Expectant Fathers Macusi Culture – by Peter Halder

Expectant Fathers Macusi Culture

by Peter Halder

 The Macusi is one of 9 tribes of Amerindians in Guyana. The others are Patamona, Arecuna, Wapisiana, Carib, Warrau, Arawak, Wai Wai and Akawaio.

There was a particular culture, tradition and custom in the Macusi tribe that came to light during the 1800’s. It was known as  “expectant fathers” syndrome.

It was mentioned by Sir Everard Im Thurn, explorer and botanist in his book “Among The Indians of Guiana.” Sir Everard was Curator of the British Guiana Museum (1877-1882), then a Stipendiary Magistrate in the Pomeroon District and in December 1884, along with Harry Perkins, first scaled Mount Roraima. He travelled extensively among the Amerindians.  

Under the culture, before a child is born, the father undergoes a lifestyle change and adopts many of the practices of the mother. He abstains for a time from certain types of activities and food which contain meat.

On the other hand, the mother works as usual up to a few hours before she gives birth.

At the last moment, she retires, sometimes alone, sometimes only with a few women of the village, to the forest where she ties her hammock. Then the baby is born. In a few hours or less than a day, depending on how she feels, she gets up and resumes her ordinary daily work.

The father changes his routine. After the baby is born, he ties his hammock alongside that of the mother and baby.

As soon as he is ensconced in his hammock, he imitates the birth process of the mother . He stops doing any kind of work and continues to refrain from eating meat and all other types of food except for regular helpings of cassava porridge. He stops smoking, bathing, using weapons and is nursed and cared for by the women of the village.

The man may not scratch any part of his body with his fingernails so he uses a splinter from the cokerite palm.

He continues this culture, custom and tradition for many days, sometimes weeks.

The culture developed from the belief that both parents of a newborn baby need to avoid certain types of foods and activities, particularly the father, which may be harmful to the child’s well-being.

The Macusi also believed that the father, by simulating the wife, shields her from evil spirits by attracting them to him.

They believe too that by doing the things he does at the birth, the man asserts and demonstrates fatherhood.

Another belief is that a supernatural bond is developed between the father and the child, and is greatly re-enforced and strengthened, since the baby learns from birth, by smell and touch, that there is a mother and a father.

It is not known if the culture of the expectant fathers syndrome among the Macusi Amerindian tribe in Guyana, persists until this day.

The Amerindians are the indigenous people of Guyana. They number about 55,000 and live in some 120 settlements in Region 1- Barima/Waini;  Region 7 – Cuyuni/Mazaruni; Region 8 – Potaro/Siparuni; Region 9 – Upper Takutu/Upper Essequibo.

The Macusi are found mainly in Regions 8 and 9.

End

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Comments

  • Sgrft  On July 25, 2013 at 12:22 am

    Never knew that. Very informative. Thank u for sharing Peter. Cheryl Pieters Chookang

  • Peter Halder  On July 26, 2013 at 11:15 am

    You’re welcome.

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