FERTILITY, MARRIAGE AND RITUAL PARTICIPATION AMONG THE LUVALE
OF NORTH-VSTERN PROVINCE ZAMBIA
FIRST DRAFT NOT FOR QUOTATION OR PUBLICATION
As a student with an interest in ritual and Africa, my attention
was drawn to Northwest Zambia because of Turner's work on Ndembu
ritual. Upon examination of the literature, I found the ritual
cycle of the neighboring Luvale to be extremely developed with the
bulk of the rituals centered on the women. Certain ethno-gynaecological
techniques were also mentioned. Furthermore, a 1949 article by White
was extremely provocative in discussing an increase in spirit possession
rituals stemming from new sources of infection, with women as the main
victims and participants.
Some striking demographic paramebars are also well documented in the
literature. Early writers (Springer, 1909; Hudson, 1935) had noted
the small numbers of children in the villages. White 0959 ) later
carried out a fertility survey of women in Kabompo District that
showed low fertility and a declining fertility among those who haA
been fertile. Mitchell (1965), working with an urban sample, was
amazed by the Luvale fertility, finding both low fertility and high
childlessness. After reviewing possibly 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 tribal membership. As a case in point, he discussed the
Luvale and unofficial medical reports from doctors who had worked
in that tribal area. The reports mentioned as possible causative
factors either indigenous medical practices or a genetic factor.
Certain questions and research directions were apparent,
particularly the interrelationships between this ritual
participation (including enthno-medical practices) and fertility
as a sociological concept, i.e. achieved reproduction and
volitional control of reproduction. Whether iVG L and ethno-medical
practices developed to cope with fertility problems actually contribute
to the problems is a medical argument that cannot be fruitfully pursued
by a sociologist. It is my intention, therefore, to discuss only
extant phenomena and to present the correlations.
During an 18 month period of field research among the Luvale in
Chavuma area, Northwestern Province, Zambia, I investigated ritual
and medical practices by participant observation and in-depth
interviews. In addition, fertility and ritual participation
histories were elicited from about 300 women. Two main samples
were gathered: the first included women interviewed in the villages,
with a special attempt to collect a large number of women from the
area of one administrative headman so as to be able to relate this
sub-sample to a specific population the second sampled most of
the women who delivered at the nearby mission hospital during
a one year period; these women were interviewed during their post
Mitchell (1965) studied a 10 per cent random sample of Afridan
dwellings in the line of rail towns during 1951 and 1954, so his
statistics would reflect the population and fertility of the 1940s.
He measured fertility by the number of living children and computed
child/woman fertility ratios using children aged 0-5 and women aged
15-50. Struck by the significantly differential fertility of
tribal groupings, Mitchell distinguished four main categories:
High Fertility (Mambwe and Demba), Moderate Fertility (Aushi,Luapula,
Lamba,-Nyanja, Ngoni, etc.), Low Fertility (Lozi, Ila, Tonga, Lenje,
Ndembu, etc.),and Very Low Fertility (Lwena groups only, i.e. Luvale,
Luchazi, and Chokwe)6 Below are some of his figures, including all
those for Northwestern Province.
TABLE 1 CHILD/WOMAN FERTILITY RATIOS (FROM MITCHELL, 1965)
Chinsali 962 High
Kasama 887 Bemba
Solwezi 683 Lamba Moderate
Kasempa 673 Kaonde
Mwinilunga 478 Ndembu Low
Balovale('"mbo7)i)304 Luvale Very Low
Kabompo 217 Luvale
Additionally, he compared the tribal 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 Ndembu agati rank lowhet.
TABLE 2 BIRTHS P'R YEAR PER ADULT 'WOMAN (AFTER MITCHELL, 1965).
TRIBE: DEMOGRAPHIC SURVEY: URBAN SAMPLE:
a^ .322 .288
BEMBA AND BISA .223 .256
TONGA,ILA AND LENJE .188 .125
LAMBA AND KAONDE .171 .189
NDEMBU AND LUVALE .103 .103
iiitchell also considered Childlessness as a factor in fertility,
and in his total sample the proportion of childless women
stabilized at 9 per cent. Among the Luvale he found 47.8 per cent of
all women over the age of 30 to be childless. This compared with
19 per cent among the Ndembu and 15.8 per cent for the Lamba.
A very high proportion of childless women will depress
the fertility ratio as it apparently does among the wena,
but the fertility ratio may remain high even if a moderately
high proportion of women are childless as among the Lamba
type people (1965,15)".
Checking into regional variation in disease and diet, Mitchell
decided that venereal disease, malaria, and cassava eating could
not account for the variations observed, since these factors were
equally apparent in areas of low fertility and in areas 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 significant was tribal membership.
Mitchell concluded that the differences were not modern phenomena and
were not easy to explain.
White (1959) reported on his interviewing 216 Luvale women in 1958
in Kabompo District. His figures thus reflect fertility in the 1950s
in the district that had the lowest fertility as recorded by Mitchell.
White found a child/woman ratio of 269, somewhat higher than Mitchell's
ratio but still very low. Using White's data, Mitchell calculated
a not reproduction rate of .8945, indicating a static or slightly
falling population (White, 1959). Mitchell also calculated the age
specific fertility rate which measure, the number of children a
girl now entering her reproductive phase is likely to bear through-
out 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 rate appears
to be low fertility with a highproportion of women who are infertile,
and declining fertility among those who are fertile (1959,55)." He
also constructed a table of Births per Woman.
BIRTHS PER WOMAN (FROM WHITE, 1959).
Number of Live Births: 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 10
Number of Women: 73 53 36 20 12 13 5 3 1
He then gave the rate of live births per woman in five year cohorts
that demonstrated a progressive increase in the ratios through increase
in age. Regrouping his cohorts into three age categories, for ease of
comparison with my Chavuma data, and recalculating the Kaboqp rates,
I present the following table.
BIRTHS PER WOMAN (FROM WdITE 1959) BY AGE CATEGCI ES:
AGE RANGE: N: NUMBER OF LIVE BIRTHS: RATE:
15-29 YEARS 73 69 945
30-44 YEARS 86 134 1.56'
45-79 YEARS 57 156 2.74
Regarding his data, White noted that 17 out of 20 in his 15-19 age
cohort did not yet have.a child. From this he argued that "child
bearing commences comparatively late (1959,55)". Since 6 women in
this cohort were not yet married, he concluded that the age of
first marriage was rising. Calculating childlessness from my above table
gives a figure of 33.8 ; this is not corrected for age categories.
