Disposing the placenta(胎处理)

Disposing the placenta

Headword

태처리 ( 胎处理 )

Location of the encyclopedia

Korean Rites of Passage > Korean Rites of Passage > Chulsaenguirye

Writer LeePilyoung(李弼泳)

Folk practice of disposing the placenta, the source of life providing nutrients for the fetus, and the umbilical cord, a lifeline for the fetus, after childbirth in accordance to set formalities.

The placenta is the source of life that connects the mother and the fetus during gestation, providing oxygen and nutrients to the developing fetus. Although it was no longer useful when cut off after delivery, the placenta was viewed as an object of respect due to its mysterious and thankful role in nurturing life and therefore it had to be treated according to certain formalities. The placenta was usually wrapped in rice straw or paper and carefully stored in the room where the baby was born, in a clean spot in a part of the house with a good aspect, or in a place where Samsin, or the Goddess of Childbearing, was enshrined. Then, it was sent to a well chosen clean place within three days or on the third day after birth. This day is called samnal (Kor. 삼날, lit. day of the placenta) with sam meaning “placenta.” Samnal was also called “the day the placenta goes out, ” with people reciting “The placenta goes out” as they burnt it. This practice of sending the placenta out is called taeje (Kor. 태제, Chin. 胎祭, lit. placenta rite) in ordinary homes and antae (Kor. 안태, Chin. 安胎, lit. enshrining the placenta) in the royal family.

The placenta is often burned with straw or chaff on the spot where the baby was born in a wood or charcoal fire until only the ashes are left. Depending on family and region, the ashes of the placenta were either washed away in running water or buried underground, but in any case the placenta was first burned.

When burning the placenta, a person is assigned to carefully watch the site. As it burns slowly for a very long time, the placenta should not be left alone to burn by itself without a keeper. If left unwatched, the placenta may be stolen by someone who seeks it for use as a sort of medicine or by an infertile woman who wants to have a baby. Also, the placenta should be protected from exposure to dogs or other animals because losing or doing damage to the placenta was considered to bring bad luck to the newborn, or taeju (Kor. 태주, Chin. 胎主, lit. owner of the placenta). In this case, it was believed that the baby would immediately have rashes on the face or even live an unfortunate life afterwards. Therefore, when burning the placenta, special care had to be taken in each and every process. One should not blow wind at sambul (Kor. 삼불, lit. the fire burning the placenta) nor warm oneself at the fire even when it is cold. One should utter no complaints, such as saying, “It’s hot” or “It smells, ” while keeping the fire.

Jangtae (Kor. 장태, Chin. 藏胎, lit. burying the placenta) underneath a tree was also a very common practice, in which the placenta itself or the ashes were buried. In particular, it was believed that the placenta should be buried underneath a wellgrown tree so that the baby nurtured by the placenta would grow like the tree. Before its burial, the placenta was at times placed in a small urn, on the bottom of which was a small hole to drain the water from it.

The placenta should be sent out at a time when people did not come or go to prevent it from coming into other people’s sight. This is intended to prevent any bad luck from befalling the baby. In other words, it was important to send the placenta out without being noticed. The time chosen for this practice, in general, was at dawn, in the evening, or in the middle of the night. In some coastal areas, it was done at dusk. In other areas, insi (Kor. 인시, Chin. 寅時, from three to five o’clock a.m.) on inil (Kor. 인일, Chin. 寅日, day of the tiger among the 12-year cycle of the Chinese zodiac) was selected, as it was believed that the placenta should be burned at a time and date that would bring great luck to the baby. However, people avoided jail (Kor. 자일, Chin. 子日, day of the rat among the 12-year cycle of the Chinese zodiac) because it was believed that sending the placenta out on this day meant that the baby would spend life hiding like the rat.

When sending the placenta out, an auspicious direction was selected. To find out which direction was auspicious, the year, month, and day of the birth of the baby was examined according to ganji (Kor. 간지, Chin. 干支, zodiac order).

As the placenta was believed to have mysterious vitality, it was widely used as a wonder drug not only for incurable diseases, including epilepsy, tuberculosis, and convulsions, but also for minor diseases, including boils. People even kept the dried umbilical cord with the belief that, like baenaetjeogori (Kor. 배냇저고리, comfortably loose garment a baby wears for the first time after birth), the umbilical cord was a very effective charm for passing the higher civil service examinations or winning a lawsuit.

During pregnancy, the mother, placenta, and fetus are one community of life, but from the moment the placenta is cut off, the mother and the newborn baby become two separate entities. In other words, from one body they become two bodies. However, the placenta and the baby which has grown in the placenta have a very close and lasting connection. Therefore, people believed that sending out the placenta in a natural and complete manner would bring good fortune to the baby. Doing otherwise would bring misfortune to the baby, so disposal of the placenta had to follow strict procedures.

