Births, Babies and Brittany

At a time when the rural population believed that disease and misfortune were manifestations of divine judgement or else produced by a spell cast by a jealous neighbour, relief was available only from the priest or the sorcerer; people turned to the old saints, miraculous fountains and the ancient stones in their attempts to gain better favour.

As elsewhere, here in the Brittany of yesteryear, the blessing of children was the biggest hope of newly married couples; being unable to meet these expectations was a major concern. To guard against infertility which was often believed to have been the result of sins committed during a woman’s lifetime, young women would invariably devote themselves to prayer and superstition, such as performing certain rites against special menhirs or making devotions and ablutions at sacred springs in hope of a pregnancy or safe childbirth.

Several superstitions once surrounded conception here in Brittany. Local tradition rather than Church dogma claimed it was necessary to abstain from sexual relations on certain sacred days at the risk of deformity or handicap in the child conceived then; to prevent procreation, it was advised that the couple drink the blood of a hare or sheep urine. To facilitate a pregnancy, an application of bull’s dung or a pessary of mouse droppings were recommended.

Medieval lovers

If newlyweds accepted hot wine, it was a sign that the couple had consummated their union before marriage and a child was already conceived. However, spouses who ate or drank before the celebration of their marriage were believed to produce dumb children. It was said that when the woman was on top of the man in coitu, the child she delivered would become a priest and that male children were conceived during a rising tide, girls when it was in retreat. If a pregnant woman carried her baby forward, the child would be a girl, similarly, a well-rounded stomach heralded a boy would be born.

Belief in the power of the moon to influence childbirth, not altogether absent today, was once well entrenched in the popular mentality here. Young women who answered a call of nature at night were careful never to turn to the moon when they did so, especially if it was a waning moon. Otherwise, they risked conceiving by virtue of the moon.

The circumstances of the birth were thought to wield an influence on the child’s future life and the behaviour of the moon served as a particularly powerful omen. If a child was born with the new moon, it was thought destined to die a violent death. Girls born to the old moon and boys under the new moon were fated not to live long. Those born under a half moon and those whose mothers died in childbirth would inevitably be evil and made the most powerful sorcerers.

Deliveries under the last quarter of the moon were believed to be more laborious than others. Those children who were born feet first would inherit the gift of diskanter, that is to say they could lift spells and cure certain diseases such as rickets. Children born in the new moon were said to be more erudite than others, while those born under a waning moon were said to speak less but to reason better. Girls born under a crescent moon were thought to become precocious in everything they did but those children born between eleven o’clock and midnight were destined to never find happiness.

Medieval childbirth

When a child was born at night, it was once the role of the oldest woman present to move to the threshold of the house and examine the state of the sky. If the clouds surrounded the moon as if to strangle it, or they spread over its face as if to cover it, it was thought that the child was destined to be hanged or drowned. The star that seemed to sit, at that moment, above the main fireplace was also consulted; if it shone brightly, the new-born would be happy but it was a bad omen if it was pale.

The notion that everyone was born under their own star was once quite widespread here. The ability to distinguish between benign and malign stars was said to be a gift possessed by priests and wandering beggars and tales tell of such people urging delivery or advising delay until the propitious star’s appearance. Children were cautioned, when admiring the stars, never to count them because anyone who happened to count their own star would immediately fall dead.

Childbirth was and remains a formidable adventure and certain omens were once believed to allow us the means to know in advance how it would unfold. Typically, pregnancies were not immediately announced, this being done when it was no longer possible to hide its signs; such caution was to keep, to a minimum, the amount of time that one’s unborn child was vulnerable to malicious spells.

Young mother nursing child by Jules Breton

There were a great many other superstitions surrounding childbirth; if a pregnant woman left her washing barrel empty on the tripod, it was a sign that she would be a long time in labour. A pregnant woman should not see a priest dressed at the altar and especially not when he puts on his cincture and stole, lest her baby be strangled by its umbilical cord while being born. Likewise, a pregnant woman should avoid being in a room where someone is dying: the child she is carrying could be born marked with a spot above its nose; a sign that the child would not live long.

