Red ribbon for the newborn mother: a Turkish tradition
Updated: Nov 14
When Gizem and Erkka's son was born, I asked Gizem: "Tell me, do you have postpartum traditions in Turkey?". As she was on Cloud Nine, falling in love with her baby, my question took her back to earth for a few minutes. She answered: "Oh yes! Can you find the red ribbons, in the front pocket of my luggage?"
Red ribbons in the mother's mane drive the evil away. The blood-red bows prevent invisible powers from manifesting and hurting the new mother in the pit of her womb. It is also thought to regulate lochia. A game of balance. In the 40 days after birth, the mother's womb and tomb are open, meaning that she is vulnerable to infections and diseases. She needs nurturing and protection.
The Ancients didn't have the knowledge of modern medicine. They didn't know about microbes but they could see the manifestations of puerperal fever. The fever could cause hallucinations in the new mother, a phenomenon that Turkish elders would attribute to a demoniac entity.
Gizem shared with me other shamanistic traditions the Turks have inherited.
Although the baby has been brought to the world, he is not rooted before the 40th day. And as he vagabonds between two worlds, he takes his mother along. They both travel in another dimension, a dimension only the mother-baby dyad can experience. They float between Earth and Sky.
Finally, the 40th day is celebrated and the mother and baby are honoured. Grandmothers and wise women of the family organise a bathing ritual in the morning. In the bathtub, the mother and her baby are washed and blessed. Some symbolic items are used and placed in the bath:
40 flowers (or petals)
Nazar Boncuğu (Evil eye amulet)
Silver (to represent the Moon)
Gold (to represent the Sun)
The mother and the baby will be separately watered, 40 times with 40 wishes or prayers.
The water symbolises the flow of time. By pouring scoops of water on the newborn baby and the newborn mother, we wish them a long life.
On the side, some ingredients are wrapped: Wheat flour (fruitfulness, bounty, and rebirth)
Eggs (new life, growth and hope) Salt (grounding, protection, and earthly purification) Sugar (joy, sweetness and healing)
Rice (fertility and abundance)
Coins (luck and prosperity)
Cotton (pureness, softness and strength)
The guests arrive after the bath. The mother is offered half a glass of water. According to the superstition, she has to finish it bottom up to produce a good amount of milk for her baby.
A buffet of delicious food is served to the convives.
When guests are leaving, the baby receives presents (nappies, clothes, creams...) Traditionally the mother has to visit 7 houses before the night.
Traditions surrounding birth are fascinating. If you want to share some traditions of your culture or family, please, contact me!