None of the about 5 000 inhabitants of Mafi Dove, a village in southern Ghana, was born there. The village is considered to be holy land and consequently has a myriad of customs and traditions that have been upheld throughout its existence. One of these is the belief that childbirth in the village is an offence to the gods.
The Ghanaian village of Mafi Dove is not that unlike other Ghanaian villages in its reverence and practice of old customs and traditions passed down over generations. However, the village is unique in the three major rules that it continues to enforce to this day.
According to Oddity Central, rearing animals in Mafi Dove is forbidden. Although animals can be brought in for slaughter, residents may not raise them in their homesteads or anywhere in the village. Secondly, there is no burial ground and deceased villagers are buried in the cemeteries of other communities.
Lastly, but most impactful for the women of the community, is the belief that childbirth in the village is taboo. Oddity Central reports that women approaching their due date are transported to neighbouring villages or towns and forced to remain there until their babies’ umbilical cords fall off. Only then can they return home.
“When our forefathers came to the land, a voice from heaven said: ‘If you want to stay on this land, it is holy ground and there are rules. The rules of the land are that no one should give birth here, no one should rear animals and no one should be buried here,’” said an interviewee in a BBC video on Mafi Dove.
Unfortunately, it is not unusual for expectant mothers to be sent away a month or more before their due date. For those who stay on, there have been instances of them being hastily transported when they are already in debilitating pain and babies being in distress because of birth complications due to being moved.
On a more positive note, women who do end up breaking the tradition are not punished or shunned for it. Although this is frowned upon and intensely discouraged, the belief is that mothers who break the rule risk giving birth to babies with abnormalities. In these exceptional cases, ritual cleansings are performed by the village elders to purify the village and appease the gods.
Villagers are convinced that their customs are important to ensure the prosperity of the community.
“Wherever there is evil, there is no development,” the elders of Mafi Dove told Oddity Central. “Because of these taboos, there has never been any bloodshed, crime and so on. You are allowed to bring animals and slaughter them in the land, women are free to menstruate, but to give birth, no way. We are very proud to be bound by those taboos.”
In recent years, calls from women in the village have necessitated a concession. The elders have approved the building of a maternity clinic on the village outskirts, so that women can deliver babies closer to home.