2 months ago
Thank you for your question- One important element of my research and in relation to my synthesis (in the book Divine Fertility) has been the question why do practices and rituals take place. Practices and rituals women do before marriage depends on what they are trying to achieve. I have explored them from this perspective what they are, how they are practiced, when, where and by who. If it is related to health in general or reproductive health or fertility specifically, then we have both invasive and non-invasive rituals. One example is FGM which takes place in many of the Eastern African countries and which girls go through early on.It is practised originally,I have argued, as a sacrifice to the divine. However, other invasive rituals would include, apart from some form of FGM, also scarifications, body-modifications, burning and some associated with the rites of passage. The (girl) child goes through the naming ritual (waqlaal in Somali) but there are other similar ones all over Eastern Africa and they often aim to instil virtue in children by association of important figures in society who take part in the performance. During the naming rituals, people also slaughter animals and have specific rules for how the animal meat is divided or how the bones are handled and disposed of afterwards. Other early rituals are for the protection of the child such as those involving the Wagar (African olive) which is a sculpture made of a sacred wood. The olive is a sacred tree for many people in Northeast Africa, as are the juniper and sycamore, for example. The important and interesting element to keep in mind is women’s rituals are part of a system of indigenous knowledge, science and belief systems and almost for every girl child ritual or women’s ritual there are male counterpart rituals. Now while women’s role in reproduction has helped to retain many of their rituals, the male rituals more easily been neglected. The societies have gone through transformations and those rituals that are essential and perennial have often remained while changing in some aspects. Hence, that rituals are part of an ideology and belief systems, and as such very much reflect the identity of the people at the time. Some of these ideas most likely date back to the pre-Islamic and pre-Christian times and are also present in the non-Muslim and non-Christian communities of the Horn of Africa. I cannot exhaust here the number of rituals women go through before marriage but I hope this answer somewhat your question. Also, for your information, many of the rituals I describe in Divine Fertility take place after marriage.
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