Welcoming the newborn: from the world of the spirits to that of the parents

By Ève Pilyser

The author contrasts the way a newborn is received into a Western nuclear family with the customs surrounding birth in traditional societies. She points out the spectrum of parental arrangements used to manage the ambivalence and the projection mechanisms aimed at the newborn infant. Whereas the West tends to cover up the figure of the ancestor, in relation to a birth, in the spirit world beloved by indigenous cultures, the ancestor figure dominates under its vengeful potential. The question of the debt of life – connected to the risk of infanticide – emerges, conjointly with the question of the parents’ responsibility to assume their proper place in the trans-generational chain. A necessary condition for the child, whatever his culture, to benefit from a fully constructive and evolving transmission.

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