In an earlier articleW hite (1955) suggested that Luvale women wait
until they are in a stable marriage before producing children, and
his data above lend support to this contention. My data from
Chavuma show an opposite trend, and my data on marriage and conception
contradict the contention.
Before I present the Chavuma data, it is helpful to see the general
fertility statistics for Zambia in the 1960s. Ohadike (1969)analyzed
the 1963 Zambian census and calculated child/woman ratios. He used
a different age grouping, children 0 to 4.5. and women 15.5 to
45.5, and reported a ratia of 769 for all of Zambia and of 563 for
North-Western Proaince;, which was the province with the lowest rate.
Using unofficial figures for the 1969 census, I calculated rates
using both age groupings.
CHILD/WOMAN RATIOS 1969 CENSUS ESTIMATES:
CHILDREN 0 to 4,5 CHILDREN 0 to 5
WOMEN 15.5 to 45.5 WOMEN 15 TO 50
Total Zambia 867 798
Northwestern Province 675 603
Zambezi District 560 482
Northwestern Province is again lowest in Zambia, and Zambezi District
is lower than the provincial mean.
From a consideration of data from the 1940s (Mitchell, 1965; Central
Statistical Office, 1950 ), the 1950s (White, 1959), and the 1960s
(Ohadike, 1969; unofficial 1969 census breakdowns) two trends become
clear. First, the fertility of Zambia and Northwestern Province
is increasing. Second, even though there is this general increase
the fertility in Northwestern Province started out lower than the
national average and has remained lower. The first trend is under-
standable in view of the increased medical facilities that may cope
with venereal disease and malaria and provide more extensive maternity
care. Under Five Clinics have been operating throughout the country,
and there has been an increasing general level of wealth and education
SOME DIMENSIONS OF FERTILITY IN THE CHAVUMA SAMPLE, 1972
It is not the intention of this paper to examine the general
demographic structure of the Chavuma population, but rather to
concentrate on some measures of fertility.A .sample census of
approximately 20 per cent of the total Chavuma population, based
on sections of 3 settlements, was carried out 'T Art Hansen during
the early part of our research, and the general profiles of the age,
sexand marital parameters have been computed for most of this
census. A smaller section of this census about 6.7 per cent of
the total Chavuma population, consisting of the people grouped under
one administrative headman where most of my interviewing took
place, has been more thoroughly computed at this time. This
smaller section of th,>/shares the general age, sex,/ VY-n4\
parameters of the total sample census. This smaller section of
the census is used as the basis for my child/woman fertility ratio,
the crude birth rate, the percentage of village versus hospital
deliveries, and the monogamy/polygyny proportions.
CHILD/WOMAN FERTILITY RATIO, CH'VUMA SAM;PLE FROM ONE ADMINISTRATIVE
TOT4L WO\MN.' VILL..GE DELIVERED
(IN AGE GROUP) WOMEN ONLY
Children 0 5 /Women 1--45 625 602
CHILDREN 0- 5/Women 15-50 536 467
The administrative headman sample shows higher rates than the
district. This is undoubtedly a reflection of the high access to
medical facilities enjoyed by Chavuma women, since 50.5 per cent of the
babies born in 1971 were delivered in the nearby mission hospital.
The rate calculated for only those women in the sample 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 less readily
During the year 1971,30 live babies were born to the women in this
sample, giving a crude birth rate of 38. We 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 1963 as 52.
The wide discrepancy in these two figures (his 52 and my 38)probably
reflect more about the age-sex distribution of the Chavuma population
than about the Chavuma 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 Chavuma
sample is over 50 years old, whereas only 9 per cent of the total
Zambian population (1969 unofficial figures) is over 50.
69.6 per cent of the Chavuma female population is married; of the
remaining women, most are unmarriageable (generally too old or lame)
-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 only 26 per cent are in polygynous unions.
In addition to these larger general censuses, I collected fertility
and ritual participation histories from many women in two samples. The
first sample were women interviewed in the villages, with an emphasis
on collecting many interviews within the smaller censused population so that
the fertility sample could be related to a definite and censused population.
The second sample included most of the women who delivered at the nearby
mission hospital during a one year period. The village sample is casual
rather than random, and the hospital sample approaches the total population
of all women who delivered in the hospital during the year starting June
1971 through May 1972.
The hospital sample data used in this paper was collected from June
1971 to November 1971, as the second six month period will only be
analyzed later. This hospital data has been excluded-from my child/women
ratio calculations for two reasons: first, the sample is drawn from a
population that is larger than Chavuma and reflects non-Luvale 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, rnd
for tables on marriage and ritual participation.
NUMBER OF LIVE BIRTHS (INCLUDING NEO-NATAL DEATHS) y/A g
VAl'- C NEO-IJATAL
0 1 2 3 4 _2 67 8 10o\ DEATHS
SVILLAGE SAMPLES (N 127) 23 35 22 19 11 10 4 1 1 2 32
)HOSPITAL SAMPLES(N 88) 0 21 21 13 7 12 8 6 4 6
TOTALS(215 WOMEN) 23 56 43 32 18 22 12 7 5 2 3P
The rate of childlessness for village women who have finished their
fecund period (over 45 years of.age) is 23.7 per cent (N 59). Another
4 women in this age category only had .one pregnancy each, and that
pregnancy resulted in a child that only lived a few hours (technically
a neo-natal de'- ). After that first pregnancy none of these 4 women
had another pregnancy. If they were included in the childless category
(see footnote 3), the rate rises to 30.5 per cent childlessness.
Either of these two rates is a definite decrease from the rates
recorded by Mitchell and White? The change probably reflects
both increasing fertility, a Uationwide trend, and a careful checking of
all women who claimed they were childless, a check that often revealed
that the women had had a child who died immediately after birth or
within the first two years.
RATE OF LIVE BIRTHS(INCLUDES NEO-NATAL DE-THS).
,fl-\ N (VILLAGE SAMPLE) A.GE GROUPS NUMBER OF LIVE BIRTHS RATE
35 15-29 years 86 2.47
33 v '3-44 years 85 2.58
59 45+ years 115 1.95
d I \A N (HOSPITAL SAMPLE)
53 15-29 years 115 2.17
3.5 0-44 years V' % 166 4.74
Thble 8 shows that the women with completed family 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 condi-
tions in 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 the older women have higher rates,
The higher rate for older women would reflect the longer length of time
they have been exposed to conception, and this relationship appears in
Table 4 using White's data.
