Women's Rituals Related to Fertility Among
the Luvale of Zambia
Presented at the Florida Regional Seminar on sub-Saharan Africa,
Tallahasseee, Florida Oct. 6, 1973
In this paper I discuss women rituals and fertility, which
was the main emphasis of my field work among the Luvale of North-
western Province, Zambia. My research is problem oriented and fo-
cuses on ritual and the life cycle. I am interested in women's
rituals and in how the problems of reproduction, female ailments,
and general illness are viewed and treated. The Luvale in Zambia
numbered 95,838 in l969~jaMTonah there are 200,000 in Angola and
20,000 in Zaire. The Luvale practice hoe agriculture and have cassava
as their staple, augmented by millet and maize. Fishing provides
the main protein as well as presently being the primary cash source.
The Luvale have matrilineal decent with post-marital virilocal
marriage. Politically they are organized into small sub-chiefdoms
related to territorial units with a paramount chief (appointed by
the British colonialists) at the top. The Luvale are integrated
into the national scene through the United National Independence
Party (UNIP) and its local leaders. The area studied here, Chavuma,
which is three miles from the Aagolan border where the Zambezi River
enters Zambia, is administered by a combination of administrative
headmen, and government courts, and lacks a sub-chief.
The nature of ritual in this part of the world had been well
described by Victor Turner, who studied the adjacent Nder ~a people.
Turner (1967, 1967, 1969) described a number of rituals for wesen
including the girl's puberty ritual and the ritual for dysmenorrhea,
or long menstruatiuon(Turner, 1968). Alis analysis focused on the
public arena of the ritual, including the actors participation,
The sequence and exegesis of the ritual and the nature of the ritual
symbol in Ndembu SAcity and in general. C.M.N. White, a district officer
in the Luvale area, recorded fine data on many of the Luvale female
rituals including puberty (White, 1953, White, Chinjavata and Mtkwato,
1958) and spirit posression (1948) as well as much on social life
(e.g., 1960,1962). The writings of these two men directed me toward
Luvale ritual. And my field research confirmed that the Luvale have
a multitude of rituals (more than the Ndembu) which center on women,
their ailments, and problems connected with reprodnation.
That reproduction difficulties may have consequences other than
triggering ritual remedies is noted to varying degrees by Turner (1957),
White(l948,1959,1960), Giles (1955), and Mitchell (1965). Researchers
have remarked that the Luvale have low fertility as a consequence
of "reproduction difficulties" and barely manage to replace themselves
(White, 1959). Colloquially known by government physicians and
statisticians as "the one child per family people" they present a
unique population indeed for a non-contracepting, non-family planning,
traditional society. Their fertility is lower than other Zambian
groups and areas, while their child mortality rate is not noted as
The striking demographic parameters of the Luvale are documented
in the literature. Hudson (1935) noted the small number of children
in the villages. White (1959) carried out a fertility survey of
women in Kabompo District that showed low fertility and declining
fertility among those who had been fertile. Mitchell (1965), work!
ing with an urban sample, was amazed by the Luvale infe i 'it \
finding both low fertility and high childlessness, After reviewing
possible significant variables such as disease, diet, and for his sample
in particular, urban socio-economic and religious factors, Mitchell
found the most significant factor to be ethnic group (he called it
As I planned my research and carried out my design, certain
questions and research directions became apparent. Could there be an
inter-relationship between women's ritual participation, their re-
productive ailments and their low fertility? And what was the fer-
tility of Luvale women currently? Hence I focused on fertility as
achieved reproduction and the volitional control of reproduction.
I could not pursue a strictly medical investigation and my intention
is therefore, to correlate fertility with participation in rituals
concerned with reproduction. Additionally, an examination of indi-
gineous therapeutic produces, medicines and midwifry are c9ndidered.
I investigated ritual and medical practices by participant
observation and in-depth interviews. In addition a Fertility/
Ritual Survey was administered to 215 women.1 Two main samples
were gathered in order to look at the effects of Luvale medicinal
treatments and midwife tcchnihe;.-- 'The.first, The Village Sample
(N = 127), were village parturients and as the results below show are
traditional medicators and ritual participants. The second, The
Hospital Sample, (N 88) are hospital parturients interviewed during
their past-partum confinement at Chavuma Mission Hospital. The
latter generally rely on modern medical facilities and are rarely
ritual participants. The former manifest the traditionally described
low fertility while the latter's fertility is higher. The present
paper has been divided into two parts. Part I considers demographic
parameters which document this low fertility as a background to my
own data. The 1970-1972 field data is then reported and compared.
Part II considers rituals and medical treatments as they are used
during the life cycle. Their influences on fertility are noted.
The Village and Hospital Samples are used to compare ritual and medical
participation with resultant fertility.
PART I DEMOGRAPHIC PARAMETERS t PREVIOUS STUDIES AND PRESENT DATA
Mitchell (1965) studied a 10 per cent random sample of African
dwellings in the line of rail towns during 1951 and 1954, hence his
statistics reflect: the population and fertility of the 19i4s.
He measured fertility by the amber of living children and computed
child/whaun fertility ratios2 using children aged 0-5 and womea aged
15-50 years. Struck by the significantly differential fertility of
"tribal" groupings, Mitchel distinguished fur main categories!
High Fertility (Mambwe and Bemba), Moderate Fertility (Aushi, Luapula,
Lamba, Hyan&a, Egoni, etc.). Low Fertility (Losi, Ila, Tonga, Laene,
detmbu, etc.), and Very Lwr Fertility (lvian groups only, i1e. Luvale,
Laibasi, and Chokwe) Table 1 shows cae of his figures, including
al. those for Northwestern Province.
TABLE 1 CHI2LDi2N1"
(FROM MITCHELLII 1965)
Lo Ie I
Very L OU
Additionally, he compared the ethnic groups in his urban sample
with a general demographic survey that had been carried out in 1950
by the Central African Statistical Office. In comparing Births per
year per Adult Woman, the Luvale and Ndemab again ranked lowest.
TABLE 2 BIRTHS PER YEAR PER ADUMT WOMAN AFTERR MIPCHELLA 1965).
"Tribe Demographic Surrey Urban Sample:
Mabre, .322 288
Beiba and Bisa .223 .256
Tongaa, Il and Lenjeq .188 .125
Lamba end Kaonde .17e1 .89
daebu and Laivale .103 .109
Mitchell also considered childlessness as a factor in fertility,
and in his total sample the proportion of childless Iwomn stabilized
at 9 per cent. Among the Luvale (Lvena) he found 47.8 per cent of
all vomen over the age of 30 to be childless. This compared with
19 per cent among the rdembu and 15.8 per cent for the Iamba.
"A very high proportion of childless women will
depress the fertility ratio as it apparently does
among the Imena, but the fertility ratio may remain
high even if a moderately high proportion of women
are childless as among the Lamba type people (1955, 1s)".
Checking into regional variation in disease and diet, t1tchell
decided that veOereal disease, malaris, and caesava eating could
not account for the variations observed, since these factors were
equally apparent In areas of low fertility and In area of high
fertility. The three significant variables appeared to be tribal
membership, religion, and degree of commitment to urban life. Of
these three, much the most glinigicant was ethnic group membership.
Mitchell concluded that the differences were not modern phenomena
nor easy to explain.
White (1959) reported on his interviewing 216 aivale women in
1958 in Kabompo District. His figures thus reflect fertility in
the 1950*s in the Astrict that bad the lowest fertility as recorded
by Mitchell. White found a child/wanan ratio of 269, somewhat
higher than Mitchell's ratio but still very lo,. Using Whites*
data, Mitchell calculated a net reproduction rte of .8945,
Indicating a static or slightly falling population (White, 1959).
