Africa is a continent steeped in tradition. It has a population of over 3,000 tribes, all of which are varied in terms of culture and language. Although times have changed, the tribal influences and beliefs still play a dominant part in this continent.

For the Ibo of Nigeria and Ghana, they treat placenta as the dead twin of the live child and give it full burial rites. In many African cultures, “zan boku” means “the place where the placenta is buried” and usually, they bury the placenta under a tree.

The Kikuyu of Kenya places the placenta in a field which is not uncultivated and then, cover it with grains and grasses. But for some other cultures, the tribes bury it in the dirt floor of the family’s house.

Each tribe has its own way to treat placenta. Some swaddle the placenta in blankets and bury it beneath a tree as a tree is believed to symbolise ongoing life.

In Mali, it is thought that the placenta can affect the baby’s mood or even make the baby ill. The placenta is washed, dried, placed in a basket and buried by the father.

Whatever it is, Africa has so many tribes and it is not surprising, placenta is revered and treated as an important part of their culture.

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Last week, we talk about the overall placenta in Asia. Today, we shall zoom into one of the oldest known civilisations in the world, the Hmong people. Currently, the Hmong people mostly live in Northern Thailand, Southern China, Northern Lao, North West Vietnam and Myanmar.

In this traditional tribe, the placenta holds a very important position until it needs to be buried inside the family home where the birth of a child takes place.

The Hmong people believes that the placenta connects the living world and the spirit world. This means there is a sense of deep belonging and connection of one’s placenta all through the life and therefore, it should not be ignored and disposed. The word used by the Hmong people for placenta actually means ‘jacket’ and they believe that the soul of a person actually goes back to the place where his or her placenta was buried in order to collect its ‘placenta jacket’.

By successfully doing so, only then will the soul move on to the spirit world where it can meet its ancestors. In other words, collect the jacket and travel in the spirit world so that the soul will be reincarnated and sent back to the world as a new baby.

However, if the soul and jacket are not reunited, the soul will remain in a state of unease and wander for eternity. It is full of misery, alone and naked as it could not collect its placenta jacket. The males will be buried right below the main post of the house to connote them as the main strength of the family, and serve as the performer of rituals and spiritual carrier of the household. On the other hand, the female placenta is buried under the bed of their parents.

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Ancient civilisations in the region of Asia treated placenta differently according to their own culture. For China and Vietnam, placenta is seen as a life-giving force. That is why the people there took placenta and dried them and even formulated their own placenta recipes to boost their energy and vitality.

In Indonesia, placenta is viewed as the baby’s twin or elder sibling or the baby’s guardian throughout their life. To ensure their children were healthy, the fathers wrapped, and buried the placenta on the day of the birth. For the Filipino mothers, they buried the placenta with books, so their children became smart. In Korea, the placenta was burned and the ashes kept. During illness, the ashen powder is given in a liquid to help heal the child.

The Hmong culture treated placenta as “jacket’ as it is defined that way. Placenta is considered an infant’s first and finest clothing. They buried the placenta outside as they believe that after death, the soul will go back to the buried placenta and await rebirth.

In Cambodia, the placenta is attentively wrapped in a banana tree leaf and placed beside the newborn baby for three days and then buried. The Thais, on the other hand, buried the placenta under a tree that fitted well to the symbol of the Asian year and month of the child’s birth.

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