Birthmarks are a relatively common place. It is said that around 1 in 10 babies born will have a birthmark. A birthmark may be a small mole or a larger area of pigmentation of the skin. These perfectly harmless marks may vary in size and colour; they may be bluish-gray, brown or pinkish. A birthmark may develop during gestation or in the first few months of a baby’s life. These markings can also be hereditary, meaning that siblings may share not only the look and size of birthmark, but its location!
But is there a special meaning to birthmarks? Where do they come from and what stories have been told about their occurrence over time and across cultures? The scientific perspective is that birthmarks are the result of a skin abnormality linked to the formation of blood vessels. However this answer leads to more questions, as the physiological explanation does not technically rule out the possibility that there may be more to these markings.
In folklore significance has been placed and generally three theories appear across cultures and time:
- Birthmarks signify are an omen which may denote a characteristic or life path
- Birthmarks are leftover from a past life/ re-incarnation
- Birthmarks are the result of events that happened to the mother while carrying her child or actions she took during her pregnancy.
So let us explore these further.
Birthmarks are an Omen
In this theory, the location of a birthmark signifies something about the person. For example it has been suggested that a birthmark on the right arm is an omen for prosperity, while a birthmark on the left arm conversely signifies financial struggle through life. The parallel of the right and left side of the body however does not always correlate to an opposing meaning of an omen. If a birthmark appears on the right foot, it is thought that the person in question will have an overpowering love of exploration and travel, while if such a birthmark appears on the left foot; this would be a sign of great intellectual ability.
The meaning ascribed to a birthmark can also differ depending on the gender of the person; marking on the ankle for a man denotes personal refinement, while for a woman such a marking is considered to represent independence and a zest for life.
Birthmarks and re-incarnation
The correlation between birthmarks and re-incarnation was first studied extensively in 1960 by Dr. Ian Stevenson (a former director in the field of Psychiatry and current researcher in personalities). Stevenson was drawn into this research upon hearing about a case in Sri Lanka, involving a child who remembered his past life. After extensively interviewing the family of the child, the child and the people who the child claimed were his parents in his past life, Stevenson was convinced that the possibility of a past life was not only worth investigating, but highly probable.
Our interest in Dr. Stevenson’s research lays in his discovery that many children who remembered their past lives bore birthmarks located on their bodies which correlated with the deaths they claimed to have experienced prior to being re-incarnated. Being a scientist, Stevenson examined gestational and genetic causes that could be the cause of such skin pigmentation formations, and found that he could only explain 30%-60% of such cases. The combination of children’s memories and their birthmarks gave Stevenson a visual indication to his research, that re-incarnation was plausible.
Birthmarks, gestation and the mother
Italian and Spanish folklore states that birthmarks result from un-satisfied wishes of the mother during pregnancy, such as wishing for certain foods. Other believes include that the mother was startled during pregnancy resulting in a birthmark, the mother looking at a crescent moon during pregnancy and eating red foods during pregnancy. Finally some say that strong emotions felt by the pregnant women appear as birthmarks on the child.
While it is clear that there are many variations and believes about birthmarks, it is fair enough to suggest that mostly these can be attributed to old wives tales. However, the prominence of believes throughout many cultures and timeframes cannot be ignored, implying that there may more to be discovered. If you happen to be lucky enough to have been born with a birthmark which has been given an omen of luck prosperity or fortune, than perhaps it is wise to think it true and be happy!