Mitchell also calculated the age specific fertility rate which
measures the number of children a oman now entering her repro-
ductive phase Is likely to bear throughout her life. This rate
was 2.04 children or 1.02 female children; this rate again Indicates
a barely static population. The population could, however, maintain
itself without immigration.
White argued that "the basic structure of the low birth rae
appears to be low fertility with a high proportion of woeMn ho
are infertile, and declining fertility among those who are fertile
(1959,55)." He also obstructed a table of Births per Woman.
BIRTH PER ITOMI (FRC! WHITES 1959).
aUDier of Live Births: 0 1 2 3 5, 6 7 10
Numberof Wmen: 73 53 36 20 1213 5 3 1
St then gave the rate of live births per va en an five year cohorts
that demonstrated a progressive increase in the ratios with increasing
age. Regrouping his cohorts into three age categories, for ease of
ccmarison with Ba Chavuma data, ane recalculating the abanpo rates,
gives the following table.
TABLE 4 .
BIRTHS PER WOMAN (FROM WHITE 1959) BY AGE CATEGORIES:
Age Reanet N: Number of Live Births: Rate
15-29 years 73 69 .945
30-4 ye 86 134 1.56
45-79 years 57 156 2,74
white noted that 17 oat of 20 wvmen in his 15-19 years cohort
did not yet have a child. From this he argued that "child bearing
commences comparatively late (1959,55)". Since six women in this
cchaort vere not yet mauvied, he concluded that the age of first
marriage was rising. Calculating childlessness from By data gives
a figure of 33.8; this is not corrected for age categories. In an
earlier article aWhite (1955) suggested that ruvale women vait until
they are in a stable marriage before producing children, and his
data above land support to this contention. tAr data ftro Chavuna
~how an opposite trand, and Mr data on marriage and conception
contradict the contention.
Before presenting the Cbavwma data, it is helpful to see the
general fertility statistics for Zambia in the 1960's. Ohadike
(1969) nalyzed the 1963 Zambian census and calculated ehild/woian
ratios. He used a different age Grouping, children 0 to 4.5. and
women 15.5 to 455, and reported a ratio of 769 fr all of Zansbia
and of 63 for lorth-1Iestern Province, which vwas the province with
the lowest rate.
Usine unofficial figures for the 1969 cenisus, I calculated
rates using both age. roupings.
CHIDwroMA RAA= TIOS 19M9 BCERSU ESTIMATES:
childre 0 to).5/ */ Childroe O to 5/
weaaan 15.5 to 45 Women L5 to 50
Total Zambia' 7 '
northwestern Province 675 603
Zambezi District 560 482
N orthwestern Province ie again loest in Zaibia, and Zalebezi
District is lower than the provincial mean.
.fro a consideration of data front the 19o0' (Mitchell, 1969
Central Statistical Offe, 1950), the 1950*' (Wite, 1959), and the
19608s (Ohadike, 1969 unofficial 1969 census breakdowns) two trends
become clear. First, the fertility of Zambia and Northrestern
Province is increasing. Second, even though there is this general
increase, the fertility a Notthwestern Province started out lower
than the national average and has remained lower. The first trend
is understandable in view of the increased medical facilities that
may cope with venereal disease and malaria and provide more extensive
maternity care. Clinics bhae been operating throughout the country,
and there has been an increasing general level of wealth and
The reasons tr this low fertitty are emamined blow.
Some Dimensions of Fertility in the Charuma Sagple. 1972
It is nob the intention of this paper to examine the general
demographic structure of the Chavuma populaUtin, but rather to
concentrate oan sao measures of fertility. A sample census of
approximately 20 per cent of the total Chavmu population, based
on sections of 3 settlements, waS carried out by Art Hansen during
the early part of our research, and the general profiles of the age,
sex and marital parameters have been computed for this census. A
smller section of this census, about 6.7 per cent of the total
Chavuma population, consisting of the people grouped t under one
administrative headman where most of Mr interviewing took place, has
been more thorougty ccmputedat this tise. This smaller section
of the census shares the general age, sex, and marital parameters
of the total anple census. This smaller section of the census is
used as the basis for Vy child/woman fertility ratio, the crude
and the monogaiym/polygyny proportions.
CHIlAftMANW FERTILITY RATIO, CHAVUMA EAMPnLE |EOI OlE ADMIHISZRATIVE
Total Women Village Delivered
(In Age roup) WCM one nly
Children 0 5/WPoen 15-45 625 602
Children 0 5sAoman 15-50 536 67
The administrative headman aniple show higher rates than the
district. This is undoubtedly a reflection of the high access to
medical facilities enjoyed by Chavuma woman, since 50.5 per cent
of the babies born in 1971 were delivered in the nearby mission
hospital. Tho rate calculated for only those woman in the sanple
who had delivered in the village was below the district rate and
may, with reservations, be used to estimate current fertility rates
obtaining in other Luvale areas where medical facilities are lese
During the year 1971, there were thirty live babies born to
the women in this sample, giving a crude birth rate of 88. I have
no neonatal deaths recorded; if there were some that were concealed
or forgotten, then this figure under-represents actual live births.
By way of comparison, Ohadike (1969,37) gives the Zambian crude
birth rate in 1,63 as 52. The wide discrepancy in these two figures
(his 52 ana -u 38) probably refleot more about the age-sex distribu-
tion of the Chavmui population than about the Chavmwn fertility.
Critics of the crude birth rate measure point to how easily this
measure, designed to show the gross rate at which the population
is reproducing itself, is influenced by age-sex distributions. For
example, 28 per cent of the Chavnma sample is over 50 years old,
whereas only 9 per cent of the total Zambian population (1969 unof-
ficial figures) is over 50.
S :In addition tt these larger general censuses, I collected fer-
tility and ritual participation histories from mEay wmneI in the
two samples. The first sample,called the Village WWnen, were women
interviewed in the villages, with an emphasis on collecting rany
interviews within the smaller eensaued population so that the fer-
tility sample could be related to a definite and censused population.
The second sample, called the Hospital Women, included most of the
women who delivered at the nearby mission hospital during a one
year period. The Village, Srmple (=127) is casual rather than randam,
and the Hospital sample (1:88) approached the total population of
all vaan 'who delivered in the hospital froe June 1971 to November
This hospital data has been excluded frcm a r child/vWcaen ratio
calculations for two reasons firCt, the sample is drawn from a
population that is larger than Chav=ma and reflects non-Luale non-
district fertility; and, second, the sample is biased toward high
achieved fertility because only those women who had successfully
delivered were interviewed. Both the village and hospital fertility
samples are used for a comparison of the number of live births, rate
of live births, childlessness, and for tables on marriage and ritual
Raiber of live births (including reo-atal deaths)
'' 4 1 1 Deaths
Village Samples ( N 127) 23 35 22 19 1 1 1 2 32
1HospitalSamples (1 88) 0,21 2113 712 8 6. 6
Total ( 215 vomen) 23 56 l3 32 18 22 12 7 5 2 38
The rate of childlessness for village women (N 59) who have
finished their feaund period (over 45 years of age) is 23.7 per
cent. Another four women in this age category only bad one pregnancy
each, and that pregnancy resulted in a child that only lived a few
hours (technically a neo-natal death). After that first pregnancy anoe
of these four women had another pregnancy. If they were included
in the childless category (see footnote 4), the rate rises to 30.5
per cent childlessnessss. Either of these two rates is a definite
decrease from the rates recorded by Iitchell and White. The change
probably reflects both increasing fertility, a nationwide trend,
and a careful checking of all vaoen mho claimed they were childless,
a check that often revealed that the vwmen had bad a child ivho died
immediately after birth or within the first two years.
From y data in Table 8 (below) I have been able to show that the
WOen with completed flamdly size (45 years old and older) have the
lowest rate of live births, and the younger women have higher rates.
