Σάββατο, 5 Μαρτίου 2011

LABOUR AND BIRTH CUSTOMS OF ARMANIAN - VLACH


Pronunciation symbols: (') = voiceless vowel like the French word (que)
6 = thick (s)


  The customs of labour and birth, that we will describe, regard the Vlach-speaking Greeks with permanent residence. The pregnant woman (Armanian = griau bliari) looked   after herself totally, particularly in terms of cleanliness.  Heavy housework was forbidden for her. When pregnancy could be seen easily, relative and neighbourhood women visited her. They were always very careful in their talking (they avoided to talk   about bad births and abortions). 
  Armanians-Vlachs never asked to learn the expected date of birth.  The birth date was held in total secrecy, because of fear of possible pregnant woman’s suffer during birth. 
   Once the first pains appeared to the woman, she said it to her mother-in law, who answered in turn. “Gini viniri fiat’ amia, ku arau' viniri, ku arau' sfug', fit6iorlu s' n' antuk' (Welcome to the pains, my daughter, they came like dew, they will   go away like dew, to bring us the boy). 
 At the same time, the midwife came with great precaution (doctor was called only in last need) .When the midwife left her house, she took with her inalienable the « Virgin Mary’s hand” (M’n’ ale St’-M'ri'). It was a woody plant, with a long vertical to the ground single root and many short shoots that looked like a hand and was about 10 cm 

Once she entered the house of ετοιμογέννητη, she greeted and wished: “li6iurari bun' s’avemu = May we have good freedom”
Then the midwife put the «Virgin Mary’s hand" in a mug with water. If it opened immediately, this would foresee a quick and painless birth, if it   opened late,  then the woman would give birth  late .Then the midwife lit a candle kept from Easter for such hours  ( tsiar' ts'nut' di la bun' zbor = candle kept  for the good word). 
  After childbirth, the nearby-relative children ran to announce the event to the relatives and friends of the family, where they took tips. If the woman gave birth for her first time, the midwife looked at the umbilical cord and could tell how many and what children could do this woman could lay. She was based on the signs that were on the intestine. These signs look like glands or like (animal) sweetbreads.  If the signs were large and flat like beans, then girls would be born and if they were round and small like cherries, boys would be born
  Relatives, friends and neighbours (usually women) brought gifts, especially pancakes and other sweets.  Μen on the first Sunday after the birth of the baby brought as a gift  a coin (mistari tri fitsiorlou tse saminde = birth treat), so it had to metallic and  precious  (usually gold). 
  People say that, three days after birth, Fates (personification) (Ursitile = those who determine) come and go   to the woman’s (giving birth) room.  That night is called ‘nuaptιa di puguniku’. They (Fates) ‘mironoun’ (= foresee) the future of the child, eg they   predict what will happen to child’s life. That night, metallic objects, such as scissors, silver coins and books ,are placed to the child’s cushion so that the child will be strong like iron,  as rich  like silver and smart and educated like  book. People also, on the third night after birth   had dinner to fawn the invisible   Fates, because they decide for the child’s future. Many stories and anecdotes and tales about Fates were being narrated during that dinner.
   The baptism took place eight days after birth. The godfather was called with the great solemnity, he brought gifts and he was the only one who he knew the name of the child. The baptism took place on Sunday either in church or at home .When  godfather pronounced the name of the baptized, children ,who were in the narthex of the church, ran to "give the name (santuk' numa) to his mother, who was waiting at the gate of her house for the new .Then she handed  gifts and  tips to them
  When godfather went out of  church, flew in the air coins at least three times for the children and then, holding the baby in his hands went home and delivered to his mother, who made three prostrations and kissed his hand. Then godfather and the child’s parents accepted the necessary wishes for neovaptisted: Nune, s'ts' b'neatz' naua num' = godfather, with health in the new name. P'rintsi, sv' b'neatz' num', si ku un' fiat' = Parents, with health in the name and may you have a daughter, too!). 
 On the day of baptism (dzua di pitidzar') there was fun and celebration, where all relatives were invited. Godfather was always the same person and he ‘crowned’ (married) his godson or goddaughter (when he or she was at the age of marriage). The (giving birth) mother had to stay at home for 40 days to de protected, to eat well, and in order to «download milk". We do not ever left alone, always accompanied by someone, even a child. If they let her alone, they put a broom (un' metur') behind the door, or in a corner of the room. 
  There was incense in the room each morning and evening, the doors were not opened and closed when night fell and no object was given outside the house. At night, they didn’t spread  washed clothes  in the yard and the priest, for 40 days, read wishes and prayers and  he also put incense in the house for the 'unclean spirits' (nekuratsili) to go away.  
  All previous precautions were taken in order the milk not to be ‘cut’ "cut the milk», that’s why everyone asked with interest: Kumu avets lehoana? = How is the giving birth mother? Lehoana ari lapti? = Does she have has milk? If milk was ever cut (k’nt’ laptili kurme) from "bad time" (uar' slamp'), which may have been (catch) cold (arkuari), they crucified the boobs of the (giving birth) woman with 3 spindles ('n krutsem ts'ts' ku trei fusi) and then, with the 3 spindles, they beat the place or the mattress ,where mother gave birth, for  three times, because they  thought that this way  pain will go away and  milk will come back for sure. 
  When the 40 days passed the (giving birth) woman with   the baby and midwife (moa6ia) went to church to get her wish, then she could make visits, but she had always to return home before sunset. During the visits she made, everyone greeted her with joy and with all kind   of goodies (treats). The first who took the boy, was the oldest of the house and he went to the fireplace (vatr'). There, he beat slightly the child’s head on the "bubble" of fire, (the buhare). They also gave money to the baby and a bag of sugar. If the baby was a boy, they put some white wool under his chin and wished him to live as long as his very old grandfather, if she was a girl, they put black wool, wishing her to remain forever ageless! 

(Source: Giorgos Plataris-Tzimas  from Metsovo, researcher, painter - We wrote the Armanian-Vlachic  words the way  Armanians-Vlachs  from  Veria  speak, with the help of 90-year Tsiamitros Costas from  village Xirolivado and 60-year Takis Bekas  from   village Seli).

(By John Tsiamitros, teacher of traditional dances. The original text is in Greek and the translation in English is by him, too)

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