Comparing Village women with Hospital women in the 30-44 category
shows how, even with a general increase in fertility, the rate of
increase may be substantially greater among those who avail themselves
of the modern medical facilities available. The apparent inconsistency
in the table, village women in the 15-29 category having a higher rate
than their hospital contemporaries, is explained by a closer examination
of the hospital women in this category most of them are young
girls having thS-'r firct .b-by.
It is interesting to mention some more characteristics of this
hospital population. Using hospital records for the 1059 deliveries
there during 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 week while the mother and child
were still at the hospital in post partum confinement.
This early death of a live birth is herein called a neo-natal death.
12.6 per cent of all live births 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 women in these two samples. Table 9
is, therefore, a record of reproductive wastage.
Table 9. Percentages of Reproducti re lastage (N is total preg- VA< I<
Miscarriages Stillbirths Neo-Natal Deaths Total
VAz \0 1VA.II VA-2 12 Ar
(N 359) 12,8 7.5 8,9 29,2
(N 315) 3.5 7&3* 1.9** 12.7
This high percentage is misleading as applied to the hospital
environment because 46 per cent of these stillbirths were the first
pregnancy and were delivered in the village.
** The same qualification extends here; even though this is a very
low percentage, 50 per cent of these neo-natal deaths were fer
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 deliveries in the village. Below
I argue that traditional
m-idwifery techniques may account for much of the high rate of
stillbirth and neo-natal reproductive wastage.
Sex ratios at birth or averaged through the 0-5 year range
have been calculated for Zambezi District (1969 unofficial census
results), for the smaller censused Chavuma population, and for the
Table 10, Sex Ratios (males per 100 females),.
At Birth 145 Years
District (0-1 year,
1969Le6.svts) 94.28 102.3
Sample Census Chavuma 105.8
Hospital (1967-1971) 99.07
Why are more females born among the Luvale? And why do more
females die within the first five years? Speculatively, Luvrle
ideas of time for conception and intercourse and their douching
practices correlate with some current medical opinions on the
components favouring the production of females over males, but
this is all unprovable. Concerning the differential early
mortality, although women say they prefer female children to males
perhaps the women take better care of their boys. I intend to
do further research on this differential mortality.
Presented below in Table 11 are 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 my data. Mortality estimates from the
hospital sample are misleading unless it is taken into account
- 10 -
that the most recent birth for each .woman in this sample was
less than two weeks old at the time of interview.
Child Mortality During First Year of Life
VAl\ IA /AQWO14-I Z V A 'A \ VA (V I I !
Total Failed* Live Neo-Natal Deaths one
Preg- Pregnan- Births Deaths Week-One
nancies cies Year
Village Sample 359.
mauus 73 equals 286minus 2 minus 45
Hospital Sample 315minus34 equals 281minus 6 minus 20**
* Failed Pregnancies mean miscarriages and stillbirths.
** As noted in the text above, this is a partial figure.
FLOCORS AFFECTINGG FERTILITY
Blake and Davis (1956) set out a framework to examine factors affecting
fertility and infertility. This framework consists of three categories:
factors affecting exposure to intercourse, factors affecting exposure
to conception, and factors affecting gestation and successful
Exposure to intercourse is dependent upon age at entry into sexual
unions, amount of time between unions, remarriage custom s voluntary
and involuntary abstinence, and coital frequency. I will examine
age at puberty, the puberty seclusion ceremony for girls, and
modern adaptations. Afterwards I will discuss marriage and divorce
as they most directly affect fertility considerations. Abstinence
from 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 picture.,Although this is
generally outside the realm of sociology, information is presented
from medical sources, and the disease picture elicited from the
women themselves is presented. It is in this realm, however, that
traditional ritual has developed to deal with these gynaecological
problems ritually, as they do not appear amenable in the Luvale mind
- 11 -
to the volition of the living. Ie would seo.these problems as
medical factors amenable to diagnosis and treatment by modern
*medicine; the Luvale would see them as medical problems amenable to
diagnosis by divination and to treatment by ritual and herbal means.
It is in this context that reproductive rituals are discussed.
Voluntary measures affecting exposure to conception include contracE-
tion, the use of abortifacients, and medical treatments.
Although previous writers have claimed that the Luvale are great
voluntary aborters, little data has been advanced. Although I
collected information on the use of abortifacients, statistical data
was impossible to elicit. I am able to correlate conception with
marriage and directly answer White's contention that women wait
until they are in a stable marriage before producing, and prevent
themselves from producing until that stability is reached. Medicinal
treatments which are widely used, and include pro- and post-coital
infusions, may in fact work contraceptively, although that was not
the intention of the doctor or patient.
Gestation and successful parturition considers footal mortality
from voluntary and involuntary causes. Luvale medicinal
treatments during pregnancy and rzi dwifery techniques are briefly
explored to understand some voluntary, although unintentional, causes
of this mortality; the rates of early miscarriage may suggest some
involuntary consequences. I argue that midwifery techniques contribute
to still-births and neo-natal deaths. Venereal disease, an
involuntary factor, may affect both conception and foetal mortality.
Finally, child mortality is a cause for great concern among the Luval,:
and the ritual cycle connected with the maintanence of children
Age at first exposure Luvale girls were traditionally betrothed,
and often went to their husbands' village to live, before the girls
were yet mature. Although coitus was forbidden before
first menstration, coitus undoubtedly occurred. Most women, however,
in response to questioning, maintain that they did not have full
intercourse at this time, although the man and woman did have
sex-play. One informant told me how her husband at this time
brought in matured women for intercourse, while she slept on the
floor in the same house.
- 12 -
Age at menstruation very few women knew their birthdate, and
only a few more were able to fix the.year of their birth by
Many remembered the year they matured, either by the date itself
or by historical events at that time. From seeing recently matured
girls and from the limited material on actual birthdates, it appears
to me that Luvale women mature from 14-15 years of age. Luvale
guage the age of maturity by the size of th, woman's breasts. Based
on this and on their maturity relative to other girls they had grown
up with, most of the Luvale women interviewed said they matured
"on the right time "(64.3 per cent); 24 per cent said they matured
late; and 11.7 per cent said early.
Upon menstruation a girl is brought to her matrikin or her father's
matrikin who will be responsible for performing the girl's puberty
ceremony (wali) which ensures her fertility. The three phase
ceremony consists of the entrance into the seclusion hut, the se-
clusion (lasting up to one year), and the coming out. Since
most girls are betrothed before maturity, her husband or fiancee has
an important role to play during the first and third phases.