This probably reflects low fertility conditions in the past and an
increasing present fertility. The expected relationship, in a period
when the fertility conditions are not changing as drastically is
one in which tho older women have higher rates. ,The higher rate
for older vamen would reflect the longer length of time they have
been exposed to conception, and this relationship appears in Table
4 using thite's data.
MBAE O LIVE BIRTTH (fINCLUDES TEO-IIATAL PEATHS).
I1 (village saonplel Age ous Number of live births t
35 15-29 years 86 2.47
33 3044 years 85 2.58
59 45+years 115 1 9
NI (MnPital sagmle),
53 15-29 years 115 2.17
35 30-44 years 36 4.,74
Comparing Village Women with Hospital Women in the 30-44 years
category shows how, even with a general increase in fertility, the
rate of increase any be substantially greater among those who avail
themselves of the modern medical fteilities available. 7he apparent
inconsistency in the table, Village Women in the 15-29 years categoay
having a higher rate than their hospital contemporaries, is explained
bya closer examination of the Hospital Women in this category-- most
of them are young women having their first baby.
It is interesting to mention acme other characteristics of this
hospital population. Using hospital records for the 1059 hospital
deliveries Buring the five year period, 1967 to 1971, I found that
2.77 per cent of all deliveries were stillborn, and 4.7 per cent of
all live deliveries died within the first aeek while the mother
and child were still at the hospital in post part confinement.
(Death of a live birth within the first week of tite is herein
called a neo-natal death). Of all live birth. 12.6 per cent were
considered premature, i.e. Weighing under five pounds. Table 9
records the percentage of miscarriages, stillbirths, and neo-natal
deaths for the total pregnancies experienced by the vmoen in these
two samples. Table 9 is, therefore, a record of reproductive wastage.
TABLE 9. PERCEITAGE3 OF REPRODUCTIVE I=A1CAGE ( is total prag-
na eies) : ~ ; : .- .. ;. .
Miezerriages Stillbirths lleo-ITatal Deaths Total
Village Sa mle 12.8 7.5 8.9 29.2
Hospital Sample :3.5 7.3 1.9 12.7
This high percentage is misleading as applied to the hospital
environment because per cent of these stilbirths were the first
pregnancy and were delivered in the village.
N The same qualification extends here; even though this is a very
low percentage, 50 per cent of these neo-natal deaths were for first
pregnancies delivered in the village.
It is significant that about half of the stillbirth and neo-natal
death wastage noted for the hospital Sample is traceable to deliver-
ies in the village. Below I argue that traditional midwifery tech-
niques may account for much of the high rate of stillbirth and neo-
natal reproductive wastage.
A very fascinating statistic which emerges from Oistrict and
Chavina figures concerns sex ratios at birth and in the one to
five year old period. Table 10 shows that more females are born
among the Luvale, but more die within the first five years. It
is possible to speculate that Luvalc ideas concerning times that
conception is possible, intercourse positions, and douching practices
favor the female rather than male fetuses.. Medical researchers are
currently discovering that it is possible to influence the sex of
the offspring by varying these practices. Concarnins the differential
mortality or the sexes, although vomen (mothers) say they prefer
female cbildami to males (because "girls grow up to help their
mothers"), little boys appear to get a little better treatment
(extra food and better clothing).
TABLE 10. 8EX RATIOS (MAfLE PER 100 FEMALES).
At Birth 1-5 Years
District (0-1 year, unofficial
census figures) 99428 102.3
Sample Census Chavum 105.8
Hospital Records (1967-1971) 99.07
Considering child mortality, Table 11 presents some preliminary
and partial figures on infant mortality during the first year of life;
these absolute numbers are drawn from my fertility histories. More
complete figures and percentages will be available after more
extensive analysis of ay data. Mortality estimated from the Hospital
Sample are misleading unless it is taken into account that the most
recent birth for each voman in this sample was less than two weeks
old at the time of intervierv.
TABLE 11. CHILD MORTALITY DURING THE FIRST YEAR OF LIFE.
Pregnancies of Pregnacies of
Village Women Hospital Vomen
Total Pregnacies 359 315
Failed Pregnacies *) 73
Live Births 266 281
Neo-Natal Deaths (-) 32
Deaths 1 month to 1 year. 4 () O
Remainder alive of
total pregnancies 209 255
Foiled Precnacios 21.5^ 10.8
Failed Live Birtbh 28.6- 9.3
Failed Pregnancies and
Live Births 1. 19.0'
* Failed pregnancies are miscarriages and stillbirths.
** IMortality estimates from Hospital Women are incomplete as
the most recent birth for each asnam was less than two weeks
old at the time of the interview.
Factors Aflesmmg FertWlity
Blake and Davis (1956i) set out a fraenwsrzk to examine factors
affecting fertility and infertility. This framervk aconslsts of
three categories: factors affecting exposure to intercourse, factors
affecting exposure to conception, and factors affecting gestation
and successful parturition.
Exposure to intercourse is dependent pon age at entry into
sexalm unions, amount of time between unions, remarriage customs,
voluntary and involunmtary abstinence, and coital frequency. I will
eaumin age at puberty, the puberty seclusion ritual for girls,
and modern adaptatims. Afterwards I vill discuss marriage and
divorce as they most directly affect fertility considerations.
Abstinence froa intercourse is dependent upon monthly periods,
illnesses, "frigidity", and the post-partum taboo., Coital frequency
may reflect polygyny, age, and marital status.
Exposure to conception Includes both voluntary and involuntary
factors. Among the involuntary are genetic and gynaecological
disorders, as well as the disease vectors, Although this is
generally outside the realm of anthropology, information is presented
frao medical sources, and the disease picture elicited from the vwman
themselves is presented. It in this realm, however, that tradi-
tional ritual has developed to deal with these gynaecological problems
ritually, as they do not appear amenable in Lubale cognition to
the volition of the living. Medical problems are diagnosed by
divination andtreated by ritual and herbal means. It is in this
context that reproductive rituals are diseuased.
Voluntary imencurco affecting exposure to conception include
contraception, the use of abortifacients, and medical treatments.
Although previous writers have claimed that the aftile are great
voluntary abort erp,9 little data has been presented. Although I
collected information on the use of abortifacients, statistical
data vae iripossible to elicit. I am able to correlate conception
Vith marriage and directly coimt Y s White's contention that amane wait
until they are in a stable marriage before bearing children by
preventing conception until that stability is reached. Medicinal
treatrmcnt iihich are widely uced, and include pre- and post-coital
infusions, may in fact work contraceptively, although that was not
the intention of the doctor or patient. ..
Gestction and successful parturition considers fetal mortality
from voluntary and involuntary causes. Luvale medicinal treatments
during pregnancy and ridvifcry techniques are briefly explored
to understand some voluntary, although 'uairtentional, causes
of this mortality; the rates of early niscarriage may suegest come
involuntary consequences. I argue that midwifery techniques contribute
to still-births and neo-natal deaths. Vener*Ul disease, s a
involuntary factor, may affect both coneeptionsand fetal mortality.
Finally, child mortality is a cause for great concern =ong the Luvale,
and the ritual cycle connected ith the maintenance of children is
Ao at firct exposure to intorcourse is correlated with the girl's
puberty ritual, Luvale girls were traditionally betrothed, and often
vent to their hucrsan.s' V'llace to live, before maturity. Coitus is
forbidden before first rmcntruation and the cc=aletion of the ritual,
and es:t vomicn report they followed this prohibition. Age at Mcantru-
ation was difficult to certain as very few women knvxr thcir birth-
date, and only a few more were able to fix the year of their birth
by historical latec. Ibny rc .e-ar .. the year they maturLe, cith.-r
by the date itrclf or by historical events at that time. From ob-
c*ervinc the recently ;ature.. female an fran the limited mntcrial an
actual birthdntec, it appear to me that Luvale voomcn naturee between
14 and 15 years of age. TaJvate guage the age of maturity by the
size of the vocan's breastS. asola on this and on their maturity
renltive to other girls they lhid rown up with, most of the Inuvale
wormn interviewed said they nature "on the rirht tirno' (4.3 per
cent 24 per cent said thoy naturcd late, and 11.7 per cent said
they nature early.
