There are many birthmark meanings, myths, and folklore. Prior to the advances of medical science, superstitions were used to explain every occurrence – from conception to death and from disease to recovery.
In regards to childbearing, a theory referred to as “maternal impression” suggests that any belief, fears, desires, or other strong emotions that a woman experiences during pregnancy will affect how her child will appear. In one instance, a woman who looks too often at another individual will birth a child resembling that individual. The hope was that an attractive baby would be borne by gazing upon an attractive individual; however, this could work the opposite way as well. A woman may birth an unattractive baby were she to gaze upon an unattractive person, especially if that person startled her.
“Maternal impression” has been used to explain birthmark formation as well. A woman to experience a strong emotion, such as fear, may result in a birthmark appearing on the child. If she were to touch a certain part of her body while experiencing this emotion, the birthmark would appear in the same location on the child.
Birthmarks and Food Associations
Vascular birthmarks, which are red in nature, were believed to be caused by the desire of the woman to eat strawberries during pregnancy. In some cases, the birthmark might even be in the shape of a strawberry. Port-wine stain birthmarks may be caused by a desire to eat jam, jelly, or beets. Café au lait spots were associated with a craving for chocolate.
Birthmarks and Life Events
Pregnancy during certain events may dictate birthmark formation as well. In popular Iranian folklore, a birthmark may appear if a woman were to touch her pregnant stomach while viewing a solar eclipse. Some believe that café au lait spots result by a death in a previous life.
Many other beliefs surround birthmarks as well. Some cultures believe that birthmarks are lucky and should be touched. The Italian, Spanish, and Arabic words for birthmarks – voglie, antojos, and wiham, respectively – all mean “wishes.” Others believe that they are signs of evil, that the child is “marked” by a demon. Some birthmarks may have special meanings depending on their shape. Some birthmarks appear in shapes similar to hearts, stars, or crosses, and may signal good luck or even religious divinity. Some believe that birthmarks are “gifts” from other powers, which is evident by some of the names of certain marks such as “stork bites” and “angel kisses.”
Children’s Hospital Boston
History: From Folklore to Science – Vascular Anomalies Center – Clinical Services
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What Are Birthmarks? What Causes Birthmarks?
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