The purpose of the ceremony is twofold: ensuring future fertility
and preparing the girl for sexual life. During the seclusion, certain
foods are prescribed because they symbolize multiplicity, the large
number of children that are desired. Other foods are prohibited
because they symbolize interdictions on her sexual capacities.
Other instructions and actions during this period are designed to
make the girl a good dancer and sex partner. The girl elongates
her labia, learns medicines for producing a warm dry vagina, and
learns how to deal with monthly periods. No practical advice on child-
rearing or child-bearing is transmitted,nor is instruction about domestic
..w 13 -
If thi girl in seclusion (mwali) is not already married or proposed,
a man might propose to her relatives during the ceremony and be
accepted. In this case, the man will rry the girl as part of the
coming out of seclusion ceremony (anr ying "on the mat").. Whether
married or not, the girl must have intercourse as part of the coming-
out phase, as this action is considered essential for her later fertility
If there is no husband or fiancee, then a young man from the area is
recruited for this.
A variation on this puberty ceremony-is called Kumufwika mbwela
(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 some
time after her menses. If for some reason the girl does not
menstruate for a long time, the vagina may be "opened." This custom
of putting pre-menstrual girls into seclusion is also followed
by the Ndembu Lunda of Mwiniune:~. The Luvale justify this practice
by remarking that a mother or sister of the girl had been treated
like this and had produced children, and if the girl is likewise
treated she will also produce. Similarly, if a mother or sister
of the girl had gone through the more traditional ceremony and not
subsequently produced children, then the girl should try a different
ceremony or she likewise will not produce.
another variation is called kukombesa (to sweep), a very abbreviated
ritual in which no special hut is built, and the girl 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 older
sisters of the girl had longer rituals and subsequent poor
fertility. Today among families who send their girls to school,
this shortened ritual is very popular. In kukombosa many of the
mystical aspects characteristic of the longer puberty ceremonies are
omitted, but the labin are still elongated, and medicines for warmth
and instructions about the monthly period are still given. Sexual
instruction is transmitted privately after thGi ceremony, although
Christian Luvale postpone this instruction until just before
marriage. Girls who mature while attending the mission boarding
school go to the school matrons who carry out the medicinal aspects
Christians refuse to permit the traditional ritual intarcourse4
- 14 -
PARTICIPATION IN FEMALE PUBERTY
425+ Y: rr:
/A-t(- -,A X VA- i IA
RITUALS (IN PERCENTAGES):
30-44 15-239 4 _5-29
84. 8 80.0O 65.6 52-.9
9.1 5.7 -
6i 14.3 34,4 47.1
From reading the above table, several trends stand out. First, wali
(the more traditional ritual) has always been the most popular
puberty ritual and continues today to be the most popular. Second,
Wali is much less popular among the women in the hospital sample than
among those in the village. In this context, inclusion in the hospital
sample reflects Sharing other characteristics, such as education.
Third, there is a positive correlation between youth and increasing
popularity of kukombesa. The following Table 13 illustrates this more
clearly because I have pulled out of both samples those women who
have attended or are attending school (N 54 ) and showed the
correlation with type of puberty ritual.
S5 KUTI BEESA(
VA\tc< KUM---1-- 1
JA R3 I
SCHOOL .TTENDA.NCE .ND RITUAL P:RTICIPLTION (NOT PERCENT .GES),
VA..3 VILL,',GE TOIPITAL TOT.L
45+years 2L4 15-29 44 15-29
ERS) 3 2 4 12 22
CHOOLRS) 1 1 4 8 18 32
zIO HJ:D KUKOMBESA
Several interesting and expected correlations appear in this
table. School attendance correlates with hospital delivery and with
kukombesa. One advantage of the shortened ritual for schoolgirls is
that,unlike for wali, a girl need not drop out of school when she matures
to enter the long seclusion period. Although school attendance correlates
highly with this shortened ritual,even non-schoolers are turning to this,
especially those who appeared in the hospital sample;
vg ue I ( B; S
tj- s- ha
- 15 -
TABLE 14. MARkIh AMfD PUBERTY (IN PIJXCENTAGS):
VILLAGI1E )A -1 A HOSPITAL TOTAL
V"A -A-- --, N,
45+ years 30-P4 1-29 30-4 1L-2 ,
SMARRIED PR-iU.LjhRTY 64.6 7U.0 68.8 43.8 20.0 58.2
2 / MARRIEDL "ON TTH MAT" 25.0 20.0 15.6 6.3 20.0 19.2
3 MAIRhKI~) afTEKRWARDS 1U.4 10.0 15.6 50.0 60.0 22.6
C1 .In the villages 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 hospital sample,in both age ranges,more were married some
time after the ritual(whether long or shortened) had been concluded. There
is a trend among younger women in both samples to be married later.
lwAIkIAGI1 AI) DIVORCE AiD) ~X-SU1M TO INT'rRC:OUIOSE AiJ'D CON(CE TION:
In this paper I will only deal with those aspects of marriage 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
marital status of the pregnant woman,since earlier writers(Hudson,1935;White,
1955) have reported that a pregnant woman, is cast aside,and that vomen wait
for stable marriages before allowing conception to occur,i.e.women prevent
conception by frequent use of contraceptives and abortifacients.
The man who has impregnated a woman is responsible for her support and well-
being during the pregnancy and delivery. A husband cannot divorce a pregnant
wife. A woman might be taken to her boyfriend for pregnancy custody
(kumuhenyokolako or "to give him in anger") by her matrikin,sometimes even
if she is married. The man becomes responsible for the costs of midwifery
and medicines,as well as the complete costs of feeding and supporting the
woman while she is pregnant. If the woman dies while in his custody,the ,
man must pay a high death forfeit,but nothing will be paid if the infant
or child dies.
pregnancy custody assures food but not affection. The womon I saw in this
situation were unhappy but had acquiesed to their relatives who wanted the
man responsible to assume the costs of her support and the fine for her
possible death. One woman "escaped" from this situation to the nearby
mission hospital for the last months of her pregnancy,rather than continue
waiting in her boyfriend's village. Once the pregnancy has terminated,
the man may divorce his wife or send his girlfriend back to her village or
husband. If a woman in pregnancy custody is kept by the man for more than
2-3 weeks after the pregnancy terminated,then her relatives will assume
- 16 -
that the man wishes to marry her.