Upon rmentrmation a youn vwarn is brought to her Etrikin or
her father's mtrikin who will be recponaible for perforrm.n the
puberty ritual (amli) which casurer her fertility. The three phane
ritual conaisto of the entrance into the setlu~ion hut, the teclu-
sian (lasting up to' ae year), and the crdn3 out. since e most
womn arc betrothed before maturity, then hubandsl or fiancec have
ir.portmit roles to play during the first anl third phases of vlli.
The purpose of the ritual is twofold: enduring future fertility
arnT preparing the girl for sexual life. During the tcclusion, car-
tain foods are prescribed bccaurc they syubolize multiplicity, the large
number of children vwhih are desired. Other foods are prohibited
because they saybolize interdictions on her seal capacities. Other
instructions and actions during this period are designed to make the
young woman a good dancer and sex partner. The young woman elongates
her labia, learns medicines for producing a "warm dry" vagina, and
learns how to dea with monthly periods. Nop practical advice :0-
c hidrearing or child-bearing is transmitted, nor is instruction
about domestic matters.
If the young voman in seclusion (Qli) is not already married
or proposed, a man might propose to her relatives during the ritual.
TI this case, the man will marry the young Pran
as part of the coming out of seclusion phase carryingg "on the mat").
Whether married or not, the young woman must have intercourse as
part of the coming-out phase, as this action is considered essential
for her later fertility. Ittthere is no husband or fiancee, then a
you man fm the area recruited..
A variation ao this puberty ritual is called humuftiika abwela
(to cover her in the Mbwela fashion), in which the girl is placed
in the seclusion hut before her menses begin and kept there until
of putting pre-mentrual girls into seclusion is also followed by
the NIembu Lunda of MAinilung. The Luvale rationale for this prac-
tice is a mother or sister ao the girl who has been treated like this
and has borne children, and therefore, if the girl is llo sise
treated she vill also bear children. Similarly, if a mother or
sister of the girl had gone through the more traditional ritual nd
not subsequently produced children, then the girl should try a
different ritual or she likewise ill not be fertile.,
Another VAriation is called kukombesa (to sweep), a very abbreviated
ritual in which no special hat is built, and the young vaon is only
secluded during the period while she is actually menstruating. Among
more traditional families, this abbreviated ritual may occur because
the family is very poor or in mourning, or because oldercister of
the young woman had longer rituals and subsequent poor fertility.
Today among families who send their girls to schools this shortened
ritual is very popular. In kukombesa many of the aystical aspects
characteristic of the longer puberty ritual are omitted, but the
labia are still elongated, medicines are given for 'tarzth,' and
instructions are given about the monthly period. Sexual instruction
is transmitted privately after the rituals although Christian Luvale
postpone this instruction until just before marriage. Young women
who mature while attending the mission boarding school go to the
school mtrons who carry out the medicinal aspects. Christians
refuse to permit the traditional "ritual" intercourse.
Fro reading Table 12, several trends stand out. Fir,
(the more traditional ritual) has always been the most popular:
puberty ritual and continues today to be the most popular. Second,
al is auch less pupuiar among the waken in the Hospital Samle than
among those in the Village Sapple. In this context, inclusion i
the Hospital Sample reflects sharing other characteristics, such
as education. Third, there is a positive correlation between youth
cnml increasing plarity of kko
PAflTICIPATIOT1 IN FEMALE PW3ERTY RIrIrAI (Cm Do cmrmm :
The follcuind Table 13 illustrates thin more clearly bocauc I
have pulled out of both esaples those women who have attended or are
attendint school (n 54) and showed the correlation with type of pu-
berty ritual. School attendance correlates with hospital delivery ad
with kukombeaa. One advantage of the shortened ritual for schoolgirls
is that, unlike for laU, a young wosmn need notdrop out of school
when she matures to enter the long seelusion period. Although
school attendance correlaten highly with this shortened ritual,
even non-schoolers are turning o this form, especially thos who
appeared in the Hospital Sampl.
SCHOOL ATTMID A1E AUD RMIAL PARTWIIPATINI L(hOT RCONTAoM).
Vi: _0 R -oupltaJ SpMRj1e Total
4a year ao-44 1 .2 32:44 *29zS
1ers) 3 14
chboolers) 13 a 32,
3 1. 3 6 10
in connection with chiango ha M~alal Mazau has had no fertility
trouble, but after she had childrenj the eldest child (about seven
years old) became ill. A maamba ritual was performed then during
which six mahamba appeared. Later, married to another husband, Mazau
had two more children followed by a miscarriage. Because of the
miscarriage, another ritual was held at which the same six mabamba
Mary is a modernn woman who attended school for several years.
She was unmarried when her first child was born and much later married
another man. Mary has had no fertility trouble and has three living
children. When the eldest became sick, Mary took the child to the
hospital where the child fainted after receiving an injection. Next
day, back in the village, Mary's father's mother, an herbalist,
arrived with same medicines. Mary's father and Mary's mother's new
husband then went to consult three diviners: four medical specialists
were engaged from different settlements nearby, and a minor ritual
was carried out. Mary refused to allow a mahamba ritual.
In this paper I have shown that the Luvale birth rate was very
low in the past and has been increasing in line with the general,
Zambian-wide increase, but is still lower than the nation. Some
have explained this discrepancy in terms of Luvale promiscuity.* '
use of abortifacients, and general disease. A medical doctor remarked
an the high rate of pelvic sepsis and salpinitia among barren women
he examined. I have examined certain medicinal and ritual customs
*raifropoliogically and found some practices which could very well contribute
to this sepsis relating to parturition and the treatment of illness.
The high rate of venereal disease reported among older women is note-
worthy, but hhere is no comparable evidence to show that the rate is
higher than in other parts of Zambia.
The Chavuna fertility histories show how fertility in the past,
i.e., among the women over 45 years who have completed their repro-
ductive years under the conditions prevalent earlier. Among women
who are fertile now, the fertility could be considered moderate,
reflecting undoubtedly greater access to medical facilities, both
maternity and general medical care.
Samples of Village and Hospital Women in various age groups have
been used to monitor traditional values and modernity essentially
change through time. The older village women have lower fertility,
higher reproductive wattage, and more venereal disease. They have
more rituals performed for them, and the rituals are the more elaborate
ones. The older women also used more of the traditional medicines
and techniques. Younger Village Women continue many of these traits,
but venereal disease decreases while fertility increases. The
Hospital Women of both age groups have more education, perform fewer
rituals and less elaborate ones, use traditional medicines less and
modern ones more, have higher fertility and less repramuctive vatlge.
Younger women in the Hospital Sample are the most "modern" in these
respect, followed by older Hospital Women, then by the younger Village
Women. Younger Hospital Women also tend to marry later, but continue
to conceive at the same early age.
A series of medicinal treatments connected with reproduction and
sexual life are interwoven with ritual treatments and performances.
Concern for fertility and child mortality is shown in a multitude of
rituals, ccamencing with girls' puberty and continudfg through the
reproductive years with nahamba performances, with the gbipan
ritual as the most elaborate and the most popular. Patterns of
fertility and child mortality performance are reflected in the patterning
and choice of rituals.
As shown in able 14 below in the Village G-gie most girls
are married before they mature. Of those not so married, most are
married as part of the coming out of seclusion from the puberty
ritual. In the Hoapital Sample, in both age ranges, more were carried
some time after the ritual (whether long or shortened) had been
concluded. There is a trend among younger women in both samples.
to be mearied later.
