggested on this link:
I would say for myself we did the Naming ceremony as that is the most commonly known to the heathen communicate. As you can see we know some but not all of the rituals around birth, so why not share your story.
Did you use any specific ritual from within our spiritual path in your own birth?
About Larisa Hunter –
Larisa is an author, embroidery artist and owner of Saga Press/Friggas Loom. She is also a wife and mother. She has been heathen for 11+ years & has a certificate in General Arts and Science which lead her to run an art program at my daughters school, which allowed her to incorporate my love of history and culture. She consider heathenry as her life and what defines her. It is at her core and she follows it as she follows anything in her life, with a full and open heart. Larisa has spent a great part of her life focusing on education and assisting others come to heathenry. She has worked in various fields allowing her to have a diverse knowledge of how to operate a business and a non-profit.