Wednesday, September 7, 2011

What to do with your placenta + The Placenta in Lore and Legend

Hello friends,

The weather in Toronto is crisp and cloudy today and it is reminding me that the school year has begun without me. I am officially on mat leave from my teaching position and although I am feeling hazy and heavy, waiting anxiously for my bebe to decide to make her appearance, I decided to dedicate part of my day to a scholarly activity. I spent the last couple of hours doing some online research on what we humans think and do with our placentas.
I first read an article called The Placenta in Lore and Legend, written in 1963 by E. Croft Long, associate professor of Physiology at Duke University Medical Centre. He writes the cultural beliefs about the placenta from around the world.

Here's a summary of what I found interesting.

  • The placenta as the child's mother: The Ostiak and Vogul tribes living in the Ural Mountains is Russia see the placenta as the "nourishing mother of the child" and "a small shirt is prepared together with other infant clothes and used to dress the placenta in a manner appropriate to a close relative".  (pg. 234)

  • The placenta as the child's sibling: the author points out several cultures where the placenta is seen as the older or younger sibling of the newborn baby.  The placenta is honoured and cared for and has a soul.  One culture in northern Sumatra buried the placenta and believes that the soul can leave the placenta to "warn the child of threats and danger. If the child behaves well the placenta-soul gives encouragement, acting as a type of conscience".  The people of Achinsk, Siberia believe that when a child laughs in its sleep that child is having playtime with its placenta.
  • The placenta as a monster!-"In Norway the mother herelf stabs the placenta with a knife so that a horrible monster would be prevented from taking her life at a later date." (236)
    -"The Transylvania gypsies also believes that both the placenta and meconium (baby's first poops) must be burned; otherwise wicked fairies could turn them into vampires who would attack the child." (236)
  • NOW THIS IS INTERESTING:The Baganda people of Uganda believe that the placenta is a second child, or twin of the baby, and that that the placenta has its own GHOST, who lives in the umbilical cord.  The placenta is buried, carefully wrapped in plantain leaves and buried at the root of a palm tree. The child's pee and poop are places under the tree until the fruit of the palm tree is ripe. When the fruit is ripe, a feast is prepared and after this feast the child's father is required to have sex with the child's mother.  "Otherwise if the father indulged with another woman, the child's spirit would go to her and not to the mother." (235)

Other things to do with your placenta:

1) Practice Placentophagy -> "(from 'placenta' + Greek φαγειν, to eat) is the act of mammals eating the placenta of their young after childbirth." Most mammals consume their placentas (even herbivores!) so they can hide their new birth from other animals, protecting themselves and their babies during a vulnerable time. (from Wikipedia) 

      You can do this by:

  • Giving your placenta to a Placenta Encapsulator: They will take your placenta, dehydrate it, grind it up and then puts it into capsules to be consumed by the new mom.

Watch this video documents the placenta being encapsulated.

(I will not be doing this... I just can't wrap my head around the fact that I would be eating a part of myself)

(hmmm.... will not be doing this either...)

2) Make a Placenta Print:
You can find instructions here.

I love this placenta print, done with the blood still in the placenta.  This artist created placenta prints for each of her kids. You can find them here, along with instructions on how she created the prints.

Here's another beautiful placenta print made using two colours of paint or ink. Unfortunately the artist is not credited on the website I found this on (which I'm not going to link to because the blog stinks).

bye for now...


  1. Fun article. Thanks for sharing something other than the teddy bear link. ;-)

    Are you thinking of doing prints? The print with the blood there looks like it was done by putting down the paper first, then placing the placenta on it - hence the drips. You can get a result more like the ink prints by placing the placenta on paper towel, arranging the cord as you like, then pressing paper down on top of it. I use a nice watercolour paper, 11 x 15 size. You can get really cool papers at The Paper Place on Queen W or Deserres, too. You can make two or three prints, and then if you don't have something you like yet put the placenta back in the container to get wet again, and start over. Have fun!

  2. thanks for reading! Are you talking about the teddy bear made from the cured/dried placenta?

    I am def. going to try to make some prints. I was actually thinking about stopping by the Paper Place down by Bellwoods tonight! Thanks for the printing advice. I think I'll try it both ways.


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