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August 2019

Soc Sci Med. 1993 Jul; 37(2): 241-52.

[Mbombo: therapeutic ritual for high-risk children in rural Zaire]

Goblet-Vanormelingen V.

The mbombo is a popular ritual practice, with preventive and curative implications, of a rural society in central Africa. This rite is used by: pregnant women who have lost several children by abortion, at childbirth, or during their first year of life; by women who get pregnant after a long spell of primary or secondary infertility; by their children until they can walk; and by twins and their mother. The principal characteristics of the rite include: the separation of mother and child from their family, a long period of marginality under the continuous protection of a ritualistic healer, and a progressive reinsertion in the therapeutic support group, composed of the family and the community of sufferers. When one analyses the meanings and operational functions of the global ritual process of this therapy, which incidentally takes into account several midwifery techniques, it is not only a fecundity ritual, but also a rite of initiation, protection, purification and passage. Thus it is a global therapy involving besides child survival, the restoration of a new physiological, psychological, religious and social identity of the ritual subjects.


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