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Herbs, Traditions, and Rituals: Birth in Judaism

Updated: Jul 31, 2022

Something that has always fascinated me has been within the exploration of birth traditions tied to my Jewish lineage. It is important to remember that Jews, as a people, are an ethno-religious group. Meaning, we are unified by a common religious and ethnic background. Specially within birth ideologies, Jews believe the human soul exists before birth, and human life begins after.

What I am most interested in, is learning about the herbs and rituals my ancestors used for health and healing, specifically before and after birth. Stones and a variety of herbs were used to facilitate delivery, which was usually supervised by an experienced midwife, friends, and relatives. A circle was drawn from charcoal on the floor of the room to guard against evil spirits.

Another common tradition in all sects of Judaism includes the mother going to the mikvah after birth to welcome and begin this new phase of her life through a physical, emotional, and spiritual water bath. The Talmud, one of the many texts of Jewish spirituality, mentions many herbs, but today the most popular herbs used within the Jewish community as well as other communities include using healing properties of lemon, rosemary, thyme, lavender, chamomile, calendula, rose, and burdock.

While there are many laws and traditions that I do NOT agree with, considering a heavy influence of patriarchal norms, chauvinism, and even explicit forms of misogyny, especially within ultra-orthodox and even some conservative communities, I would like to believe there are still many beautiful customs and traditions that we can learn from. I hope to continue learning and utilizing the beautiful traditional forms of healing in my own life and in birthwork.

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