Disposing the placenta

Disposing the placenta
Headword

태처리 ( 胎处理 )

Location of the encyclopedia

Korean Rites of Passage > Korean Rites of Passage > Chulsaenguirye

Writer LeePilyoung(李弼泳)

Folk practice of disposing the placenta, the source of life providing nutrients for the fetus, and the umbilical cord, a lifeline for the fetus, after childbirth in accordance to set formalities.

The placenta is the source of life that connects the mother and the fetus during gestation, providing oxygen and nutrients to the developing fetus. Although it was no longer useful when cut off after delivery, the placenta was viewed as an object of respect due to its mysterious and thankful role in nurturing life and therefore it had to be treated according to certain formalities. The placenta was usually wrapped in rice straw or paper and carefully stored in the room where the baby was born, in a clean spot in a part of the house with a good aspect, or in a place where Samsin, or the Goddess of Childbearing, was enshrined. Then, it was sent to a well chosen clean place within three days or on the third day after birth. This day is called samnal (Kor. 삼날, lit. day of the placenta) with sam meaning “placenta.” Samnal was also called “the day the placenta goes out, ” with people reciting “The placenta goes out” as they burnt it. This practice of sending the placenta out is called taeje (Kor. 태제, Chin. 胎祭, lit. placenta rite) in ordinary homes and antae (Kor. 안태, Chin. 安胎, lit. enshrining the placenta) in the royal family.

The placenta is often burned with straw or chaff on the spot where the baby was born in a wood or charcoal fire until only the ashes are left. Depending on family and region, the ashes of the placenta were either washed away in running water or buried underground, but in any case the placenta was first burned.

When burning the placenta, a person is assigned to carefully watch the site. As it burns slowly for a very long time, the placenta should not be left alone to burn by itself without a keeper. If left unwatched, the placenta may be stolen by someone who seeks it for use as a sort of medicine or by an infertile woman who wants to have a baby. Also, the placenta should be protected from exposure to dogs or other animals because losing or doing damage to the placenta was considered to bring bad luck to the newborn, or taeju (Kor. 태주, Chin. 胎主, lit. owner of the placenta). In this case, it was believed that the baby would immediately have rashes on the face or even live an unfortunate life afterwards. Therefore, when burning the placenta, special care had to be taken in each and every process. One should not blow wind at sambul (Kor. 삼불, lit. the fire burning the placenta) nor warm oneself at the fire even when it is cold. One should utter no complaints, such as saying, “It’s hot” or “It smells, ” while keeping the fire.

Jangtae (Kor. 장태, Chin. 藏胎, lit. burying the placenta) underneath a tree was also a very common practice, in which the placenta itself or the ashes were buried. In particular, it was believed that the placenta should be buried underneath a wellgrown tree so that the baby nurtured by the placenta would grow like the tree. Before its burial, the placenta was at times placed in a small urn, on the bottom of which was a small hole to drain the water from it.

The placenta should be sent out at a time when people did not come or go to prevent it from coming into other people’s sight. This is intended to prevent any bad luck from befalling the baby. In other words, it was important to send the placenta out without being noticed. The time chosen for this practice, in general, was at dawn, in the evening, or in the middle of the night. In some coastal areas, it was done at dusk. In other areas, insi (Kor. 인시, Chin. 寅時, from three to five o’clock a.m.) on inil (Kor. 인일, Chin. 寅日, day of the tiger among the 12-year cycle of the Chinese zodiac) was selected, as it was believed that the placenta should be burned at a time and date that would bring great luck to the baby. However, people avoided jail (Kor. 자일, Chin. 子日, day of the rat among the 12-year cycle of the Chinese zodiac) because it was believed that sending the placenta out on this day meant that the baby would spend life hiding like the rat.

When sending the placenta out, an auspicious direction was selected. To find out which direction was auspicious, the year, month, and day of the birth of the baby was examined according to ganji (Kor. 간지, Chin. 干支, zodiac order).

As the placenta was believed to have mysterious vitality, it was widely used as a wonder drug not only for incurable diseases, including epilepsy, tuberculosis, and convulsions, but also for minor diseases, including boils. People even kept the dried umbilical cord with the belief that, like baenaetjeogori (Kor. 배냇저고리, comfortably loose garment a baby wears for the first time after birth), the umbilical cord was a very effective charm for passing the higher civil service examinations or winning a lawsuit.

During pregnancy, the mother, placenta, and fetus are one community of life, but from the moment the placenta is cut off, the mother and the newborn baby become two separate entities. In other words, from one body they become two bodies. However, the placenta and the baby which has grown in the placenta have a very close and lasting connection. Therefore, people believed that sending out the placenta in a natural and complete manner would bring good fortune to the baby. Doing otherwise would bring misfortune to the baby, so disposal of the placenta had to follow strict procedures.