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Henna is the poetry of the body.

Pregnancy Traditions

Prenatal Henna Traditions
Womens Business

 In traditional cultures  the properties of henna and the designs themselves are considered to empower the mother with protection, purification and blessings.

Henna is traditionally used in birthing rituals in India, North Africa, South East Asia, Middle East and Turkey. Henna actually performed on the belly is a modern take on prenatal henna traditionally it is done on the hands, feet and ankles.

Rajasthani Pregnancy Ritual

Rural Rajasthani women apply henna in a beautiful ceremony reserved for first time mothers in their eighth month of pregnancy. From Catherine Cartwright Jones in 2002 :

“A woman in the eighth month of her first pregnancy has an Athawansa ceremony. She is rubbed with scented oils, bathed in perfumed water, and ornamented with henna, on her hands, feet, up to the wrist and ankle, in a manner similar to her wedding henna. She is dressed in new clothing and ornaments. She is seated on a cauki, ceremonial wooden seat. Women friends and family fill her lap (god) with sweets, fruit, and a coconut. This ritual is god bharna, or the filling of the lap.”

Henna and Postpartum Depression
Forgotten wisdom.

Countries that traditionally use henna in their folk religious practices have very low rates of postpartum depression.  (Cartwright Jones 2002).

Traditionally henna is applied after the birth, amidst a process of bonding with the newborn, rest, seclusion and nurturing by fellow women.

Applying henna is a method of enforcing rest for the mother while she recovers. The celebratory nature of the henna process  is comforting and nourishing, assisting the mother in re-establishing her self esteem,her social identity and her social connections 

For example, in Rajasthan the mother is ornamented with henna before going into delivery. After the birth her nails are painted with henna in a purification ritual. On the tenth day after the birth solar symbols are applied with henna as the mother and child are presented to society and shown to the sun to attain the blessings of the sun deity. (Cartwright Jones 2002)

 

 

Your Pregnancy Henna
Henna for Modern Life
Rediscovering Ritual

In the west we rarely give ourselves the time we need to mark change. Henna painting offers us an ancient cross cultural art that can reintroduce the benefits of ritual and self expression often found lacking in our lives.

Ritual provides important therapeutic social and psychological functions which assist individuals in processing, growing and embracing change in their lives.

When an individual faces a great change, such as a becoming a mother or wife, moving to a new town or a change in career, additional psychological and social needs arise. Psychologically, we need to consciously and unconsciously let go of the old and let in the new. Socially we need to feel support and acknowledgement of our new role or identity from our peers and community.

In times like these we look to henna as it has been used for 100’s of years. It is not just beautification we seek in the act of hennaing; we are trying to create a special moment outside of our ordinary day to day activity, a moment that says ‘Hay! I am changing.’ Our friends come together and share the moment with us, giving their support in this nurturing event. This is the gift of the henna.

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Occasions for Ritual
Create space for change..

Traditionally times of transformation and change are the occasions when henna is used as this ancient art not only has the function of beautification and adornment but also it is considered to bring protection, luck, prosperity and blessing.

  • After the birth of a child
  • When a girl first menstruates
  • When a child becomes a teen
  • A change of school, job or residence
  • Before or during travel
  • On birthdays
  • Graduation
  • In times of crises and illness
  • For weddings and unions
  • Cancer, illness and recuperation