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Birthing Amulets

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These paper amulets, printed in Casablanca, are brought to the mother and child’s room by the mohel, ritual circumciser, and hung on the four cardinal points of the room for a minimum of forty days, after it is deemed that the imminent danger of childbirth has passed. After this, the mother immerses in the mikveh, ritual bath, and the child leaves the house for the first time. The amulets are a collection of prayers, incantations and images that have a long history within Jewish tradition.

These amulets appeared for the first time in the book Shaar HaYichudim “The Gate of Unifications” by the famous Safed Kabbalist Hayyim ben Joseph Vital born in Calabria and deceased in Damascus (1543 - 1620).

The Amulet served as a protection against the evil eye (and tongue), as is described in this lengthy invocation:

 

Prosper me in the writing of this parchment, that it be a preservative, deliverance, protection and a perfect cure to the wearer of this Charm from sundry and divers evil diseases existing in the world, from an evil eye and an evil tongue. I adjure you all ye kinds of evil eyes, a black eye, a hazel eye, blue eye, yellow eye, short eye, broad eye, straight eye, narrow eye, deep eye, protruding eye, eye of a male, eye of a female, the eye of a wife and the eye of a husband, eye of a woman and her daughter, eye of a woman and her kinsfolk, eye of an unmarried man, eye of an old man, eye of an old woman, eye of a virgin, eye of one not a virgin, eye of a widow, eye of a married wife, eye of a divorced wife, all kinds of evil eyes in the world which looked and spoke with an evil eye concerning or against the wearer of this charm, I command and adjure you by the Most Holy and Mighty and Exalted Eye, the Only Eye, the White Eye, the Right Eye, the Compassionate the Ever Watchful and Open Eye, the Eye that never slumbereth nor sleepeth, the Eye to Which all eyes are subject, the Wakeful Eye that preserveth Israel, as it is written, "The Eye of the Lord is upon them that fear Him, and upon them that trust in His Goodness."

 

The ARI ('lion' in Hebrew) Rabbi Isaac ben Solomon Luria HaAshkenazi born in Jerusalem and deceased in Safed (1534 - 1572), was Vital’s teacher and the central figure in the reshaping of Jewish mystical thought in the 16th century. The charm in fact consists of two different amulets, one over the other, originally written as a protection against plague. The image used in the birthing amulet is taken from a later printing of the book which includes various commentaries on the teachings of Vital and Luria, but the amulet, or similar versions of it, appears in earlier printings as well. This edition was published in 1855 in the city of Lemberg, today’s Lviv, in western Ukraine, and was reprinted in Casablanca until the 1980s. The ARI perished during an outbreak of plague in the year 1572, when he was only 38 years old.

 

One main function of the amulet, hung on the four walls of the birthing mother’s room was to protect against Lilith, Adam’s first wife (before Eve) who was reputed to kill mothers and babies because of her refusal to be submissive. She is deemed by the Rabbinate as a witch, and represents the dangerous strong willed woman.

 

Translation of the section on Lilith:

"In the Name of YHVH the God of Israel Whose Name is great and to be feared."

"Elijah, may his memory be blessed, was walking out one day when he came upon Lilith. He said to her, 'Unclean one! where art thou going?' She said to him, 'I am going to the house of So and So, who is in child-bed; in order to cause her death and to snatch and devour her child.' He said unto her, 'Be thou smitten with the itch, and imprisoned by the Name of the Most Holy One, and become a silent stone.' She answered and said unto him, 'O my lord, let me off, and I swear, in the Name of YHVH to forsake this my way, and that whenever I shall see or hear any of my names I shall straightway flee. And now I will make known to thee my names. And whenever my names shall be mentioned I shall have no power to do evil or to injure. I swear to thee to reveal my names, and if they be written and suspended in the dwelling of the child or the confined woman I shall at once flee.'"

"These are my names:--Satrìnah, Lilith, Avìtu, Amìz Raphì, Amìzû, Kakash, Odem, ’ìk, Pods, ’ìls, Petrota, Abro, Kema, Kalee, Bituah, Thiltho, Partashah."

"And whoever fixes up these my names I shall at once flee from the placard hung up in the house of the confined woman or the child. This is a charm, and the child as well as his mother shall never be hurt by me."

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