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Lifegivers, Eclipses, and Costumbres

Although today we know that an eclipse may not lead to problems in pregnancy, within our families we nevertheless enjoy keeping many of our costumbres (customs) around these celestial events. I think in large part this is because we feel the current of deep love that permeates the advice given across generations of grandmothers, mothers, and aunties….


Many of us Chicanas/Mexicanas of Indigenous ancestry are taught that both our monthly bleeding (called luna or moontime because of our connection to the phases of the moon) and pregnancy are special times in our life: ceremonies that honor our place in our home and community as life-givers. My mother and Yoeme/Mexican aunties passed on the old knowledge, the costumbre, to my generation, that women who are pregnant must take extra care of themselves during special times of the year: the full moon, lunar eclipses, and solar eclipses. This was done in order to encourage a healthy pregnancy and a happy baby. Her family made sure to: have her wear a red string or cord around her waist with a metal key attached, reminded her to stay indoors, cooked her favorite food so cravings were always satisfied, women elders give childbearing advice, and male elders encouraged the prospective father to be attentive to the mom and baby’s needs because it was known that everything the mom enjoys, her baby enjoys... Her feelings of security and of being loved are passed on to her child.***



Art by Rosa Lidia Cubur Solloy

“Eclipses, the Aztec believed, threatened pregnancy. The Tzitzimitl — astral deities [the stars] visible when the sun was in eclipse — were often benign figures, but when the sun was covered, they turned into monsters [a different interpretation could be that the word "monsters" is really an analogy for an energetic disruption that causes fear]. For their own safety, pregnant women stayed indoors during such episodes of cosmic disorder.”

—From, Call the Aztec Midwife; Childbirth in the 16th Century (NatGeo)


“...eclipses have always been capable of producing profound psychological effects. Although there are no direct physical effects involving known forces, the consequences of the induced human psychological states have indeed led to physical effects.”

—NASA, https://eclipse2017.nasa.gov/do-lunar-and-solar-eclipses...


“A mentor and wise confidante, the tlamatlquiticitl would prevent the future mother from lifting excess weight that could endanger the fetus, as well as recommending her “to avoid sorrow, anger and surprises so as not to miscarry or damage the baby.”

—General History of the Things of New Spain (16th Century)


These beliefs originate in pre-contact times with the Aztec and Maya (Mesoamerica) —as well as other Native people —who believed that exposure of a pregnant woman to an eclipse will cause her child to be born with a cleft lip. This was because during a lunar eclipse it appeared that a bite had been taken out of the moon. To protect the woman and her baby, an obsidian knife was placed on her stomach before going out at night to protect her. This is the same belief that is still passed on to our female relatives hundreds of years later, the difference being that today a metal key or safety pin is used instead of an obsidian knife.


Cultural customs: (please consult your partera, midwife, and/or healthcare provider)


If you are pregnant and would like to follow these costumbres, during a solar or lunar eclipse:

  • Wear a safety pin and/or a set of metal keys above your stomach area that hangs from a red cord or thick red thread (some tribal nations use a black cord or thread) around your waist. This is a way to attract any effects of the event away from your person so that the baby is not harmed by any discomfort you may feel.

  • Do not go outside in the moonlight. The pull of the moon may cause discomfort to you or the baby.

  • Invite loving relatives or friends to your home and honor Grandmother Moon by setting up a small altar with flowers, fruit, a white candle, and incense. Invite a female elder (grandmother, mother, or auntie) to offer a prayer and share her wisdom. After your ceremony share a delicious meal and conversation.

Remember, that you do not have to wait for the grandmother moon to be full to cultivate a relationship of reciprocity. Speak with your elders about your family or tribal traditions. Learn the stories. Keep a journal and note how your body responds during different lunar phases. Notice too, if your intuition gets stronger during certain phases -- do your dreams deepen?


***There has been considerable research into fetal memory, which appears similar to Indigenous Knowledge:

  • “Fetal memory: Does it exist? What does it do?” —http://www.cirp.org/library/psych/hepper1/

  • “… fetuses were observed to have a short-term (10-min) memory from at least 30 weeks GA onward, which also appeared independent of fetal age." —https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19630906

  • “Fetal memory is important for parental recognition and facilitates the bond between child and parents. One of the most important types of memory is that which stores information contributing to the maternal bond between infant and mother. This form of memory is important for a type of development known as attachment.[2] Fetal memory is thus critical to the survival of the fetus both prenatally (in the womb) and after birth as an infant.” —https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prenatal_memory


Call the Aztec Midwife; Childbirth in the 16th Century, http://www.nationalgeographic.com/.../aztec-midwife.../


Blessings upon our Ancestors and our Descendants.

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