From the farthest parts of Middle East to the deepest forests of Latin America, from the hottest regions of Asia to the coldest mountains of North America, people are born, live, love, and give birth in the same order that we all know.
However, some of them will go through this process in a very different way than yours.
As we’re starting our new creative agency Shaman, we wanted to know what it’s like to give birth with people that have like us, a different vision. We went looking all around the world for incredible stories and surprising characters. And we found out that Shamans have always helped giving life to everyone’s dearest wishes.. So we sure hope to do the same for you.
Among Cuna beliefs, Ibelel is definitly the most important divinity. He is the one who introduced social life and material culture to the first Cuna Tribes and observes the human behaviors every day from the Sun.
But divinities are not the only ones who matter for the tribe: the twelve shamans, called nele, are crucial personages who helped them all along their History. We’re about to tell you the incredible story of the godess Muu and the shaman’s role at the moment of birth.
Before all, you need to know that there are three kinds of shaman in Cuna culture: nele, inatuledi, and absogedi. The nele has the highest position, attributed by the others. He cannot become a nele voluntarily and he’s a true expert in myths, history of the group and cures for sicknesses. The Inatuledi provides medical care to heal – he has usually learnt his knowledges with an other shaman. He’s the closest to what we could refer to a doctor in an occidental thinking. The Absogedi prevents illness by magical ways, spells and rituals.
In the Cuna culture, the shaman is called during difficult childbirth. His cure consists in chanting a medicinal song called The Way of Birth. The lyrics tell the story of the nele himself, in his quest for the search of Muu’s house, the divinity responsible for the creation of foetuses and the soul of the uterus. Even though not evil, Muu sometimes captures the soul of the patient’s uterus, stopping her from giving birth! The mythical song describes the shaman’s fight against Muu and her daughters and how he beats them thanks to… magical hats! Once defeated, Muu agrees to free the soul and collaborates in bringing a succesfull birth. Our nele can now enjoy a well deserved rest after a long day of mental wrestling.
Even though not evil, Muu sometimes captures the soul of the patient’s uterus, stopping her from giving birth
The female shaman-midwife in the Nenet community plays a key-role into the birth process
In Siberia and Mongolia, shamanism is known as Tengerism, a quite antic religion where the sky is the father of all humans, and the Earth, their mother. It reflects an animistic belief system where everything in the natural world is alive, and inhabited by spirits.
These spirits have to be respected and appeased or else the land would become infertile, the animals supply for food would disappear and eventually the world would come to an end… To avoid such a dramatic situation and achieve this vital balance between humans, nature and the spirit world, a magical specialist is required – that is when our shaman gets in the game.
The female shaman-midwife in the Nenet community plays a key-role into the birth process. She’s here to ensure that babies are coming to this world safely in a physical and spiritual sense, by protecting them from evil influences. Immediately after a birth, the shaman-midwife cuts the umbilical cord and then purifies the new-born baby with salt water and fire. Among the witnesses, you can only see women who have first been ritually purified by the midwife with fire and water as well.
During the first few weeks of a baby’s life, it’s important that the proper rituals are performed to protect the child while its spirit gets fully established in the material world. If they are not performed properly, the baby’s spirit might return from where it came. Our shaman’s work is a long-term labor.
Unlike many Siberian traditions, in which spirits kind of force individuals to become shamans, most Inuit shamans willingly choose this path. Even when someone receives a “calling”, that individual may refuse it.
The process of becoming an Inuit shaman usually involves a lot of learning and initiation rituals. The Inuit shaman is always considered having special qualifications: he may have been an animal during a previous period and thus be able to use his valuable experience for the benefit of the community. Helping to give birth is obviously one of these main qualifications.
For Inuit women, labor occurs not in the family home, but in a traditional birthing hut. The pregnant woman delivers her baby in a traditional squatting position, helped by the other midwives. After giving birth, the mother is isolated for a period of time according to the sex of her child: one month for a boy and two for a girl. Unfortunately, if the childbirth hasn’t succeed, the hut must be abandoned.
After an Inuit child is born, the shaman of the community performs a kind of baptismal ceremony. The baby is given a protective spirit, and a name is chosen. The Inuits usually name newborns after recently deceased family members. This practice is a sort of reincarnation: by taking on that relative’s name, the baby will also take on their qualities or strengths. Another interesting story: in hunting communities, the shaman will place a small ivory carving of a whale into the baby’s mouth, so that the child will grow up to be a good hunter.
After giving birth, the mother is isolated for a period of time according to the sex of her child: one month for a boy and two for a girl
The Huichols believe that humans are created from the elements of the natural world and spiritual world
Huichol Indians are a small tribe of approximately 35,000 people living in central western Mexico. They are said to be the last tribe in North America to have maintained their pre-Columbian traditions. Indeed, their shamans and healers still practice today in the same way they did for generations! A lot agrees that their survival is partly due to the focus on their traditions, as well as their remote mountainous territory.
The Huichols believe that humans are created from the elements of the natural (fire, air, water and earth) and spiritual world. Because of this, each of us is a “miniature universe”, a mirror of both those worlds. All the knowledges and secrets of these two worlds are inside us and everything is (most of the time) perfectly arranged. Shamanism helps the Huichols to understand this duality and to live in harmony with it.
But shamanism also brings a lot concerning “the healing part of the job”.
In Huichol tribes, the shaman is often assisting a childbirth. He also gives advices and sets up a surprising situation: the father of the child sits above his labouring wife on the roof of their hut. Ropes are tied around his testicles and his wife holds onto the other ends. Each time she feels a painful contraction…she tugs on the ropes so that her husband will share some of the pain of their child’s entrance into the world! A “fair way” for a situation where the women is often between life and death, don’t you think ?
A long time ago, in a context of capricious seasons and rare infrastructures, appeared a practice of indegenous healthcare, and shamanic rituals. Untill today, those practices have been used by the majority of the rural population of Bangladesh. People turn to the shamans for healing as their treatment is less expensive and less consuming.
But the most interesting part is when religion is mixed with shamanism. Despite a society where ancestral beliefs prevail (ghost, jinns, demons), the existence of faquirs and other kind of traditional healers cannot be overemphasized. Indeed, Islam doesn’t recognize those rituals, and tends to consider them dangerous. A quick look back in history: before the arrival of the Muslims, -the inhabitants of Bangladesh had strong animistic beliefs. When converted to Islam by the Sufis, they incorporated many of these beliefs, keeping them as a part of folk life. So religion became more syncretistic, and adaptable to people’s habits.
Once again, the birth situation is a good example of it. In the village of Jugia, the faquir (a woman) is recitating a mantra helping difficult childbirth – always attributed to the work of an evil spirit. She calls the name of the Hindu deities Rama, Laksmana, Sita and Mahadevo to chase evil spirits. Then, the shaman takes the name of Allah, Hazrat Muhammed, and Hazrat Fatima (daughter of the prophet Hazrat Muhhamed) while doing some sort of massage on the affected part of the body. If the mantra is well claimed, the birth should go fine. An interesting mixed process of ancient and religious rituals practiced by our shaman!
Before the arrival of the Muslims, the inhabitants of Bangladesh had strong animistic beliefs
Birth is a key moment in your project’s life. That moment when a crazy idea meets an organised strategy to turn into an unforgettable experience.
That’s why Shaman Agency guides you from the very-early conception of your product and campaign untill their full accomplishment.
Shaman is a creative & digital agency, crafting unique online and offline experiences all over the world.