To prepare for a happy and painless childbirth, it was necessary for the expectant mother to remain seated while reading the Gospel during the last mass that she attends before childbirth. The same outcome was assured if, at some point before the end of her pregnancy, she wore her husband’s trousers. Moreover, if her husband was unfaithful, it was he who would endure the pains of childbirth.

However, it was believed to be critical that the mother-to-be had the will-power to control her cravings or, at least, the ability to satiate them. If a pregnant woman scratched herself out of frustration, her craving would imprint itself on the corresponding part of the child’s body in the form of dark coloured patches of skin such as birthmarks. To prevent these forming, it was necessary to consult a witch but only one born during the month of May was thought able to avert the transference from mother to child. To do so, the witch applied a paste made from ground heath bedstraw onto the mother’s body and recited a charm of expulsion.

Similarly, it was once thought that when a pregnant woman looked upon a deformed object or some monstrous beast, the child she carried would sense it. It was therefore important that she refrained from visiting fairgrounds and menageries, for fear she could give birth to a monster. It was a bad omen if a woman gave birth to a deformed child and such children were usually denounced as changelings, magically substituted by the mischievous korrigans.

Virginie Demont-Breton_

During childbirth itself, the baby was said to be delivered sooner if the mother put on her husband’s sabots or if she held, in her right hand, the words of a special prayer that had been recited beforehand. A quick delivery was also certain if someone climbed onto the roof of the house and invoked a certain charm.

Until the early 20th century, midwives were rare in rural Brittany; births took place with the help of women from the neighbourhood or a local ‘wise woman’ renowned for her expertise. Such women were practiced in the use of medicinal plants and their application as well as in the manipulation of the body. When the crucial moment arrived, a fire was lit in the fireplace, linen strips for the swaddle were put to heat and a vat of water prepared. While many people might have surround the parturient at this point, childbirth was a woman’s business and men and children were excluded from the delivery room.

To help assist childbirth, a combination of massage and ointments were applied by the woman acting as midwife. If it was feared that the baby was too big, the parturient would be given a warm bath in hopes of aiding delivery. To facilitate the birth, the parturient was encouraged to breathe into the palms of her joined hands or else she held coarse grains of salt in one hand and, in the other, a bottle into which she blew until delivery. Sometimes, the woman’s belly was rubbed with a mixture of camomile oil, gelatine and butter foam or an ointment made from the ground leaves of laurel and wormwood was applied.

The treatment of pain seems to have been marked by a feeling of fatality: the woman was held condemned, by original sin, to give birth in pain, so, few serious attempts were made to alleviate it. One peculiar practice to relieve labour pain called for the parturient to sit on a flask of hot water that had been mixed with a little powder of dried toad. A draught of her husband’s urine was also said to ease the pains of childbirth.

Lhermitte_La Famille _1908

At a time when one in ten women died from childbirth-related causes in rural France, particular care was taken to make certain that the placenta was fully expelled so as to avoid infection and potential sepsis. Childbirth complications such as puerperal fever were one of the biggest killers of women of childbearing age. Indeed, a married woman would become pregnant, on average, six times. Given that up to ten per cent of labours proved fatal to the mother, a woman had a sixty per cent chance of dying during her childbearing years.

To help ensure the expulsion of the placenta, the new mother was made to swallow an infusion of figs boiled in water. If that proved unsuccessful, another treatment called for her to urinate upon warm horse-dung, provided only that the horse was not fatigued at the time of its evacuation. The placenta and umbilical cord were carefully treated; the latter was thought to develop the mind and was often kept by the mother as a powerful lucky charm. Otherwise, they were buried so that they could not be subject to any evil spells or used in magical acts.   