My observations(I hope to later put this on a quantitative basis) are that a
husband does not divorce a wife immediately after she has had a child,even
if their marriage has been marked by quarrels 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. Many young women I have seen in the
local government court suing for legal recognition of their husbands having
divorced them are accompanied by small children under three years of age.
Similarly,a man may not divorce his sick wife,but he may divorce her as soon,
as she shows some signs of recovery. When a man neglects or attempts to
divorce a sick 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 a zero sum game to the man with a sick wife. in 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 still with him,he
will definitely have to pay high death penalties and forfeit the return of
his original marriage payment.
STABLE 15. FERTILITY ITl MAR~iIGiI ,S(OLY VOMIN OVER 45; j1 ;-R*OMCTAG1;S).
- ----. V V ,7- V/^ VlAy- 1J^S
VC,(*L. l1t 2nd 4th 5th
\ LIVE BIRTHS 32 14 3 1 --
S O-NATAL DEATHS 5 -
.2, 3, NISCidARIAGES/STILLBIRTHS 4 5 3 1 -
O JO REMGN~ACY 17 33 19 11 3
NO INFORMATION 1 1 1 -
7' /i'J 0 C1
STbl6.)15- shows that most women begin producing in their first marriage, many
continue in their second marriage,and few in any subsequent marriages. Con-
commitently,by the second marriage,the majority have stopped producing,and
*more than one third -'r, consist. ntly childless. Only six women were infertile
in the first marriage and fertile in subsequent marriages;all other women
showed their, highest fertility in their first marriages. This sample is
only those women over 45 years of age who have completed th.ir family size.
The samples of younger women(15-44 years),especially in the hospital sample,
show the same trend of initially highest fertility declining in subsequent
unions,but the generally higher level of fertility among younger women means
that they continue producing longer through more marriages.
TABUi 16. TIME FROM -ATURITY( TO FI NCI-RlSjN(T !RCETAG)
S.-* LIVi BIRTH i U- Ith 3iTH HIcJlGiL/m.'ItLB1YTH
v,.i 1-2 YKARS 22 4 3
3-4 YE;AR 7 1
5-6 YEAS 3 -2
3 6+ YEAiS 1 -
.NO ILT'ORViATION 5 3
-15 i O PRGNjiNCY 8
Table 16 shows the length of time from time of physical maturity until first
conception for the women over 45 years of age in our sample. Most women
conceive within two years after maturing,although the number 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 impregnated by boyfriends shortly after maturing.
Older women say that these younger girls are the very ones who use aborti-
facients to get rid of these unwanted pregnancies. I did witness one case
where a young girl did this,but I have recorded many cases of these girls
carrying a pregnancy to term and successful deliveries. In the hospital
sample of young women under 29 years of age, 26 per cent of those who were
having their first pregnancy had been impregnated by boyfriends.
Jhite's contention that women wait for stable marriages before conceiving
is not borne out by my data,nor does his related point that women begin
producing relatively late receive any substantiation. When I later have time
to correlate divorce figures and length of duration of unions with these fer-
tility figures,I am sure those results will further support my position by
showing that .many concu;tions occur in farly unicna, vi n those that are very
unstable and brief.
In terms of exposure to intercourse,extra-marital intercourse is important,
and this is quite frequent among the samples I interviewed. iEven those women
who live virilocally surrounded by th3 relatives of their husbands find it
easy to engage in these liaisons,especially if the husband is away for some
time fishing or working. People remark how "other people" like the season
when the maize grown around the villages has grown very high,as this allows
illicit meetings to take place close to the villages.
Separated and divorced women do not have their fertility tied up. Courtship
includes intercourse,and women who are not presently married are expected to
have boyfriends who will supply the women with relish and clothes. Women
are supposed to be discreet in their affairs,but women who turn away men are
- ISW .,-'
On coital frequency given that there are opportunities and incentives
for intercourse outside of marriage,still I assume that coital frequency
is higher for a married woman than for one between unions. Young married
women who were interviewed on this topic reported they had intercourse
from 3-7 times a week. Newly married polygynous wives reported a frequency
of twice a day on the days allowed to thne. This topic was terribly
embarrassing to those interviewed.
MEDICINAL TRE..TME;TS 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 discuss the general
medicinal-ritual cosmology and exogesis, but restrict the
discussion to outlining the practices that relate to fertility and child
mortality. Vomen forn a community of suffering in their various forms
of ill-health and infertility. Women know many treatments for
menstruation, gestation, abortion, contraception,"frigidity", a variety
of named gynaecological diseases, venereal disease, post-partum
problems, and lactation. Some of these treatments are common knowledge
to all women; others are only known by some "general practitioners"; and
others are only known to a few specialists. Ohly a few women know
medicine for barrenness (kusakisa) and for removal of the placenta
(kusal*tho), two very important medicines, and these few women are
normally midwifes. In addition, a few men, usually diviners, also
know these two kinds of medicines, though the men must give the
medicines to a woman assistant to administer.
If a woman has trouble in conceiving, if she miscarries, has a still-'
birth, or if her children sicken or di, .it is possible to seek an
explanation in terms of general illness. But wouen's reproductive and
child- rearing problems have a prior the ancestral shades as
their probable cause. Although a minor illness may be self-diagnosed
and treated, any acute or long-lasting illness needs proper diagnosis
obtained through consulting a diviner. The diviner identifies the
source, naming the afflicting ancestral shades and the modes
by which they are manifesting themselves, and directs the patient's
relatives to the kind of specialist needed. 'A woman never attends
personally such a divination; her relatives are responsible for
consulting the diviner and carrying out the prescribed treatments,
Sometimes relatives go to several diviners to obtain a consensus
and verify the diagnosis.
- 19 -
Diviners are most likely to rocomiend mahamba, or spirit possession/
manifestation, as thetherapeutic treatment. During the public mahamba
ceremony, the patient is medicated, sung and drummed over, and then
possessed by one or several spirits in the codified dances and
performances particular to that or these mahamba, Following this
public ceremony there is a phase, lasting from several weeks to
several years in different cases, of semi-seclusion in which the
patient must observe several food/sex taboos. When the patient has
recovered from the illness,there is a final public ceremony again featuring
spirit possession,but with elaborations such as animal sacrifices and dances.
