Saturday, January 23, 2010

Help Me Name the Study of Birthing

I picked up a business card a week ago in the same suite of offices where some therapists have their practice. I noticed this card because it had a picture of some colored stones laid out in a spiral. The card told me that she was a Marriage and Family Therapist and a Certified Thanatologist. I tried to guess what a thanatologist might be. Perhaps she studied magical crystals. This is Los Angeles, and anything is possible. I put it in my purse and somehow I just found it mysteriously in my scriptures. I Googled Thanatologist and found that it is a person who studies death and dying (in humans,) particularly in their psychological and social aspects. The name comes from the Greek god Thanatos who was the personification of death.

Fascinated, I tried to find out if there was a similar fancy name for someone who studies birth, particularly in its psychological, social and spiritual aspects, but came up with nothing. So I Googled "Greek God of birth" to see if I could perhaps come up with some epistemological basis for the word I planned to coin. I found a motherload of information. Oops. Did not intend that pun.

Her name is Ilithyia. She was believed to be the daughter of Hera, goddess of marriage. Depending on her mood she sometimes helped labor, and other times, especially if the maiden wasn't chaste, would make it more painful. She also has Roman counterparts. See below.

"EILEITHYIA (or Ilithyia) was the goddess of childbirth and labour pains. According to some there were two Eileithyiai, one who furthered birth and one who protracted the labour. Her name means "she who comes to aid" or "relieve" from the Greek word elĂȘluthyia. Her Roman counterpart was Natio ("Birth") or Lucina ("Light bringer"). "

I love that her name means "she who comes to aid." I also like Lucina, because I love the image of light, especially with what we know about the Light of Christ in each of us.

So I am trying to decide, if I were to coin the word for the study of birthing (all I have to do is create a Wikipedia entry), what would I call it? Natologist could be too easy confused with the medical profession where it already exists with several different prefixes. Ilithyiologist sounds fancy. Lucinologist could be cool too, although it sort of sounds like hallucinologist--someone who studies hallucinogens--okay, not really I just made that one up.

Please, weigh in, or if you know of some word that exists already, let me know. I'm sure my 15 minute Google search was not exhaustive. Can't wait to hear your thoughts.


  1. Ilythologist....hmm.
    Maternologist sounds good...but taken already. Still thinking.

  2. Ok now you have me obsessed...more than usual over this subject. How about Eleuthologist?

  3. I think I like Ilythyiologist the best. I want a business card... I wonder how I'd become a "certified" Ilythyiologist? Does spending the last 6+ years of my life studying birth count?

  4. Naissantologist? Nativitologist? Natologist?

  5. I think you should also consider the accessibility of the term... those are a little abstract and not likely to readily convey the meaning. Thanatologist is actually pretty mainstream... have you asked a midwife? Seems like there ought to be a latin or greek term for "birth" that would make sense...



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