The midwife typically cut the umbilical cord at a length approximate to the width of four fingers and tied it. Sometimes, the full width of five fingers was left if it was a boy. The child was then washed and its lips moistened with a little alcohol in order to make it wince so that it would not be dumb. In some parts of the region, it was traditional for one of the women present to remove the new mother’s wedding ring and put it in a glass of wine before applying some onto the lips of the new-born to protect it against the evil eye. In western Brittany, the new-born was passed through the fire in order to protect it from evil spells and great care was taken to avoid passing the new-born over the table, as this was said to bring on bad luck.

Virginie Demont-Breton_L'Homme est en mer

The newly born baby’s hands and feet were routinely rubbed with a little cold water so that it would not be sensitive to the cold.  If the child exhibited any skin stain or birthmark, this was immediately rubbed with the still warm placenta in hopes of making it pass. Another once common ritual involved cleaning the new baby’s face with the first cloth that it had wet; a procedure said to guarantee the child would possess keen eyesight and a fresh complexion.

It was at this stage that the midwife performed a small but important ritual; pinching and massaging the baby’s nose, skull, limbs and its nipples, if it was a girl. Some old accounts say that this procedure was performed for several hours as it was believed to ensure the child would grow well formed; the new-born being thought incomplete until moulded by the midwife. Such practices were still noted in Brittany at the turn of the 20th century. The woman who acted as principal midwife was not usually paid for her services during the delivery; her efforts often considered a mark of female solidarity. However, she was always nourished and given gifts as a token of gratitude by the family.

As elsewhere, infant mortality was once was very high in Brittany; in the 19th century, one in four children died before their first birthday and only two reached adulthood. If a woman gave birth to a stillborn child, the body could not leave the house through the door but had to be taken out through the window, otherwise it was said that any mother who subsequently passed through that door would only give birth to dead children. The milk of a mother who has just lost her child was passed by soaking the baby’s linen in the husband’s urine and applying these to the unfortunate mother’s breasts.

Gustaf Theodor Wallén_ The Mortuary Room

The baptism of babies generally took place as quickly as possible, within a few days of birth and sometimes even on the same day; an unbaptised child being considered extremely vulnerable to the evil eye. The very real risk of a child dying within a week of birth must also have been a factor as not only were the souls of stillborns and children who did not live long enough to receive the sacrament of baptism, deprived of the grace of God but their bodies were also excluded from the right to burial in consecrated ground amongst their forebears. The crushing reality of this dogma, especially in close-knit communities, may help to explain why deeply religious Brittany typically reported 30 per cent fewer stillborns than other parts of France.

Baptism was celebrated with much aplomb and was a joy shared with the whole community; the church bells were rung as loudly as possible to help ensure the child would never fall deaf. The baby was dressed as splendidly as possible and the one who carried the precious charge to church also carried a small piece of black bread, sometimes this was hung as an amulet from the child’s neck. In western Brittany, a morsel of black bread was once a widely used talisman to protect against evil spells.

By tradition, the godfather and the godmother were always chosen from the wider family, with one from each side but it was said to bring on bad luck to choose the godparents before the child’s birth. A pregnant woman was never chosen as a godmother as it was thought that to do so would condemn her unborn child, or the one to be baptised, to an ugly death within the year. The choice of the child’s Christian name was left to the godfather for a boy, to the godmother for a girl. Although they kept their choices secret, the godparents usually proposed their own name for the infant; the priest being the first to hear it.

It was said that if the candle used during the baptism remained lit throughout the ceremony, that the godfather and godmother would soon marry; if it died before the end of service, it was a sign that no such marriage would take place. Once, it was customary to put a small floral wreath on the child’s head after the service of baptism was over. This wreath was said to bring good luck to the new-born throughout their life. So that it also brought good fortune to the mother, it was hung above the bed; tradition declared that it be hung very high if another pregnancy was to be avoided.

lhermitte_pay harvesters

The mother was absent from the baptism of her child; she was, in the popular imagination, effectively considered unclean, as if childbirth had sullied her. Sometime after giving birth but usually forty days later, the new mother would go to church to undergo a ceremony of re-admittance into the congregation known as relevailles or the churching of woman. While official Church teaching saw this as a ceremony of thanksgiving, many priests and churchgoers associated it with purification and Old Testament notions of uncleanliness associated with childbirth. In Brittany, the new mother was forbidden to cook and care for the animals until she had been churched as it was believed that she cast a curse on everything she touched, except for her child.

