M366
Hua Miao spirit worship.
11. Ndao-shu. (A daughter had polluted the house.)

Compiled by Wang Ming-ji.

Introduction.

When a young woman married, there was a tradition that she did not visit her parents until after the first child was born. Some Miao stories indicate that during this period, or for part of it, her younger sister might stay with her as company. The reason for this was that, if homesickness caused her to return, and her child was born in her parentsí house, her husbandís family would then be faced with performing the ritual of ndao-shu, "striking the blood", by which the pollution, which the birth was deemed to have caused, was cleansed, and also the "ki-zao", the spirit of the child, was brought back to the home where it belonged. This ritual was very expensive in "horse food" which had to be paid to the shaman-healer.

When the hemp skin, from which cloth was made, had been stripped away, the remaining stalks were very white and very brittle. They were also hollow, an ideal hiding place for a frightened spirit. Seven or nine short pieces of stalk were bundled together and laid on a table set in the middle of the room where the baby had been born. The alternative numbers are not explained, but it may have been nine for a boy and seven for a girl, or possibly nine for the first born child and seven for subsequent arrivals. All the sweepings from a thorough cleansing of the mud floor were piled under the table and the cleansing was completed by leading a dog and carrying a chicken three times in each direction round the room and round the fire-place, which in a Miao house was always in the middle of the floor. Dogs and chicken were scavengers in Miao homes, picking up any food that may have been dropped, and also any mess (excreta) made by babies or young children. When this had been done the energetic beating of the ground with a washing dolly, a kind of wooden club, caused the babyís ki-zao to take refuge in the hemp stalks. Whereupon the paternal grandfather wrapped up the child, collected the hemp stalks and the packet of dust, and followed the shaman-healer leading the dog and carrying the chicken out of the house. The party departed immediately without looking back. What was ultimately done with the hemp stalks and the bundle of dust when they arrived at the husbandís home is not explained..

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