The Closing of the Bones ceremony, also called the Bone Closing Ceremony, or simply Closing the Bones, is a multi-faceted traditional postpartum practice applied in North, Central, and South America, notably in Latin American countries.
Closing the Bones is part of Curanderismo healing practices and called La Cerrada (the closing) or Cerrar la Cadera (closing the hips) in Spanish. Mind, however, that similar postnatal practices can be found in various midwifery traditions around the world, for instance, in Asia and Africa.
The ritual entails a physical, emotional, and spiritual “closing cycle,” a kind of “finding closure” of the conception, pregnancy, and childbirth process. In fact, it’s a Rite of Passage that celebrates and marks the woman’s moment of transition from the pregnancy state to childbirth and mother state. Closing of the Bones is also literally thought as being a “bodily closing process,” a cleansing, detoxifying, and healing practice after the opening (and intense use) of the woman’s body to give birth.
The ceremony, or treatment if you like, typically includes a warm herbal bath or herbal steam bath, the use of a Manta or Rebozo — a traditional shawl — to dynamically and rhythmically move, articulate, and rock the new mother’s hips, an Abdominal Massage, Pelvic Massage, and/or Full Body Massage with warm oils, and finally the application of tightly wrapped cloths i.e. Rebozos around the woman’s hips (a type of Abdominal Binding treatment), or even around the entire body.
The full treatment may take about two hours or longer, and can additionally involve talks, prayers, songs, and incantations. After the ceremony, the mother is encouraged to lie down peacefully, relax, rest, and integrate the experience in her changed motherhood and womanhood.
On the physical level, the idea of La Cerrada is to strengthen and tone muscles, rebalance hormone levels, and realign the abdominal organs and pelvic structure (hips, other pelvic bones, and muscles) back into the pre-pregnancy stage in order to prevent organ prolapse, pelvic instability, and illnesses and discomforts later in life.
It’s also thought that the treatment brings warmth and heat back in the woman’s body, helps the uterus shrink to its normal size, stimulates a healthy blood circulation and the immune system, promotes breast milk production, and physically relaxes the mother.
On the spiritual and psychological level, Closing the Bones aims at helping the mother to welcome the emotional impact and future responsibilities of becoming a mother or having another baby, deal with the many emotional phenomena that are due to hormonal changes in the body, accept the temporary or structural changes of her body, and release (past) trauma that may have arisen during the pregnancy and birth cycle.
Traditionally, the treatment is started after the mother has stopped bleeding after birth, and then given regularly during the postpartum confinement period for about six weeks, that is, within the traditional forty to forty-two days after childbirth. Nevertheless, in the West it’s not uncommon to perform the Closing of the Bones Ritual only once at the end of the postnatal confinement period.
The Closing of the Bones ceremony is usually carried out by the woman’s midwife or doula, a close friend or family member, and/or specialized massage therapist.