The recovered patient may now attend any esoteric phases of this ritual when
it is held for another patient,and she may even become a rm.hrmb% doctor,if
she pays fees and apprentices herself to a specialist(see footnote 5).
people point out two kinds of mahr mba the more traditional ones,:and the
never ones that come from the air(peho). The former include mzahaba for
producing and rearing children,general illness,madness,and hunting. Some
of these c;ne from the Chokwe or Luchazi but have been used by the Luvale
for : long time. The mahamba from the air are more recent,and they are
the ones lhite(1949) discussed as having captivated the Luvale in the 1930s
and 1940s. These m:ahamba only deal with general illness and infection.
Although this kind still survives in Chavuma today,many of the specific
manifestations named by White have disappeared,while new ones have been
introduced. From examining over 100 cases of mahamba possession, I find
that these peho mahamba- almost never overlap with the more traditional ones
for producing. The ones from peho are almost never performed for a woman
in her reproductive years instead,these mahanba are mainly restricted to
older men and women.
Many diseases are treated medicinally,not with mahamba ceremonies,although
sometimes mahamba may appear in combination with medicinal treatments.
.'hen venereal disease is recognized by its genital symptoms,it is treated
by medicines. If leg or chest pains occur,perhaps as a result of the
venereal infection,then these pains may be treated by performances of either
kind of mh.hamba. Then medicines for barrenness(kusakisa) have been adminis-
tered and the woman has become subsequently pregnant,a mahamba ceremony will
be held to placate the ancestral shades-. hen a woman has prolonged menstrua-
tion,medicinal treatments will first be tried; if these are unsuccessful,a
performance of Kula(see Turner,1968) and/or various other mahamba will be h.ld.
- 20 -
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,worms,
backache,thinness,and hysteria). In contrast,Turner(1967) ,in his discussion
of the medicinal techniques of the Ndembu-Lunda,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-
women affect suicide by inserting the inner cambium of a certain tree into
Graves,a Medical Officer who worked among the Luvale,said that most of the
barren women he examined had various forms of pelvic sepsis and salpingitis,
resulting in 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, said he could
not diagnose gonorrhea or syphilis clinically or serologically in many cases.
Although he had listed irritating and toxic herbs that were used intra-vagi-
nally,he could not,with the laboratory facilities at his disposal,detect the
after-affects(personal communication quoted in Mitchell,1965,23).
Many women I interviewed stated that they had had gonorrhea(detected by pus
in the urine) or syphilis(genital lesions),and that those diseases were what
had stopped them from producing. Other women blamed chisumi(a snake that
lives in the uterus discussed below) and other illnesses,many symptoms of
which coincide with what we(not the Luvale) consider to be the syndrome of
symptoms causable by venereal diseases. Gonorrhea apparently is more prevalent
than syphilis. Interestingly,one of the names most widely used for gonorrhea
is kalwena,a synonym for Kaluvale. It is difficult to know whether this
disease is more prevalent among the Luvale than among other Zambian tribes,
but Luvale-controlled areas extend from Zambezi District up through Angola
to areas in the Congo(Zaire)where high incidences of gonorrhea and subsequent
infertility have been docunented(Romaniak,1968).
- 21 -
TABLE 17 IICIDiNCEi OF VEN;IREAAL DISEASE Ri:'RTED (FERCNTAGES).
Percent Women Reporting VD
VILLAGE 50-44 48.5
SJ L" 45+ 59.3
HOSPITAL 15-22 3.8
Younger women in both samples report fewer cases of venereal diseases,and
women in the hospital sample have lower incidences than their contemporaries
in the village sample. These differences may well 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 think injections "modern"
and therefore desir able.
Through interviewing some herbalists,I found out that some medicines used to
treat venereal diseases were also used for inducing abortions. These medicines
are not supposed to be given to pregnant women,but sometimes a woman being
treated for another disease is also in the early unsuspected stage of pregnancy,
as was the case in one abortion I witnessed.
Menstruation that is unduly prolonged or accompanied by severe abdominal pain
is believed by the Luvale to interfere with the woman's fertility. Menstrua-
tion itself is considered a disease or illness(musonpo) 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" with medicines. The theory of procreation stresses the relationship
between menstruation and procreation,and,if there are reproductive and menstrual
problems,chisumi is first suspected and appropriate treatment started.
Commonly known women's medicines might first be tried,both potions and intra-
vaginals,to cool the chisumi. If these fail,a diviner is consulted who may
advise one or several of the many treatments available,normally commencing
with medicines to wash the entire body in(applied with a live,white chicken),
the wearing of red beads,and the building of a small shrine behind the woman's
house these last two as visible reminders. If the problem still continues,
various ceremonies may be performed to exorcise the afflicting shades. The
most notable of these possible ceremonies is a performance of Kula,either by
itself for serious cases or,if the patient is a young woman in her reproductive
years,in: combination with many other mahamba(spirit manifestations) that have
- 22 -
been diagnosed as "tying up" her fertility.
iin examination of my data on long monthly periods correlated with ritual
performances shows the following. inong women in the village sample,
there is a higher incidence traditional ritual participation than among
women in the hospital sample. 4!1 per cent of the village women over 45 vIet'
years of age mentioned having been troubled by long monthly periods.
All of tho,:e women sought medicinal and ritual help;all erected a shrine; ,
all had a mahamnba perforrnnce that included. ula;and 28 per cent of them
had a-performance limited exclusively to Kula. Younger village women tended
to have minor rituals and then mahnaba performances that included Kula.
Among the women in the hospital sample,although many reported having the
same problems with nenstruation,no one had the minor rituals or a ceremony
exclusively for Kula,and only sorm had a m,-hmba ceremony including Kula.
Kusakisa means to give medicine to a woman so sht; may produce. This ncdicine
is given by rm herbal specialist after a diviner has been consulted. There
are two parts to the medicine: first,a potion to drink that is designed to
"cool" the chisumi and,sccond,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 medicine once..they
are inserted. Vhen the doctor finally does remove the medicines,much "water"
comes out of the vagina. The following table shows how frequently women in
both samples have recourse to kusakisa medicines,although the practice was
more popular in the past. Hospital worien do have better producing histories
than village women, udoubt(Adly reflcting their use of a variety of medical
facilities,including ante-natal clinics.
TAByLL 18 O-N OBTAINING TAIRTIOAL MDIIe FOR KUSAiJLS 0CE GS)
Percentage Of Those,'ercentage Percentage Subsequently
,: A VILLAGE Obtaining Medicine remaining Barren -Troducing
45+ years 36 i -4 60 40 I
,- ZA 0-4 31 50 50
15-29 13 25 75
30-44 32 100
15-i9 15 o10
- 23 -
Once a woman conceives,she is guarded through her pregnancy by a variety of
medicines and rituals. For the first pregnancy,all wonen have medicines
to cool the chisuni so that it will quickly release the placenta. If the
woman becomes ill while she is pregnant,othr mediciness and rituals may be
use;d,usually those in which offerrings are rMade to the woman's ancestors.
