The Ovaherero and Damara Traditional naming ceremonies- Part 2

Among the Ovaherero, the naming ceremony is conducted in the following manner:

After the finical has fallen off, it is handed over to the chief of the family who keeps it in a bag regarded as sacred.

A new knot is tied to the strap, in the bag the leather straps with knots related to each individual member of a family. The mother takes the child to the holy fire where the priest and his councillors sit and the ancestral staff is laid out.

The child is then introduced to the ancestors. The introduction may be done in the form of prayer:

“A child is born to us. May our race never cease.”

Then the priest takes some consecrated water in his mouth from the font, sprinkles the mother and child with it whilst announcing its name, which is nearly always a new one and which describes some striking event at the time of its birth (Hahn, 1928: 138)

According to Kamupingene (1985), the naming ceremony among the Ovaherero takes place a month after the baby has been delivered. If the mother gives birth in her mother’s hut, she has to return to the house of her in-laws.

The naming ceremony takes place at Okuruwo7 (the sacred fire) of the child’s paternal grandfather. If the paternal grandfather has an elder brother, the naming ceremony takes place at his Okuruwo, because only the eldest member of the family has the right to name the baby and introduce it to the ancestors.

The mother takes the baby to the okuruwo accompanied by the ondangere (the priest) who keeps sprinkling water on her and the baby until they arrive at the sacred fire.

The mother sits on the hide and the child is introduced to the owner of the house. After the mother and the owner of the house have been sprinkled with water, the child is introduced to the ancestors.

The introduction is done in the form of a prayer and the following words are said: “The child is born for you. May our race never cease.”

After the mother and the child have been smeared with oil, the owner of the house pours water and oil on the child and presses the forehead of the child against his forehead and shouts the name of the baby.

During the same occasion, the child is given a heifer as its first property. The heifer is taken from the baby’s father’s cattle. The heifer is brought to the sacred fire and given to the child symbolically. A piece of an ear is cut from the heifer and tied to the baby.

The Damara

The child is given a name by the father after the navel cord has dropped off. The father, who until then has not seen the child, prepares himself for the ceremony in a peculiar manner.

He tries to get some cooked game meat. He then enters the mother’s hut and hangs the talisman - which he has just prepared and which has the power of warding off sickness - around the child’s neck and then utters the name which is to commemorate some extraordinary event that must have occurred in the days preceding or subsequent to the birth.

The child is also given a name by their relatives and playmates. The name given by the father is treated with great respect. Besides all these names, the boy inherits the mother’s name to which is attached a masculine suffix –b.

The daughter inherits the father’s name to which the feminine suffix –s is attached (Hahn, 1928; 54). PF