TABLE 14 MARRIAGE AND PUBERTY (IN PERCENTAGES): 5
Village Sample Hospital Total
454 years 30-4 9-9
Married Pre-Puberty 64.6 70.0 68.8i 43.8- 20.0 58.2
Married "On the Mat" 25.0 20.0 15.6 6.3 20.0 19.2
Married Afterwards 310.4 10.0 15.6 50.0@ 60.0 22.6
Marriage and Divorce ani Exposure to Intecourse and Canception:
In this paper I will only' deal with those aspects of marri5ge
and divorce that relate to exposure to intercourse and conception.
A full analysis of marriage and divorce, including the marriage
contract, reasons for divorce, and divorce rates, etc., will be made
in the future. I do want to mention the aarital status of the,
pregnant w wamn, since earlier writers (Hudaon, 19351- Whit, 1955)
have reported that a pregnant woman is cast aside, and that women
wait for stable marriages before allowing conception to ocasr, i.e.,
women prevent conception by frequent use of contraceptives and .
The man who has trIapregnate:d a van is responsible fo, r hr
support sad well being during the pregnancy and delivery. A husband
cannot divorce a pregnant wife. A woman might be taken to her boyfriend
fo "pr egnancy custody" (ku n k or "to give hiMain anger")
by her atrikid n soaetiMes even if she is married. The man becomes
responsible jfor the costs of midwifery and medicines, as well as the
complete costs of feeding and supporting the vwoan while abe is
pregnant. If the woman dies hile in his custody, the n a r nat a
a high death forfeit, but nothing wilUk be paid if the infant or
"Pregnanay custody" assures food but not affection. the woman
I saw in this situation were unhappy but had acquiesced to their
relatives who wanted the man responsible to assume the costs of her
support and the fine tr her possible death. One om an "escaped"
from this situation to the nearby mission hospital for the last
motha of her pregnancy, rather than continue waiting in her boy-
friend's village. Once the pregnancy has been delivered, however,
the man my divorce his wife or send his girlfriend ,back to her village
or husband. If a women n "pregnancy custody" is kept by the man
for more than a few weeks after delivery, then her relatives will
assUm that the anm wishes to mary her.
yV observations are that a husband does not divorce a wife
immediately after she has had a child, even it their marriage has
been marked by quatrels or ill-will. The husband may wait a few
months and then divorce, and many women report being divorced while
they were still nursing a small child.
Similarly, a man ma9 not divorce his sick vife, but hbe may
divorce hbr as soon as she shows some signs of recovery. When i man
neglects or attempts to divorce a ick wife, the woman may take this
as a case to the local headmen's or government courts, and the
husband will be censured. In some ways this becomes like a zero sum
game to to the man with a sick wife. He cannot divorce her while sick,
as her relatives may refuse or demand a heavy penalty. On the other
hand, if he does not divorce her and she dies while ttill with hia,
he will definitely have to pay high death penalties and forfeit the
return of his original marriage payment.
To refute Whites hlypothesia that women wait until they are in
.sable marriages. Table 15 shows that most women begin bearing
children in their first marriage, many continue bearing children in
their second marriage, and fre bear in any subsequent marriages.
Concoitently, by the second marriage, the majority have stopped
reproducing and ore than oe third were consistently childless.
Only six women were infertile in the first marriage and fertile in
subsequent marriages; all other women howred their highest fertility
in their ir first marriages. This sample is only those women over 45
years of age who have completed their family size. The samples of
younger women (15-I44 years), especially in the Hospital Bsaple, show
the same trend of initially highest fertility declining ia subsequent
unions, but the generally higher level of fertility among younger
women means that they continue bearing children longer and through
more marriage es.
TABLE 15, FERnTILTY IN MARRIAGES (ONLY WOMEN OVER M49 NOT !ERCEWAES).
slat 2nd rdra !E 5th
Live birth 32 1s 3 1 -
ant-natail lath -
Misearriagea/stillbirths e 5 3 1 -
o mSeansar 17 33 19 11 3
Table IS shows the length of time front time of physical maturity
until first conception for the vamen over 45 years of age in my sanmpe.
Most wamen conceive within two years after maturing, although the
umBber of years until a live birth may be more. Although younger
women are tending to delay several years after puberty before marrying,
they also show this tendency of early conception, often being impreg-
nated by boyfriends shortly after maturing. Older woaen spy that these
younger women are the very ones who use abortiftcients to get rid of
these unwanted prepan ies. I did witness mne case where a young
waman did this. In the Hospital Sample of young onmen under 29
years of age, 26 per cent of those who vwee having their first
pregnancy were a* married. Whites contention that women wait for
stable marriages before conceiving is not borne out by a data, nor
does his related point that women begin bearing children relatively
late receive any substantiationn:
TAEABILS TIME R(M MATUoITY TO FIRST COnCEl ON (ROT PERCETAES).
1 ivo birth neo-natal death maiscarriage/stillbirth
S. 2 JYears 22 3 3
* ;3-4 Years 7 1 .
5-6 Year a -. 3 2
go information 5 3
No premgnancy 8 -
In terms of exposure to intercourse, extra-mmital intercourse
s quite frequent a g the sales I intercieved. Even those wIOen
who live virilocally surrounded by nusband*s relatives do not find
it too difficult to engage in these liaisons, especially it the hus-
band is avay for some time fishing or vorking. People reark heow
"other people" like the season when the maize grown around the vil-
lages has grown very high, as this allows illicit meetings to take
place close to the villages.
Separated end divorced women do not have their fertility held
in obeysnce. Courtship includes intercourse, and women who are not
presently married are expected to have boyfriend who will supply
themn__ with relish and clothes. Women are supposed to be discreet
in their affairs, but Coaami n who turns away men is called "proud".
On coital frequency Although there are opportunities and in-
centives for intercourse outside of marriage, coital frequency is
a.uch higher for a married vmn than for a woman between unions.
Young married women who were interviewed an this topic reported they
had intercourse from 3-7 times a week. Newly married polygynous
wvves reported a frequency of twice a day on the days allowed to
the. This topic was terribly embarrassing to those interviewed.
Medicinal treatments and the ritual cycle
Either for illness or reproductive troubles there are a number
of different treatments and combinations of medicines and rituals
that are possible. In this paper I do not discuaa the general
medicinal-ritual cosmology and exgesis, but restrict the discussion
to outlining the practices that relate to fertility and child mor-
tality. Women form a community of suffering in their various forms
of ill-health and infertility. Women kInow many treatments for
menstruation, gestation, abortion, contraception, "frigidity" a
variety of named gynaecological diseases, venerbel disease, post-
part=a problems, and lactation. Some of these treatments areI cOman
knowledge to all women; others are only known by same "general
practitioners "; and others are inly known to a few specialists.
Only a few specialist women learn medicine for barrenness (Lusakisa)
and for removal of the placenta (kusalaho), two very important medicines,
and these few women are normally midwives. In addition, a few man,
usually diviners, also know these two kinds of medicines, though the.
men aust give the medicines to a woman assistant to administer.6
If a woman has trouble in conceiving, if she miscarries, has a
stillbirth, or if her children sicken or die, it is possible to seek
an explanation in terms of general illnesses. But vomen's reproductive.
and child-rearing problems have riori the ancestral spirits as
their probable cause. Although a minor illness may be self-diagnosed
and treated, any acute or long-lasting illness needs proper diagnosis
obtained by consulting a diviner. She diviner identifies the source,
names the afflicting ancestral spirits othe modea by which they are
anifesting themselves, and directs the patient's relatives to the
kind of specialist needed. A woman never personally attends, such
a divination) her relatives are responsible for consulting the diviner
and carrying out the prescribed treatments. Sometimes relatives
consult several diviners.to verify the diagnosis.
