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First pregnancy traditional rituals

Masungiro or kusungira is a practice/ceremony where a newly married woman who has fallen pregnant for the first time, is taken back to her parents to live with them from six months to until she gives birth. What is the real purpose of masungiro? Some believe that it is to enable the mother of the pregnant woman to watch over her during her last months of pregnancy and also prepare her for birth by possibly giving her daughter herbs called masuo which help open up the birth canal. This role is not entrusted to her mother-in-law.

With urbanisation which now means that the new couple might be staying away from home on their own and availability of health care facilities, is it still necessary to practice masungiro? Let us consider the procedures of the ceremony itself which, by the way, may differ from tribe to tribe.

On the appointed day, the husband’s family takes two goats, a piece of material big enough to be tailored into the mother-in-law’s dress, the tailor’s fee and mealie meal for sadza. There should be a bit of rapoko or millet meal that is enough to cook for four people.  One goat will be a male and this is for the father-in-law and the other, a female for the mother-in-law.

As they come in, the piece of material is spread at the door and mother-in-law and her daughter walk past each other while stepping over the material — daughter goes into the house and the mother comes out and then vice versa.

The husband’s family will slaughter the male goat and cook the food for everyone. A portion of the meat is cooked with some herbs and this is served with the rapoko or millet sadza to the father-in-law, mother-in-law and the couple. The four of them eat together in one plate and take turns to feed each other (like what lovers do). The female goat and any kids it bears will remain the property of the mother-in-law.

From the brief description above, it will be noted that masungiro is not just a ceremony, it is a ritual. Its purpose is directed at the mother-in-law who should confirm to her ancestors that she is happy and appeal to them to guide her daughter in giving birth safely. The daughter remains behind to give birth so that if there are any complications, her mother is right there to assist and appeal to her ancestors to intervene. She will give her daughter masuo during this period.

What is important and cannot be avoided is the ritual of the goats, sadza and the material. Other things like masuo and watching over are optional and can be done away from the parents’ home.

Mbuya VaChinjanja Muroro is a Development Practitioner with a passion for Cultural Heritage and can be reached at