If the woman has had previous stillbirths or neo--nt -:1 deaths,a performance
of the terrible and much feared liha~iba,tuta,nay be carried out. This
lihamba is not caused by an ancestral sh.de but by a rat that lives in the
forest. It is believed that the woman unknowingly stepped 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 thth path"(birth'canal) and to' "cleanse the mother's
stomach"(anus), the application of thrse medicines starts about the 7th
month, and does not require a medical or ritual specialist.
'hen labour pains begin,the specialist midwife is called,and she immediately
begin; vaginal examinations to report on the progress of the labour. Any
woman who is older'than the expectant mother is allowed to attend the birth,
and everyone present demands that the other push,push,push,frequently when
she has not yet ev.n dilated. I attended two deliveries in the villages
in which this early demand occurred. Lach time the expectant mother had
had a previous niscarriagt-,but no live birth,and labour was long in both
casrs. Pushing commenced early;numerous vaginal examinations wore done;
and both girls b-came exhausted. Finally,in both cases,after arguments
between husband and m;trikin,each girl 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 had received extensive moulding of the
head and required intensive care during the innediate post-natal period.
In both cases,thc nursing sisters at thk- hospital remarked that the baby
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 'id neo-natal deaths than
hospital women,and that nuch 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,nidwivcs do not wait very long before starting intra-
- 24 -
-vaginalt mndicint!; for kusalnho(to be left out or left over,i.e.the placenta).
For giving these kusalaho medicines the midwife may demand a larger fee.
If simply cooling the chisuni with medicines does not m.kd; the placenta come
completely out,then it is believed that an ancestral spirit is causing the
problen,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 preparations. Some women report high fever and abdominal
pains after delivering,and the ones who are ill in this way and go to 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 living.
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 sample census women who delivered babies in 1971 had
their babies in the hospital. Some village midwives send their patients
.to the hospital for ante-nat-al clinic, -lthough the women then deliver in
the village. Half of the women who attend ante-natal clinic actually do
deliver at the hospital. ''hen the women in the hospital sample were inter-
viewed,they were asked a simple olen-onded question,"Why have you come to the
hospital to deliver your baby?" 'Their reasons as stated are given below.
TABLIL 19 iLijA30oS FOR DELIV:iRIG AT THri, HUO2ITAL (i1 = 88 WO~L.N)
A. High payment to midwives. 18 women
B. Fear of retained placenta. 10 "
C. Both of the above,i.e."you will pay much if
medicine is given for retained placenta'.' 7 "
D. Sisters have good medicine/referred through
ante-natal clinic. 12 "
R. 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 "
i. "You may have to go for divination'.' 2 "
L.. "No one to care for me in the village.' 2 "
- 1No Response. 12 "
Seclusion in chiango(fence) is the most elaborate ceremony for reproduction,
but only the briefest description is given here.. Depending on past fertility
and child mortality(the various patterns are given below),it may be divined
that the woman should be secludctd either before parturition or with her new-
born child. She enters seclusion in a dramatic ceremony. During seclusion
all kinds of medicines and minor rituals are given,and many food/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).. V'hen the child is ready to
crawl or Twalk out of the fonce by itself,then there is another nnd more clabo-
rate coming out cert-rony for mother and child..
Child-rearing is closely connected with child-bearing. For cxample,women lunp
together miscarriage, stillbirth,neo-n.tl", and deaths under one year undergone
term,kupihisa,although it is clear that the women do distinguish these. So
if a young baby becomes ill and the mother has a good record of producing and
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 chipango or one of the minor variations(chipango ch.
malala) will probably be suggested by the diviner. ll of these include
restrictive measures and quarantine of both mother and child,and,as a result
of going through these cerenonies,the child will be given a "Chipango" typo
name often reflecting the main treatments or ritual..
Typical chipango patterns are: 1) a woman had 1-3 miscarriages or children who
died, and at her next pregnancy she is put to chipango. In the past she might
enter during her pregnancy and deliver there. The modern pattern is to deliver
at the hospital and then enter. 2) after a performance of tuta during preg-
nancy she enters before or after delivery. 3) the woman has failed to conceive
for several years, is given kusakisa medicine, becomes pregnant and enters.
Typical chipango chamalala patterns are: 1) a woman has not had trouble con-
ceiving/producing and her young child becomes sick, 2) the sink child is older
than a year, when it can crawl out of the big chipango, and less than three
years, when it would be off its mother's back and the mother cou~d/dance
mahamba for it, 3') ~hen certain circumstances prevent people with poor
fertility histories from having full seclusion such as poorness, innigrant
status, no husband, 4) when the parents think seclusion is old fashioned.
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 ceremonies,both the full and the abbreviated cha
malala,for producing and rearing children .
- 26 -
TABLE 20 P!,RTICIPATIO1.J IN 1jUJIiBA RITUALS
45+ L-44 15-29
,/ 'e W < Producing i-ahamba
s : No MIahanba
41 21 15
FOR PRODUCING AND RMARINGJ
.. .-44 15-29
S'ull Chipango 12
A _- ui d n gn^ ancy 5
V .Chipango Cha Malala 13
VA fJ and mikishi
1T Iahhamba for Sick Child 5
^ < A7 ---
Number Women in Catefory 59
*note that a woman may
one kind of
In terms of fertility and child rortality,the noteworthy aspect of these
performances,especially the chipango series,is that the woman's luck at
producing and rearing seems to improve. ,many children have these nnmes
that record their having been through the ceremonies as a small child,and
parents proudly recall how,because they have had these ceremonies,they now
Factors other than the past fertility history of the woman involved that
influence the choice of performance/ceremony 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 chipagobut usually only rrect a shrine. Poorer people may choose to
have one of the minor ritual suqu-nces. As with the choices between various
puberty ceremonies mentioned above,the choice of these ceremonies partially
depends on the kinds of rituals her female relatives have experienced and
their fertility performance.
It is convenient to lump together the nahamba for producing, Kangayuw.,
Kula, Tembwn, Luwangu, Jinga, uv.ng~~ Kwiengo, and Jila, because they are
usually performed in combin-Ition. Each, of course, has its own specific
symptoms, type of shade, performance characteristics,and ritual equipment.
Chitakai and Kayong. arc often included,but they also have wider uses.