Diviners are most likely to recamaend mhagba, or spirit poases-.
sion rituals as the therapeutic treatment. During the,.public n mba
ritual, the patient is medicated, sung and dxaamed over, and then
possessed by one or several spirits in the codified dances and per-
formances particular to that or those mahamba. Following this pub-
lic rituals there is a phase, lasting fra several weeks to several
years in different cases, of seid-seclusio n which the patient :
nBst observe food and sex taboos. Vban the patient has recovered
froa the illness, there is a final public ritual again featuring
spirit possession, but with elaborations such as animal sacrifices
and dances. The recovered patient may no attend any esoteric phases
of this ritual when it is held for another patient, and she may eve
become a maha doctor, if she pays fees and apprentices herself
to a specialist (see footnote 7).
Many diseases are treated medicinally, not with gaaa rituals,
although sometimes mhaIba rMay appear in combination with medicinal
treatments. When venereal disease is recognized by its genital .ymp..
;oe, 'iti4 8 treated by medicines. If abdominal, chest, or leg pains
occur, perhaps as a result of advnaced venereal infection, then these
pains may be treated by performances of mahambt. When medicines for
barrenness (Ikgeakisa) have been administered and the vwman has become
subsequently pregnant, a mahamba ritual will be held to placate the
ancestral spirit(s).: Whe oman aan has prolonged menstruation,
medicinal treatments will first be tried; if these are unsuccessful,
a performance of Kula (see Turner, 1968) and/or various other mahamba
will be held.
In In relation to fecundity and possible sepsis, the most significant
aspect of Luvale medical treatments is the frequency of intra-vaginal
application. .Medicines are given intra-vaginally for both gynaecological
diseases and conditions (venereal diseases, "vaginal frigidity", during
gestation, parturition and menstruation) and non-gynaecological diseases
(heart palpitations, varms, backache, thinness, and hysteria). In
contrast, Turner (1967) in his discussion of the medicinal techniques
of the neighboring Ndembu-IAUrdA, mentions drinking potions and poultices
for the same illnesses that the Luvale treat with intra-vaginals.
Luvale abortifacients may be either drinking potions or intra-vaginals,
and vomen commit suicide by inserting the inner cambium of a certain
tree into their vaginas.,,
Graves, a Medical Officer who worked among the Iuvale, said that
voost of the barren women he examined had various forms of pelvic sepsis
and salpingitis, which caused their infertility. His opinion was that
these infections were due to a number of practices such as. childhood
intercourse, early marriage resulting in difficult labour and consequent ;"
vaginal manipulation by village midwives, frequent abortions, herbal ..
remedies, and gonorrhea (personal communication quoted in Mitchell,
1965,23). Gilges, another doctor who worked among the Luvale and
wrote a monograph on poison plants and medicines (ilges, 190), said
he could not diagnose gonorrhea or syphilis clinically or seroialgi-
cally in many cases. Although he had listed irritating and toxic
herbs that were used intra-vaginally, he could not, with the labor-
atory facilities at his disposal, detect the after-affects (personal
communication quoted in Mitchell, 1965,23).
Many wovamen I interviewed stated that they had had gonorrhea,
(having the symptom of pus in the urine) or syphilis, (having the
symptom of genital lesions), and that these diseases reduced their
fertility. Other women blamed chisumx. (a make that lives in the
uterus, discussed below) and other illnesses, many symptoms of ,
which coincide with what we (not the Luvale) consider to be,
symptoms of venereal diseases. Gonorrhea apparently is more pre-
valent than syphilis, Interestingly, one of the names most widely :
used for gonorrhea is kalwena, a synonym for Ialuvale. It is
difficult to know whether this disease is more prevalent among the
Luvale than among other Zambian groups, but Luvale-controlled areas
extend from Zambezi District up through Angola to areas in Raire
where high incidences of gonorrhea and subsequent infertility have
'.been shown (Romaniak, 1968). ..
Younger women in both Village and Hospital Samples report fewer '
cases of venereal diseases, and women in the hospitall Sample have
lower incidences than their conte poraries in the Village Sample.
(see Table 17, These differences may vell reflect access and use of:
medical facilities and antibiotics, since penicillin is widely used
in the clinics for a variety of ailments, and younger women believe
that injections are "modern" and therefore they are very happy to
Undergo this kind of treatment.
TABLE 17 IMCIDErCE OF VENEREAL DISEASr REPORTED PERCENTAGES);
Percent Women Ever Reporting VD
15-29 years 8.6
..Village sample 30-" .48.5
Hospital sample 15-29. 38
Through interviewing some herbalists, I found out tht sme medicines
Used to treat venereal diseases were also used for inducitg abortions.
These medicines are not supposed to be given to pregnant en, but
sometimes a woman bling treated for another disease is also in the
early utnsuepected stage of pregnancy.8
Menstruation that is -nduly prolonged or accompanied by severe ,
abdominal pain is believed by the Luvale to interfere with the woan' s
fertility. Menstruation itself is considered a disease or illness
(eanongo) caused by the chisumi, a snake-like creature that lives
in the uterus. Chisumi is always present, but when it causes severe
pains or bleeding it is considered a disease to be "cooled" vith.
medicines. The theory of proreation astre ses the relationship
between menstruation and procreation, and hence, if there are repro-
ductive and menstrual problems, chiumi is first suspected and appro-
S private treatment begun.':
Co aonly known women'se medicines (both potions and intravaginals)
might first be tried to "ool" the chisumi. If these fail, a diviner
is consulted who may advise oe or several of the many treatments
available, normally commencing with medicines to wash the entire
-.body (applied with a live, white chicken), the wearing of red beads,
and the building of a small shrine behind the woman's house these
la :. two as visible reminders. If the problem continues, various
rituals may be performed to exorcise the afflicting i/it-.. The.:
r most notable of these possible rituals is a performance of
either by itself for serious cases or, if the patient is a young
S woman in M-r reproductive years, in combination with many other
muhamba (spirit manifestation) that have been diagnosed as "tying
up": her fertility.
An examination of ai data on long menatrL Af correlated wirthi
ritual performances hows the following. Among women in the Villge
S Sample, there is a higher incidence of traditional ritual partici-
pation than among women in the Hospital Sample. Forty per cent of
the village women over ,5 years of age mentioned having been troubled
by long monthly periods. All of those omen sought medicinal and
ritual help; all erected a shrine; all bad a gahamba performance
S that included Kul and 28 per cent of them had a performance limited
exclusively to Kula. Younger Village Vromen tended to have minor
rituals or a ritual exclusively for la and only some had mahab
ritual including Kula.
IKuakisa means to give medicine to a woman so she may bear a child.
This medicine is given by an herbal specialist after a diviner has been :
consulted. There are two parts to the medicine; first, a portion to
drink that is designed to cool" the chisumi. and, second, intra-vaginal
medicines to "open" the uterus (lichimbi). These latter medicines are
known to be very irritating, and a patient may have to:be restrained from
pulling out the medicines once they are inserted. When the doctor finally.
'vat f., the va 9i Te ,. .....
does remove the medicines, much "water" comes -ut of the vagina. Th
following table shows how frequently, women in both samples have recourse
to kuakisa medicines, although the practice was more popular in the past.
Hospital Vomen have better reproductive histories that Village Women,
undoubtedly reflecting their use of a variety of medical facilities,
S.including pre-natal clinics.
TABLE 18 WOMEN OBTAINING TRADITIONAL MEDICINES FOR KUSAKISA (PERCENTAGES)
S Percentage Of Those, Percentage,: Percentage Subsequently
Village Sample Obtaninin Medicine Remaining Barren Bearing a Child
4+ years 36 60 6l0
3_-44 31 50 50
13, 25 75
15-29 5 oo
S' ition and 1" ery,.
