BIRTH-CUSTOMS AND BELIEFS
The profession of the sage-femme was to some extent honoured by her being freed from taking any share in the work of the tribe, although she nevertheless obtained her full share of the produce. One of her duties consisted in taking care of children of the tribe in the absence of their mothers, for although none of the children might formerly venture to enter, their mothers would bring them into these huts whenever they had jungle-work before them and had a burden to carry upon their homeward journey.
If the settlement did not possess a hut of this kind, the children were often slung up above the ground to keep them out of mischief.1
The sage-femme was a person of little importance as compared with the magician, except when performing her official duties. Nevertheless, she shared with the magician the privilege of being allowed to put on the white points in the face-painting, it being held that any unprivileged person who did so would be killed by lightning.
Again, the midwives of the Sakai, Besisi, and Kenaboi tribes further had an identical face-painting which they were privileged to wear whilst discharging their functions, the pattern differing from the usual one which they wore in their private capacity.*
Up to the commencement of confinement, the Sakai women make no change in the routine of their daily life. An enceinte woman is treated as being in a respectable and enviable condition; she mingles openly with the men, even when in a state of advanced gestation, and apparently lacks any sort of perception of the propriety of retirement, though at the same time this publicity does not imply any immodesty on her part, or the least intention of making her condition known to the bystanders.3
When she has gone some months a Sakai woman girds herself with a band which is called aami,a and which is carried round the waist and fastened at the back.a 4
Among the Sakai women miscarriage in the third or fourth month was fairly general. Whenever this happened the remains were simply buried without ceremony.6
When a Sakai woman feels the first pang (a taran a), she lies down, and does not get up again until her child is delivered.6
When her time has come, the sufferer lies upon her back with a cushion or bundle placed under the knees, so as to raise them slightly. A female friend (or the husband, when no other assistance is obtainable) squats down close beside her on the right. Another woman squats down at the suffereras feet to receive the child, the latter resting her heels upon the floor and pressing them against the knees of this second assistant.7
There is no professional8 sage-femme.9
At the instant the cord is severed the child is given its name. The child is then washed with a merian a water, wrapped in a cloth, and handed back to the mother.10
1 Z.f.E. xxviii. 166.
2 Ibid. xxvi. 154 seqq. For further information regarding the face-painting of the midwife and her charges, see below, p. 48 (under a Body-painting a).
3 Z.f.E. xxviii. 184.
4 Ibid. p. 185.
6 Ibid. p. 186.
6 a Delivery a is called, according to
Vaughan-Stevens, a anak kasih kaluar. a
This, however, is merely bad (ver-
nacular) Malay, meaning to a bring
a child forth a [Z. f. E. xxviii. 188).
7 Bartels observes, that from the description it is clear that the second of the two assistants does not squat but must kneel upon the ground.
8 Bartels points out that this contradicts what we have already been told, viz., that Vaughan-Stevens obtained a good deal of his information from professional sage-femmes, and that they possessed a special kind of hut.
9 Z.f. E. xxviii. 188.
10 Ibid. p. 192.10 Ibid. p. 192.