Children are also affected by mikishi,'such as Mboma,Tuhembi,and Malala,which
relate to common childhood disease symptoms and are linked to the mother's
transgression on the spirit world,but not linked to specific shades. Unlike
Ndodbu rituals(Turner,1957,1967,1968,1969),it is very unusual among the Luvale
for only one node of spirit manifestation to be diagnosed. -Norimally between
three and ten are diagnosed together and are performed by the mother who
dances on her own and on the baby's behalf.
This interweaving of fertility history,personal illness,and ritual participa-
tion becomes clearer in actual cases of successful and unsuccessful producers
and roarers. Although there are many cases and unique elements,certain few
and common patterns emerge,such as I discussed above.
Tamba,daughter of Nyatnaba,miscarried her first pregnancy. Her second preg-
nancy 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 ancestral spirits,and a public mahanba ceremony was held to
identify and placate these. Tamba's nother(lfyatafmba),grandmother(mother of
Nyatamba),and father's sister are all medical and ritual specialists,and they
assisted Tamba in the ceremony. Seven mahamba possessed Tanba in this single
ceremony. Tanba 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 chi_-nFro. The diviners also ordered
that the rituals be supervised by a specialist who was not a relative.
When Tamba was seven months pregnant,tuta -as performed. Leaving nothing to
chance,Tamba,accompanied by i.yataba,went to thi- mission hospital where she
delivered a baby girl. i;yatamba and her matrikin and Satamba(father of Tanba)
and his matrikin were all anxious that Tanba and the baby be put to chipano
as quickly as possible. Nyatamba herself was not only a nahalraba and chipango
doctor,but had been placed into chiango with Tanba when Tamba was just a
baby. The mother of hyatamba was an important local nahamba doctor. The
mother of Tanba's husband was named i4yachipango because she had also been put
to chia.ngo with one of her young children yoers before. Unly 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
- 28 -
already-existing tensions. The natrikin were adamant,however,and Tanba was
put to chipango. During the ceremony before entering seclusion,the sauce
seven mahamba reappeared and possessed Tamba. Acting on the advice of
diviners,two mikishi w;;re included in the fenced enclosure.
The baby is now healthy and eight months old and has been given the name
Chipango. Tamba is now called lhyachipango. Both regularly attend the Under
Five Clinic at the 1,ission. They are still in seclusion and will remain
there for several more months before coning out in an olabor'.to ccrc"nony,
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 in connection
with chipango cha malala. iazau has had no trouble in producing ,but after
she had had three children,the eldest child(about seven years old) became ill.
Iazau performed in a mahamba ceremony then at which six mahamba appeared.
Later,married to another husband,lMazau had two more children followed by a
miscarriage. Because of the miscarriage,another ceremony was held at which
the same six mahamba reappeared.
Mary is a "modern" woman who attended school for several years. She married
late but conceived earlier by a boyfriend. Lary has had no trouble in pro-
ducing and has three live children.' :hen the eldest became sick,IMary took
the child to the hospital where the child fainted after receiving an injection.
1ext day, back in the village,Mary's father's mother,an herbalist,came with
some medicines. A-ary's father and Ilary'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. Nary refused to allow
a nahanba ceremony.
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 and use of abortifacients, and generall
disenso. A medical doctor remarked on the high 'rate of pelvic sepsis
and salpingitis among barren women he examined. I have examined certain
medicinal and ritual customs sociologically and found some practices which
could very well contribute to this sepsis relating to parturition and the
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treatment of illness. The high rate of venereal disease reported among
older women is noteworthy,but there is no comparable evidence to show that
the rate is higher than in other parts of Zambia.
The Chavuma fertility histories show low fertility in the past,i.e.among the
women over 45 years who have completed their reproductive years under t'-.
conditions prevalent earlier. nmong 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 delivered 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 reproduc-
tive wastage,,nd more VD. They have more ritual 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 delivered women
continue many of these traits,but VD goes down and fertility goes up. The
hospital delivered 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 reproductive wastage. Younger women
in the hospital sample are the most "modern" in these respects,followed by
older hospital women,then by the younger village women. Younger hospital
women also tend to marry later,but still 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,commencing with girls'
puberty and continuing through the reproductive years with mahamba performances,
with the chipango ceremony as the most elaborate and the most popular.
Patterns of fertility and child mortality performance are reflected in the
patterning and choice of rituals.
1. Only a partial sample is analyzed here. The second six month sample of
hospital women is not yet completed,nor have I completed the preliminary
analysis of the village sample.
2. The simple fertility ratio (child/woman ratio) relates the number of
young children in the population to the number of women in the reproduc-
tive age group. uhadike(1969,37-38) notes that this ratio does not neces-
sarily measure maternity because of differential under-enumeration,child-
hood 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 "childless". I
interviewed many "childless" women who,upon intensive questionning,revealed
that they had produced living children who had died while very young.
4. All the women in the hospital sample had a successful delivery. Vomen who
delivered a stillbirth or whose child died while still in the hospital
were not interviewed by my Luvale 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
5. Medicines and rituals work- both b.causc of their inherent worth(see foot-
note 6) and because the practicioner has taken a "course",i.e.the doctor
learned his trade through an apprenticeship for which he 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 doctor paid to learn,so does he
expect to be paid a large sum for his administrations.
6. Many of the medicinal plants used by the Luvale have well-documented bio-
chemical properties (see Watt,J.M.and M.G.Breyer-Brandwijk,Medicinal and
Poisonous Plants of Southern and Eastern Africa. 2nd Ld. 1962, b.+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 aborti-
facients also carry the cautionary note that,if the foetus is already too
big,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 abortifacients were in frequent use. I did witness one case in
which a woman died while attempting abortion,and perhaps the fear of thus
accidentally committing suicide diminished the frequency of abortion.
The case I witnessed involved a young woman who was to join her husband
in Lusaka. .-'erhaps 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 chemically an abortion,she was taken to the
hospital where she died several days later. Concerning the post-partum
taboo,ideally the couple are supposed to wait until the previous child
can walk before resuming intercourse. This interdiction appears to be
broken by 3rm"women unless their child has been put to some sort of special
child-rearing ceremony(chipango or chipango cha malala). Beginning 2-3
months after childbirth,the parents obtain contraceptive medicines and
resume intercourse,more traditional parents sometimes waiting 6-8 months
before resuming. Contraceptive medicines are to allow the parents to
resume sexual relations and still ensure 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.
- 31 -
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