XXII. TEETHING. BED-WETTING. SPEECH AND NERVE PROBLEMS
First teeth, lehenengo txantxurrak
In former times, different procedures were used to stimulate children's teeth. These include hanging charms around the child's neck consisting of small bags with the teeth of hedgehogs, mountain cats or horses (Llodio-A; Larrabezua and Bedia-B); it was also quite usual to use necklaces made out of boar’s tusks or ruminants’ molars. There are also records showing that mole teeth were also used in Legazpia (G ). Azkue likewise found that practice in Arratia, Markina, Otxandiano (B) and Olaeta (A). According to that same author, they would make a little bag with moles’ claws in them in Yuslapeña (N) and then hang it around the child’s neck.
In the Basque Country within France, if a child cut its lower teeth before the upper ones, it was said that the child would have a short life.
In the majority of places surveyed, it was usual to hang bones or other hard objects around their neck or give them to children during the teething period. The purpose was for the children to chew on them to relieve the discomfort caused by the gum inflammation, make secretion easier and expel the saliva and even cause their incision making it easier for the children to cut their teeth.
Even earlier than the custom of chewing a crust of bread, it seems that bacon rind was used, which was reported in the early 20th century in Aoiz (N), Using bacon rind was also found in Zeberio (B). In Sangüesa (N), a piece of well cured ham would be used because “it had salt”.
More recently, from the 1960s onwards, hard rubber or plastic teething items, sometimes in the form of a ring or handle and others as a bone, are now available for the children to chew on (Agurain, Berganzo, Bernedo-A, Durango-B, Aoiz, San Martín de Unx-N). They are called chupadores (Artajona-N), mordedores (Aoiz) or masticadores (Obanos-N) and some of them hold water so they can be put in the fridge for the cold to relieve child’s discomfort as it chews on them. In Bermeo (B), they explained that people would buy a bone tied to a bell and it was hung on a ribbon around the child’s neck so that when it experienced discomfort, it could chew on it.
Children learn to control urination during the first stage of their life by means of frequently making them urinate until they manage to tell the adults that they need to. But there are some children who continue to wet their bed while they sleep for a longer time to what is considered normal.
In Mendiola (A), they said that the best remedy to prevent them from wetting their nappies is to get them used to urinating, both at day and at night, by putting them on their potty as many times as necessary. At night, if necessary, they wake them up and take them to urinate to create the habit (Agurain, Apodaca, Mendiola-A; Beasain-G).
In Ribera Alta (A) and Gorozika (B), they made the children urinate frequently until they learned to do so. In Murchante (N), they got and get the children used to urinating at certain times.
In Ribera Alta (A), the children would wear a nappy until they saw it was still dry in the morning. It was then removed and a potty would be placed in the room. When they wanted to urinate, they would call their mother who would put the child on the potty without their needing to go down to the barn that the children used.
Speech problems. Gorrak, mutuak
Hardly any practices to solve those problems were reported except for frenulum section as previously indicated, attending specialist centres for deaf children to learn to speak and teaching stutterers to speak without stammering. Only folk practices were used as attempts to cure them.
In Abadiano and Durango (B), when a child was finding it difficult to start to speak, they were given “poor man’s bread”, in other words, the bread that would be given to the beggars that came to the houses. In the Montaña Alavesa, giving a child the bread that would have been collected by a beggar was considered a good way to getting them to speak soon.
In Carranza (B), when a beggar came to a house where there were children, they swapped the bread with him and the bread brought by the poor man was given to the child to eat so it did not stammer and learnt to speak well.
In Izurdiaga (N), they would wet the children’s mouths with water blessed on Easter Saturday, which all homes had in the holy water font, to get the children to start to speak.
Nervous spasms, tirtikinak
Remedies against convulsions
In Mendiola (A), they try to calm the child with words, with cool baths or with tranquilisers. In other cases, they simply dampen the child’s face with a wet cloth or rag.
In Moreda (A), they sometimes do nothing, just wait until it passed. The child was splashed water to bring it around. Cold or cool baths and drugs have also been used. In Aoiz (N), the child is bathed with water at room temperature. In Elosua (G), a rag would be dampened with vinegar and put on the child’s forehead. In Viana (N), the child would be fanned.
In Tiebas (N), when a child had a temper tantrum, it would be given a slap. Another solution was to submerged the child in cold water.
In Abadiano (B), the tantrums that children would occasionally have were called kasketa. It is considered that the best thing is to ignore them and their purpose is often to get the adults’ attention and if they see that they do not get their way with a tantrum, they stop resorting to it.
- José Miguel de BARANDIARAN. “Creencias y cultos megalíticos” in El mundo en la mente popular vasca. Volume I. San Sebastián: 1960, pp. 180-181
- Recorded by José Miguel de BARANDIARAN: LEF. (ADEL).
- Resurrección Mª de AZKUE. Euskalerriaren Yakintza, I. Madrid: 1935-1947, p. 71
- Juan THALAMAS LABANDIBAR. “Contribución al estudio etnográfico del País Vasco continental” in Anuario de Eusko-Folklore. Volume XI. Vitoria: 1931, p. 26.
- Gerardo LÓPEZ DE GUEREÑU. “Folklore de la Montaña Alavesa” in Anuario de Eusko Folklore. Volume XX. San Sebastián. 1963-1964, p. 26.
- Recorded by José Miguel de BARANDIARAN: LEF. (ADEL).