Traditional Midwifery Practices in the Republic of Moldova

Oina Game in the he Republic of Moldova
Workshop “Developing safeguarding plans for living heritage in Cyprus”
Traditional Midwifery Practices
Element inscribed on the National ICH Registry of the Republic of Moldova
Domain: Social practices, rituals and festive events; Knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe


In the past, the practice of traditional midwifery requested valuable knowledge of folk medicine, religious beliefs and magical practices. All of them aimed to ensure mother’s and foetus’ health during pregnancy, during birth and afterwards. Some customs pursued the goal to influence positively the child’s future (to be hardworking, lively, strong etc.), to facilitate his/her integration in family and in the rural community. In this context, special respect was paid to the midwife – a neighbour or another woman from the village, who had a good reputation and knowledge regarding midwifery. She took care of the mother during pregnancy and until the baptism of the newly-born. According to the traditional mentality, this time-span was accompanied by many threats that could endanger mother’s and child’s life. Although she was not always a relative, midwife became thus a family member. Children whom she had helped to see daylight, were considered her grandchildren. The midwife’s name was written in the family’s obituary and the priest read it during the church service. Once in a year was organized Midwife’s Day, when midwife received gifts from women whom she had helped to give birth. Of no less importance are the ceremonies after birth (“rodinele”, “cumatria” – christening parties) which aimed to create or strengthen the social relationships within the descent or within the community. All these elements of intangible cultural heritage represented important components of the collective identity; they ensured the cohesion and psychological balance of the community; valued the vocation of maternity; prepared new members of the society which could later assume familial and professional tasks. The rise of medical sciences and of professional medical institutions caused the shift to the passive memory of culture of traditional knowledge and many midwifery practices. However, until nowadays, continue to be active Church and popular rituals, as well family feasts dedicated to the baptism of the newly-born. Some contemporary folk bands (“Mostenitorii”, artistic director – Valeriu Chiper; the Bulgarian ethno-folk band “Vaglence”, artistic director – Anna Pagur) include in their repertoire customs connected with Midwife’s Day. One may not exclude that in many families and in the practice of professional midwifes continue to be used remedies from folk medicine, aiming to secure mother’s and child’s wellbeing.