The churching rite was fairly straightforward: the mother, dressed in white, presented herself at the porch of the church and knelt there with a lighted candle. Many mothers also carried about their person, the linen cap with which her baby’s head was covered after having been anointed with holy chrism at its baptism. The new mother had to avoid taking holy water from the stoup in the porch, instead, the woman who accompanied her to church took some for herself and threw a few drops on the forehead of the new mother; death within the year was said to befall any woman who, even out of habit, forgot this precept. 

The priest came out to the porch and blessed the mother with holy water before leading her into church where she knelt before the altar and was again blessed with holy water in front of the congregation. New mothers in yesterday’s Brittany were not allowed to go to church for this ceremony alone, else all the potential curses she carried befell her. Leaving church at the end of the ceremony, many mothers took pains to carefully observe the first people met: of good character or bad, her child would infallibly hold the same traits. Similarly, whether the first person met was a man or a woman foretold the sex of her next child. However, nursing mothers needed to avoid meeting the eyes of a dwarf; otherwise they risked losing all their milk immediately.

Breton Mother and Child

It should come as no surprise that many superstitions once surrounded the earliest years of a child here in Brittany. Children born with hair on their head were thought predestined for happiness, those born lame were said to be bawdy while those with a hunchback were thought cleverer than others. When a baby suffered from regular hiccups it was taken as a sign that it would be prolific but those children who, from an early age, were endowed with a prodigious spirit were said destined to die young. Those children who were born with impetigo were said to have been chosen by Providence to remain celibate and without another sign of vocation, they were sent to the arms of the Church.

Children who drooled were said to have been born to parents who attended mass on the day that their marriage was announced. To keep a child from drooling, the godfather provided a pierced penny or one marked with a cross, which was then hung around the child’s neck. To make teething easier, children were usually given a piece of apple to suck. It was believed that if the mother did not touch her baby’s gums, its teeth would grow crooked and a mole skin placed on the fountain of the child’s head was said to facilitate teeth growth; subsequently, children chewed radish leaves to keep teeth in good health. Great care was also taken when a child lost a tooth; if a dog were to swallow it, it would be replaced in the child’s mouth by a dog’s tooth. Throwing the tooth into the fire was thought to be the safest course.

If a child’s fingernails were cut before they were a year old, it was said that their mind would be cut off forever but no nails could be cut on a day of the week containing the letter R, as this was thought to invite misfortune. Another curious belief said that a small child should not be placed in front of a mirror for fear that they might be struck dumb.

Virginie Demont-Breton_ Femme de pêcheur venant de baigner ses enfants

The health of children, so threatened on all sides, was also the object of certain prescriptions. Swinging an infant nine times over the Midsummer bonfire was said to make it immune to fear. If a child was afflicted with night terrors, it was dressed in its father’s shirt, which was then put on an altar dedicated to Saint Gilles. To treat abdominal bloating in children it was necessary to put oil in the lamp that burned in front of the Blessed Sacrament: if the lamp cast a brighter light, the child would heal.

To cure children of worms, an amulet made of white linen containing a mixture of nine cloves of garlic, salt and oil was hung around their neck. A less pungent remedy recommended they drink an infusion of mint leaves. A little roasted mouse, eaten in the evening, was said to stop children wetting the bed at night but in neighbouring Normandy, mice were fed to children to cure whooping cough.

If a mother wanted her next child to be a boy, it was thought necessary to teach her youngest child to pronounce the word tad before the word mam. Conversely, if she longed for a daughter, the child was taught to pronounce the word mam before tad. Perhaps of more realistic help to a new mother was a remedy for stretchmarks that called for a marinade of snails and rosemary; the juice squeezed from this mixture was then rubbed into the skin so that it again became as smooth as it was before marriage.

