The practise of pregnancy in seclusion by Nuaulu’s tribe, Seram island, Maluku

Nuaulu’s tribe is a tribe located in Rohua sub-village. Rohua is a sub-village (“anak desa”) of Negeri Sepa,  Sub-district Amahai in Seram Island, District Central Maluku. This sub-village is populated by Nuaulu’s tribe which was inherited from Alune’s tribe and Wemale’s tribe: the first two-tribe occupied this sub-village.

There is an interesting tradition in this place. If I would translate it into English, it might sound like “The practise of pregnancy in seclusion”. The practise of pregnancy in seclusion is defined as practise which a Nuaulu’s pregnant woman is being secluded or concealed in posuno for 40 days prior giving a childbirth.

The main reason for being secluded is that Nuaulu’s tribe sees the first 8-month of pregnancy as a normal occurrence. On the contrary, when the pregnancy reaches 9 months, the pregnant woman is believed as a woman who is affected and/or possessed by demons. The demons, further, can cause various dangers for the pregnant woman, the baby and also the people around her, especially men. Therefore, to avoid being affected by the demons, a pregnant woman needs to be secluded from her original house and stays separately in Posuno or Tikosune until she gives childbirth.

Posuno is a kind of small house dedicated to Nuaulu’s pregnant woman when her pregnancy reaches 9 months. Normally, the size of Posuno is 2 x 2.5 meter, and used to be located far away from the original house (e.g., deeply in the forest). However, the location, nowadays, is closer to the original house because Nuaulu’s people start to think that the demons will only surround the woman and her house.

Nuaulu’s pregnant women usually ask a baby witchdoctor (a.k.a. Mama Biang) to help them during the process of pregnancy until they deliver the baby. This practice is common in Nuaulu’s tribe because Mama Biang is widely believed to have special ability to chase away the demons, so the mother and the baby can survive.

When the time is coming for a Nuaulu’s pregnant woman to deliver a baby, Irihitipue will prepare the necessary tools. One of the tools is called kaitimatana or wane which is a cutter for umbilical cord made of bamboo. the practice of cutting the umbilical cord with sembilu or bamboo is done by witchdoctor. Further, the witchdoctor will put “ramuan daun langsat or biji pala” in the umbilical cord which has been cut before.  Besides kaitimatana, certain water is also prepared to bathe a born-baby. Moreover, the water must originate from particular river which according to the tribe is a holy river.

One needs to be considered is, although this traditional practice has been applied many years, the safety of both the mother and the baby has to be on top priority. There are still a lot of homework need to be done by local government to help people there undergoing hygiene and proper childbirth. Lack of skilled health worker and uneducated people in remote island seem to be a major challenge. Despite all the problems, this tradition is always be an identity of Nuaulu’s tribe.

Thanks to Sri Eny Setyowati, SKM from Politeknik Kesehatan Kemenkes Semarang, for sharing her educational story.

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