Once a wvaan conceives, ahe is guarded through her pregnancy by a
variety of medicines and rituals. For the first pregnancy, all womes
have medicines to "cool" the chiumi so that it will quickly release the
placenta. If the woman becomes ill while e she pregnant, other medicines
.... i i p .a r id ot. .Tht -
and rituals may be used, usually those in which offerings are made to
the woman' ancestors. If the woman has had previous stillbirths or neo-
natal deaths, a performance of the terrible and much feared Uliamba Tut
child, thereby causing a still birth or deformed child. It is believed
that the van unknowingly toppedd near the hole of this rat which is
why she is now afflicted, and the public performance is carried out near
such a hole. Also during gestation, the woman receives medicines to
"open the path (birt" (birth canal) and to "cleanse the mother a stomach"
(anta), the ap cation of these medicines starts about the 7h month
and does not require a medical or ritual specialist.
When labour pains begin, the specialist midwife is called, and she
immediately begins vaginal examinations to report on the progress of the
labour. Any aoman who Is older than the expectant mother is allowed
to attend the birth, and everyone present demands that the mother push,
push, push, frequently when her cervix has not yet even dilated. I
attended two deliveries In he villages, i which this early demand occurred.
Each time the expectant mother had bad d a previous miscarriage, but no
live birth, and labour wei long in both cases. Bearing down coaenced
early; numerous vaginal examinations were carried out; and both the woaen
became exhausted. Finally, in both cases, after arguments between husband
and matrikin, each woman was taken to the nearby mission hospital where
a live baby was delivered with the aid of the vacuum extractor. The
vagina had swollen, and the mother had become too tired to push. The
babies were delivered alive, but both infants had received extensive
moulding of the head and required intensive care during the immediate
post-natal period. In both cases, the nurses at the hospital remarked
that the babies would have been stillborn or would have probably
died within hours after the delivery if the birth had continued in
the village, since both babies were "distressed". Data presented
earlier in Table 9 showed that Village Women had significantly higher
incidences of stillbirths and neo-natal deaths than Hospital Women,
and that much of the reproductive wastage recorded for the Hospital
Women had actually occurred in previous village deliveries.
The greatest fear during childbirth is that all or part of the
placenta will be retained. In fact, midwives do not wait very long
before starting intravaginal medicines for the removal of the retained
placenta, us.alaho (to be left out or left over). Additionally, for
giving these ksalaho medicines the midwife may demand a larger fee.
If simply cooling the chisumi with medicines does not make the placenta
come completely out, then it is believed that an ancestral spirit
is causing the problem, and a diviner is consulted.
Post-partum maternal care is concerned with medicines for
chisumi. for cleansing the birth canal and uterus, and for tightening
the vagina. The latter two involve extensive douching with hot,
very acidic (test "brews" gave readings of ph 1-3) herbal pre-
parations. Some women report high fever and abdominal pains after
delivery, and women who are ill in this way and go th the hospital
for treatment are placed on antibiotics. The fever and pains are
suggestive of infection and possible resultant sepsis, but the
question then is whether women may get such tubal infections and
continue to live.
The Chavuma Mission Hospital specializes in maternity care and
delivery. As an alternative to delivering in the village, it is
widely used, and over 50 per cent of the camrlc census ~omen Wko
delivered babies in 1971 delivered their babies in the hospital.
Some village midwives send their patients to the hospital for pre-:-
natal clinic, although the women then deliver in the village. Half
of the women who attend pre-natal clinic actually do deliver at the
hospital. When the women in the Hospital Sample were interviewed, they
were asked a simple open-ended question, "Why have you come to the
hospital to deliver your baby?" Their reasons as stated are given
TABEL 19 REASONS FOR DELIVERING AT TE HOSPITAL (N. 88 wOMNI )
A. High payment to midwives. 18 women
B. Fear of retained placenta. 10 "
C. Both of the above, i.e. "you will pay nuch if
medicine is given for retained placenta." 7
D. Sisters have good medicine/rcferred tirouc-h
:M l-natal clinic. 12
E. Difficulties in village deliveries. 8 "
F. Previous child died. 5
G. "Educated women should go to hospital." 4
H. "Too many fingers in the vagina make it
swollen." 4 "
I. If baby dies in womb in village, they do not
know how to get it out. 2 "
J. "They make you push too hard." 2
K. Y~ t. may have to go for divination." 2 "
L. "No one to care for me in the village." 2 "
- No Response. 12
Chinango and Child Rearing Rituals
Seclusion in chizago (fence) is the most elaborate ritual for
reproduction, but only the briefest description is given here. De-
pending on past fertility and child mortality (the various patterns
are given below), it may be divined that the woman should be secluded
either before partuaition or with her newborn thild. She enters
seclusion tn a dramatic ritual.' During seclusion all kinds of
medicines and minor rituals are given, and many food and sex taboos
are prescribed. The woman may stay in the fence for a few months
or up to a year (if she were secluded during pregnancy). When the
child is ready to crawl or walk out of the fence by itself, then
there is another and more elaborate coming out ritual for mother and
Child-rearing is closely connected with child-bearing. For
example, women lump together miscarriage, stillbirth, neo-natal, and
deaths under one year under one term, kupihisa, although it is clear
that the women distinguish these observationally. So if a young
baby becomes ill and the mother has a good record of giving birth
and child rearing, then it is likely that only medicinal treatments
will be suggested for the baby. However, if there have been previous
problems in either bearing or rearing, then a full chiango or one
of the minor variations (fiango cha malala) will probably be sug-
gested by the diviner. All of these include restrictive measures
and quarantine of both mother and child, and, as a result of going
through tbese rituals, the child will be given a "Chipango" type
name often reflecting the main treatments or ritual.
Typical chipa patterns are: ) A woman had one to three
miscarriages or children who died, and during her next pregnancy
the chipango ritual is carried out. In the past she might enter the
enclosure during her pregnancy and deliver there. The modern pattern
is to deliver at the hospital and then perform the ritual. 2) After
a performance of Tufa during pregnancy she enters hipano before
or after delivery. 3) The woman has failed to conceive for several
years, is g6ven kusakisa medicine, becomes pregnant and enters.
Typical chipago chamaalal patterns are: 1) A woman has not
had trouble conceiving/bearing and her young child becomes sick; 2)
The sick child is older than a year, when it can crawl out of the
big chpango, and less than three years, when it would be off its
mother's back and the mother simply could dance mahamba for it; 3)
When certain circumstances prevent people with poor fertility his-
tories from having full seclusion such as poorness, immigrant
status, or no husband; 4) When the parents think seclusion is ald
Table 20 below gives an idea of the degree to which women in
the Village and Hospital Samples have various mahamba both of the
more traditional and the newer types, and chipango rituals both the
full and the abbreviated cha malala, for reproducing and rearing
TABLE 20 PARTICIPATION IN 1lAHAMBA RITUALS FOR REPRODUCING AND
454- 30-44 15-9 344 12g years
Reproducin, Mahamba 41 21 15 15 12
Mahamba (madness, death
of husband, illness) 8 3 1 1
r Mahamba (Peho) 18 8 5 1 1
NoMahamba 14 9 17 18 39
Full Chipango 12 10 10 11 3
Ream- jSigJWkenAPyn- 5 4 4 4 2
CMhna mo t Ca Malala 13 7 5 5 7
Mahamba for Sick Child 5 1 1 1 2
Number Women in Category 59 33 35 35 52
Note that a woman may have more than one kind of mahamba.
In terms of fertility and child mortality, the noteworthy aspect
of these performances, especially the chiPango series, is that the
woman's"luck" seems to improve.10 Many children have these names
that record their having been through the rituals as a small child,
and parents proudly recall how, because they have bad these rituals,
they now have children.
