Thursday, August 20, 2009

Palauan First-Born (Ngasech) Ceremony, Part Three

Warning: there will be nudity in the posts for the next couple days, including today.

[Somebody always watches the baby - Coco Bella - while Emadch is in her steam bath]

[These are the fresh herbs ready for adding on the day of the event - this is a special mixture that differs from the previous eight days]

Emadch and a few close female relatives are already inside the 'hut' that was built the previous night. Burning these herbs is one of the first steps - this batch is put inside the tent to smoke (as opposed to the steam that follows).

The women fill these buckets with boiling water and herbs, then push them inside the tent and under a structure that Emadch is sitting on. The buckets don't stay in there long, as they keep getting traded out for freshly steaming buckets. I was standing there taking pictures of the inside of the tent but I kept getting splashed with boiling water!

There is a hole in that wooden structure (which actually resembles a crude portable toilet) that Emadch is sitting on. The buckets are put under her and the steam rises up to 'cleanse' her. Emadch told me she read that women used to have crude Caesarean operations to remove a baby if the woman was going through a lot of pain. The woman would rarely survive such an operation, but if she did it was thanks to the cleansing efforts that took place. Many of today's first-born ceremony traditions have their roots in those long-ago surgery recovery techniques.

[Everybody brings money, turtle shell jewelry, or food to contribute to the cause. Vaughn and I each brought a case of beer]

[Some of the most important women in Palau, including Bilung on the right(sitting)]

[Preparing the fruit spread/ceremony backdrop]

1 comment:

erin said...

the first picture in this post is so beautiful. it's the kind of photo that becomes a family heirloom. good work!