All around the world different culture have either a myth, ritual or cultural practice that surrounds the disposal of the placenta. Rites that includes careful process or procedures to follow in burying the placenta. In African culture most especially, some of these rites are still largely practiced till these day while some have been stopped. In these cultures the placenta is mostly regarded as the “afterbirth” as it follows the delivery of a child.
The placenta is a vascular organ that develops within the uterus attached to the umbilical cord during pregnancy which is being discharged shortly after birth; thus, it is often called the afterbirth. It is the structure through which the fetus receives nourishment from the mother during pregnancy.
In case study, the Yoruba people of western Nigeria believe the burying of a baby’s placenta is a tradition that must be carried out mostly by the father of the child or in his absence by a male member of his family or anybody the wife chooses and trust to do it in the absence of her husband or a male member of the family. It is referred to as “ibi”, which literally means the world is a vicissitude of the “good, the bad and the ugly” so the baby is the good and the placenta is the bad. So the good one which is the baby is taken home, while the bad which is the placenta is buried because it is believed we cannot take something that is bad home. It is also believed no one must know the exact location it is being buried. It has to be secret and only the parents of the child must know, in order to prevent evil ones from tampering with the child’s destiny. That’s how strong the belief of the placenta is in the Yoruba culture. The mother while in delivery cannot be considered to have successfully put to birth without the second push and delivery of the placenta.
Also the Igbo people of Nigeria for instance believes in the mystery behind the placenta. Here the placenta is being buried at a location where the mother of the child chooses. A place at the foot of a young tree, the more fruitful the tree, the better. The chosen tree can be either a palm tree, banana tree, breadfruit, or plantain tree which will become the child’s tree. And the fruitfulness of the tree determines the success of the child as he or she grows. The Igbo beliefs hold that the tree is a way to bind the child to the earth, and to that special place in his community. That he would never forget to come back home to his people.
Other cultures around the world also believe in burying the placenta to foster good fortunes and well-being for the child. For example, the Filippina mothers are known to bury the placenta with books, in hopes of a smart and brilliant child. Absolutely interesting. The Hmong culture of Southeast Asia, the word placenta is translated to mean “jacket,” as it’s considered an infant’s first and finest clothing. The Hmong bury the placenta outside the house as they believe that after death, the soul must retrace the journeys undertaken in life until it reaches the burial place of its placenta jacket to reunite in the afterlife. Some other cultures place a symbol of their people with the placenta when burying it, as a kind of heritage insurance.
Many superstitious belief have also been attached to the placenta. One of such is the belief that if a dog digs up the placenta of a child where it is buried such child will become promiscuous for the rest of his or her life. While some others belief that a baby must not see its own placenta as it is a taboo. Others have attached so much spirituality to the power they believe the placenta holds in determining a child’s destiny, such that if a supposed enemy happen to know the location or see where a child’s placenta is being buried he can do evil to it and render the child useless.
How do you dispose the placenta in your own culture or what is your view or belief about such practices ?