Factors other than the past fertility history of the woman in-
volved that influence the choice of performance/ritual are: the
economic and marital status of the woman and husband, previous
fertility and ritual history of close relatives of both woman and
husband, and degree of modernity of the couple. Divorced women with
young children never have the full seclusion of chipango, but
usually only erect a shrine because there is no husband to pay the
doctor. Poorer people may choose to have one of the minor ritual
sequences. As with the choices between various puberty rituals
mentioned above, the choice of these rituals partially depends on
the kinds of fituals her female relatives have experienced and their
This interweaving of fertility history, personal illness, and
ritual participation becomes clearer in actual cases of successful
and unsuccessful producers and rearers. k Although there are many
cases and unique elements, certain few and common patterns emerge.
A few examples are given to illustrate this.
Tamba, miscarried her first pregnancy. Her second pregnancy
was carried to term and delivered in the village, but this baby
girl died within a month. After consulting diviners, it was
discovered that Tamba was afflicted by many ancestral spirits, and
a public mahamba ritual was held to identify and placate these
spirits. ;:The patients mother, mother's mother, and father's sister,
are all medical and ritual specialists, and they assisted Tamba in
the ritual. Seven rahamba possessed Tamba in this single ritual.
Tamba became pregnant again. Diviners were immediately consulted
and recommended a performance of Tuta and later, if the delivery
were a success, that the mother and child be placed in chipango.
The diviners also ordered that the rituals be supervised by a
specialist who was not a relative.
When Tamba was seven months pregnant, Tf was performed. Leaving
nothing to chance, Tamba, accompanied by her mother, went to the Mission
hospital where she delivered a baby girl. The patient's mother, her
matrikin, and her father and his matrikin were all anxious that Tamba
and the baby be put to chipango as quickly as possible. Tamba s
mother herself was not only a hamba and chiango doctor, but had
been placed into chipango with Tamba when Tamba was a baby. The
maternal grandmother was an important local mhamba doctor. The
mother of Tamba's husband was named Nyachipango because she had also
been puCttt chipan with one of her young children years before. Only
Tamba's husband and his father were hesitant about putting Tamba in
seclusion. They worried because Tamba and her husband always were
arguing about sharing food, and they feared that the restrictions on
food and activities would exacerbate the already existing tensions.
Tamba's matrikin were adamant, however, and the cipago ritual was
performed. Tamba was possessed by the same seven mahamba. While in
seclusion the baby was renamed Chipango and Tamba called Nyachipango
(mother of Chipango). During the seclusion Tamba regularly attended
the Well Baby Clinic at the Mission Hospital with her daughter. When
the child was a year old the very elaborate ending ritual was performed.
Both mother and child terminated their chipano ritual experience in
good health. All the relatives were pleased about their well-being
and Tamba's relatives were delighted to have another ritual adept
and potential ritual expert in the family.
Mazau is another woman; her own name refers to a medicinal calabash
and means that she was washed with medicines as a small baby, probably
1, Only a partial sample (215 out of 350) is analyzed here. Sixty-
-':. five village parturients and seventy hospital parturients were
subsequently interviewed, I wish to thank all the people at
Chavuma Mission Hospital who allowed these interviews and all
the luvale participants for their cooperation. This field woat
was made possible by a grant from the Naditb al Institute of
Health (ZIH MS-1256) and the Department of Anthropology, Cornell
2. The simple fertility ratio (child/woman ratio-relatcd the
number of young children in the population to the number of vomen
in the reproductive age group. 3 Ohadlke (1969, 37-38) notes
that this ratio does not necessarily measure maternity because
of differential under-enumeration, childhood migration, and
infant and early childhood mortality. This ratio looks at
fertility in the recent past, i.e.,the last five years.
3 It should be noted that, unless an investigator is very careful,
neo-natal deaths and even deaths of children under two years
will be recorded as miscarriages, and the mother subsequently
registered as "ohildleas". I interviewed many "childless" vomen
who, upon intensive questioning, revealed that they had produced living
li children who had died while very young.
4. 69.6 per cent of the Chavma female population is married; of
the remaining vomen, most are unmarriageablo because of age or
lameness (22.7 per cent of the total), and the remainder are
between marriages (7.8 per cent of the total). Of the married
women, 74 per cent are in monogamous unions, and 26 per cent
are in polynynouc unions.
5. The interviews of most of the Hospital parturients were conducted
by a Luvale assistant, a forty-five year old school matron who
lived near the Hospital. All the women in the hospital ample
were successful parturlents. Women who delivered a stillbirth
or whose child died while still in the hospital were not intcr-
viewed by my Zavale research assistant. She thought those women
were "too sad" to be interviewed. I discovered this sample bias
after the first six month sample had already been completed;
this made me "too sad". The total Hospital Sample, which includes
women who delivered between Dec. 1971 and May 1972 will be ana-
lysed in a future paper.
6. Medicines and rituals work both because of their inherent worth
(see footnote ~) and because the practicioner has taken a "course",
i.e.,the doctor learned his/her trade through an apprenticeship
for which he/she paid money. Invocations to activate the strength
of medicines taken from a tree begin with "mutondo tambu, keshi
monako", which means that this is a tree I paid money for; I did
not just see it. As the doebor paid to learn, so does he/she
expect to be paid a large sum for his/her administrations.
7. Many of the medicinal plants used by the Luvale have well-
documented biochemical properties (see Watt, J. M. and M. G.
Breyer-Brandwijk, Medicinal and Poisonous Plants of Southern
and Eastern Africa. 2nd Ed. 1962, E.&S. Livingstone, Edinburgh).
The tree used by women for suicide is actually very poisonous,
and the mere threat by a woman that she is going to use it is
often sufficient grounds for her to be granted a divorce so she
may leave her present unhappy situation in her husband's village.
All abortifacients also carry the cautionary note that, if the
f~ietus is already developed the use of these medicines will
also kill the woman. Although many abortifacients appear to
be effective as poisons, it was not apparent to me that abor-
tifacients w.re in'fr'equert 6u -. I -did'witnpsh6 one case in
which a woman died while attempting abortion, and perhaps the
fear of thus accidentally committing suicide diminishes the
frequency of abortion. The case I witnessed involved a young
woman who was to join her husband in Lusaka. Perhaps she was
embarrassed at being pregnant too soon after the birth of her
previous child, thus breaking the post-partum taboo, or perhaps
she did not want to be held down in Lusaka by the burden of a
new baby. After attempting an abortifn crPenicl.ly-.o she was
taken to the hospital where she died several days later. Con-
cerning the post-partum taboo, ideally the couple are supposed
to wait until the previous child can walk before resuming inter-
course. This interdiction appears to be broken by many women
unless their child has been put to some sort of special child-
rearing cr+atzoy (chipano or chipan o cha malal). Beginning
two to three months after childbirth, the parents abbain con-
traceptive medicines and resume intercourse, more traditional
parents sometimes waiting six to eight months before resuming.
Contraceptive medicines are to allow the parents to resume
sexual relations and still endure that the previous child will
be able to walk properly, a great concern to all parents.
These medicines are usually prepared and placed in beads that are
strung around the baby's waist. The "good father" should also
practice coitus interruptus until the baby walks.
8. One young woman did not inform her grandmother that she was
pregnant. The old woman administered medicines for abdominal
pains. Subsequently, the young woman managed to bring herself
to the Mission Hospital upon feeling ill. The nurse in charge
and I (I fortuitously was visiting the Mission) witnessed the
abortion and collected the fetus.
9. Patients remarked that "water", not urine, discharge, nor blood
10. This is the rationale given. In anycase the success stories
are always mentioned. Presently, women make use of modern
medical facilities to aid in conception and delivery. In
terms of helping the sick child, the fence seclusion ritual
as always acted as a quarantine measure, preventing the child's
exposure to most other persons and definitely to sick persons.
Presently, the child may also be taken to Well Baby Clinics or
to the hospital at the first signs of illness.
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