Loving the belly henna
I love this tradition as a beautiful way to celebrate and honour the beauty and magic of the pregnant belly. The paste comes from the Henna plant and is completely safe. The reddish brown colour of the henna plant paste stains the outer layer of the skin and lasts about as long as a bouquet of fresh flowers, between 7 to 11 days. The henna paste looks quite black when it is first applied (as in these photos). Once the paste dries, it flakes off and reveals the design in a beautiful brownish red colour. See the picture of Kim’s belly below to see what it looks like after the paste comes off.
Traditionally Henna has been used in areas of the Middle East and India as a way to bless a mother near the end of her pregnancy. The designs were believed to protect the new mother and baby through the transition of birth.
Today Henna belly art is resurfacing in North America as a means of marking the great rite of passage that is pregnancy, labour and birth. Many women feel that participating in this ancient practice helps them feel connected with the strengthen and courage of all the women who have gone before them in birth and mothering. Plus it makes your belly and you feel beautiful which is quite a gift in itself.
The process of applying henna is easy and relaxing. The design is generally mapped out with a washable marker, then your belly is decorated with the henna paste, while you soak your feet in a warm foot bath. The warm foot bath is actually optional but really who doesn’t want this.
The paste is apply from a tube-like applicator – similar to how you apply icing designs on a cake. You can make the henna applicator yourself 0r you can buy ready-made tubes filled with henna paste for any India grocery store. The henna powder is also found in some supermarkets (Superstore in here in Regina carries it) in the Indian food aisle. The natural henna powder is simply the ground up dried leaves of the henna plant which grows in warms areas all throughout the Middle East, Africa and India. This henna is completely safe for the skin. You add water and a tiny bit of oil to the powder to make the paste.
You can ask an artist friend or family member to draw out the design. There are many design ideas which can be found online, just search “images of belly henna” or you might like to come up with your own design.
Doing belly henna is a great activity for a blessing way or baby shower. You can even involve the guests by inviting them to do a henna design on their hands or feet. See Roberta’s picture below for an example of this.
If you live in the Regina area, you can contact me about organizing your very own Blessing Way complete with belly henna.
If you have your own henna belly picture that you’d like to share, please email me and I will add it to this post!
Celebrating belly, babies and birth,
Note : If you are from the States or another part of the world, please stay away from the “black henna”. Black henna is henna pasta that has chemicals which are added to make the design black rather than brown once the paste dries and flakes off. The chemicals in black henna are not safe and are associated with cancer cell growth. If you are in Canada, you can rest easy as that type of henna is not legal for sale here.
Below is local doula and lactation consultant, Kim Smith’s wonderfully decorated belly during her pregnancy with Kamil. 🙂
Here is Roberta’s beautiful tree of life and all the hands that support her.
Everyone at baby Stirling’s blessing way added and contributed to this belly henna.
If you liked this post, you might also enjoy reading this two articles.
Just found an absolutely COOL website – especially for any of your birth/symbol/art junkies! This is just perfect. The site is called Visualizing Birth. It’s a collection of art and images relating to birth. And includes articles about birth as they relate to the images. Keep Reading