First 40 days of the child in Kazakh culture
The Kazakhs, like many other nations, preserved the notion that in the first 40 days after the birth of a child, he or she is threatened by all kinds of danger, since, according to pre-Islamic ideas, it was necessary to protect the child from evil spirits, which could replace the child. Thus, prior to the end of the first 40 days of the child’s life, lamps were lighted during the night near the cradle, as the people believed that evil spirits were afraid of fire and light. A feature of the forty days ceremony (kyrkynan shygaru) is the term of its execution: boys on the day before (to become strong and brave), and the girls – one day later (to become diligent, quiet and obedient). Immediately after the birth, a child is wrapped in a clean cloth. They tried to take the tissue from the clothes of the elderly people or baby diapers from a large family. Then, before the ceremony of forty days, the child regardless of sex was dressed in ritual shirt “it koylek” (literally – dog’s shirt) which after all ceremonial procedure was replaced by the usual infant shirt.
In this period Kazakhs usually paid most attention to the first, third, fifth, seventh and fortieth days. On the first day, the youth voluntarily gathered for shildekhana to celebrate the birth of a child. The most important role in the events played “kindik sheshe”. She became the second mother for the child. Thus, she is called kindik sheshe (which literally means umbilical cord mother. Other cultures refer to them as godmother). This term has been used from the middle ages when there were no maternity hospitals. Because of this, the one who cut the umbilical cord during the birth of a child became kindik sheshe. She plays very important role in the first forty days of the child and is the most honored guest. Godmother should be vigorous, well-bred, honest, because according to the magical beliefs that Kazakhs believed in, her traits transfer to the child. She was the most honored guest and brought presents to the child and a young mother in every of the mentioned-above days.
On the fortieth day of the child, Kazakhs held the rite “kalzha”. Kalzha is the ritual feeding of the mother after giving birth. Meals are intended mainly for mother’s recuperation. It was her whom the hot broth was served primarily and only after that others might taste the meal. For such case, they sacrificed a young lamb and boiled it. Great importance was attached to the cervical vertebra. Participants of the meal bite off the meat with their teeth. The first woman to do so was the young mother, and the last – kindik sheshe (second mother). After the meal, the bone was not thrown away and is mounted on the rod through the spinal canal and hung on the female half of the yurt. It was taken off only when the child was able to keep his head.
Also, another event held on the fortieth day of the child is kyrkynan shygaru which is translated as “withdraw from the forty days”. The child is bathed in salty water and after the bathing the child is doused with forty spoons of ritual water. They previously put coins and silver jewelry in the bowl as the present for women who participated in the rite. On the same day, they cut their hair and nails of the child for the first time. In these customs were involved only women and they received gifts. The obligatory ritual was handing out cakes baked for the event.
Our ancestors gave special importance to the children’s ritual of at koyu (naming) or Azan shakyru (the call). The essence of the ritual at koyu was that forty days after the birth of a child, village elders gathered together and gave the name with the Morning Prayer. Typically, the name was given by senior relatives. Mullah said a prayer and spoke three times the name in the child’s ear.
Almost all of these rituals have been preserved until modern times and the only difference of presence or absence of any of the above rituals vary from the region to region. So if you have friends from Kazakhstan or you’re visiting Kazakh family that is celebrating such a happy event in the family, you can surprise them with your knowledge of these rituals.