Birth customs of the Lisu

 

The Lisu women are not obliged to abstain from certain foods during pregnancy and they go about their household duties as long as they are able. When the birth is imminent the husband calls to his ancestors by their spirit name, offering to them sacrifices of salt, poultry and wine whilst invoking their aid in the safe delivery of the child. The older women gather at the house and use a hempen string to tie the cord. The child is washed, whilst the birth is heralded to the ancestors by the attendant priest.

On the third morning after birth the child receives its '' Buried '' or Spirit name, a name which may be used by the parents for a few times during childhood, but which is never spoken as the child grows up and will cause great offence or even bloodshed from the mouth of a stranger. As the child is being named by its parents the father announces the buried name to the ancestors, and it is then seldom used until death when the priests use it to summon the departing spirit, speeding it to its ancestral home.

On the tenth, twentieth and thirtieth day both mother and child are bathed, and neither are allowed to leave the family home until the last bathing is complete, lest disease overtake them. The young mother is forbidden to taste chilies, sour bamboo sprouts, strong liquor or sweets during this period, and she is attended by her friends and allowed to take no part in the duties of the household. When the month is complete a fowl is sacrificed to the ancestral ghost and mother and child are free to enter the village, no offering for the purification of the woman being demanded by Lisu custom. During the thirty days of confinement in the house the birth-bed is not moved, even the father avoiding it lest his skin be affected, and at the end of the period bed and bedding are either cleansed and purified or are destroyed by fire.

From: Lisu (Yanwin) tribes of the Burma-China Frontier, by Archibald Rose and J. Coggin Brown. In Memoirs of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, vol II, No 4, pp 249-277. The Asiatic Society. Calcuta, 1910.

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