Infant Child

Popular superstitions, beliefs and customs
By Justinus Sechefo

The birth announcement of the first-born child to its father is formal. A male neighbour goes to the place where the father of the child happens to be and by standing behind him unnoticed strikes him with a stick in his hand saying: “We are given a son!” In the case of a female child, a woman in the same way pours a calabash of water over his head saying: “The birth of a girl!”.

This shock and excitement changes into joy itself The first-born boy is the property of the grand-parents. It has to be weaned by a ceremony performed by the grand father, generally after the of two or even three years suckling, during which period there are no sexual relations between the young couples.

Such actions spoil the child, who at that time continues to suckle congealed milk, caused by pregnancy. The “senofu” or “spoiled child” suffers from chronic constipation, and very often dies.
So as to prevent an infant from afterwards becoming a rogue or a thief, it must be protected against the least rain drops for the space of two or three months after birth. Then on one fine day, when there will be a nice shower of rain, the infant is taken out an gently laid down on the ground in the reed closure in front of the house. Here pouring rain will freely spatter over it for a few moments. The frightened infant will scream bitterly. The family all shout out as if mocking at it, saying: “Ah! Behold the thief, the thief, the thief!” Suddenly it is picked up, wiped, caressed and taken to the house.
A young child ready to be given solid food, should be given it by a chosen man known to be of a good temper and morals. He gives it a slice of meat, which the child sucks eagerly as if it were sucking into itself the good qualities of the man. In the olden times, it was customary that a good respectable herd boy should exclusively do the milking of the cows for the infants.

All adults, men and women, with the exception of the aged and younger boys and girls are forbidden, for the space of two or three months after the confinement of a woman, to enter into her premises, since their “bad conduct and trampling everywhere”, they are apt to cause evil to the infant, “ho hata ngoana”.