Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Head Washing Ceremony (End)

As you would sit a child down, the matron gently lowered her in a sitting position. Half way through the motion, she raised her back in the standing position. She lowered her again and just like the first time, she raised her again. The third time around, Mariama was fully sitted on the stool. This ritual symbolises preparation to sit firmly in one's marital home.
The drums stopped for a moment. One of the women stroke up a new song and the other joined in. The drummers beat their instruments again. Dipping her two hands in the bucket, the matron said an expression, which is translates as "In the name of God", then she washed the bride's hands, then her face. Three successive times, she dipped her hands in the bucket and passed her wet hands on Mariama's hair front to back, front to back. She took the right foot out of the new sandal, washed it, repositioned it in the shoe. She took the left foot and did the same.

This ceremony is calling head washing but is not limited to the head. The washing of these parts of the body is for purification. It symbolizes the bride coming pure to the marriage.

A woman then handed her the towel, she patted all the washed areas dry. Sitting in the circle with her head covered back with the topa scarf, Mariama could hear the women clapping and singing a several songs over her. She barely heard what they were saying. She felt in a sort of out of body experience. All she felt for sure was the excitement that she would be soon with her new husband.

The women slowly walked her back to her mother's room. From there, after dinner, she'll be taken to a house a couple of streets away. A room has been prepared for her and her new husband for the next seven nights and six days so they may spend time together. They'll be catered to, visited by family and friend's and the celebration will continue around town until then. They will get to know each other personally, physically and emotionally. It's her family's wish that the early morning hours of that first night, the matron comes out with a blood stained white sheet to announce that she had saved herself for marriage.

In the next post, we'll address the tying of the knots.

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