A-Sunny-Door-Step_Jules Trayer

For childless couples, adoption was not an option in France until 1804 and even then it was restricted to people over 50 years of age only being able to adopt adults. However, the 1625 Breton edition of the Jesuit theologian Robert Bellarmine’s Great Catechism makes a curious observation about adoption in Brittany. It notes: “The common people, in the bishopric of Leon and Tregor, affirm by ancient tradition that in Lower Brittany the places to adopt children were the fair of La Martyre and the pardon of Treguier.” An intriguing reference to a market for children that has not been found recorded elsewhere and one that raises many questions that, alas, we cannot now hope to answer, four hundred years later.

Published by Bon Repos Gites

Enjoying life in Kalon Breizh - the Heart of Brittany.

182 thoughts on “Births, Babies and Brittany

  1. रोचक है. यहां गंगा के समतल गांगेय स्थान में भी 200 साल पहले ऐसे जीवन – या मिलता जुलता जीवन कल्पना किया जा सकता था.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. धन्यवाद! हां, हर जगह के लोग एक बार आम धारणाओं को साझा करते हैं – आज की तुलना में अधिक दुख की बात है।

      Liked by 3 people

  2. oh wow, love the pictures here. sooo much info i will read all of later, thanks.
    As a doula and mother of 3 homebirths, (1st in hospital since my husband was a chicken), I’m sooo glad I didn’t have to sit in the pew for a “painless” birth,… would have been painful but seeing my husband in a skirt if he cheated would have been a new rule in the book if I wrote it. I did love to go in and out of the bath with oils and beautiful music in the background tho when I wasn’t screaming.
    Great one!!! 💖

    Liked by 6 people

    1. Thank you!! I am pleased that you liked it ( or that you do once you finish it!) 😉 Three homebirths? Wow, then you might relate more to some of the old superstitions or at least see some kernel of reason to them haha 😉

      Liked by 5 people

  3. Fantastic histories again. (If that’s even a word) I do enjoy reading your blogs and love the pictures you find. Some freaky old traditions here. So glad we have moved on.

    Liked by 5 people

  4. I am SPEECHLESS! And it takes alot to render me speechless. Women go through hell when carrying a baby and childbirth. So to add all of this extra nonsense is so upsetting. Now wonder women died during childbirth.
    And I can’t see women making any of these superstitions the nerve. Had to be the men implementing all of this. Great post but now I feel like slapping every man I see! LOL

    Liked by 6 people

    1. Haha, awwhh, don’t do that 😉 There are some strange ones in here aren’t there? But some must have has some “value” else they’d not have lasted for long 😉 Thanks for reading and I am glad you liked it even if it has brought out such an urge 😉 Hope your husband has quick reflexes!! 😉

      Liked by 3 people

  5. Happy Valentine’s Day. Great story and loving the artwork accompanying it, as always. I’ve had such a positive image of midwives that when my youngest sister told me she was carrying he first child, I told her that she needed to find a midwife. There was no question about it. And she loved that experience so now with her second pregnancy she has that same midwife.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Thank you! I am happy that you liked it!! Yes, in the days before trained midwives, the role of people who had experienced childbirth was crucial, particularly the healing skills of the wise woman of the locale. Thank goodness we have moved on from such hard days! 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Fascinating and so comprehensive! Exhaustive and exhausting! If I had to remember all those ‘superstitions’ in my childbearing years, I’d have opted for the nunnery. 🙂 What I especially enjoyed was the insistence of women and midwives presiding at births. If we still had as many dangers today for childbirth today, these ‘safeguards’ would be adopted without question. No doubt there are many similar ones in various parts of the world. The artwork you chose is absolutely beautiful! Thank you for this tribute to the women of Brittany and everywhere.

    Liked by 6 people

  7. Always a pleasure to read your historical traditions. The art is as usual wonderful. Even today child birth is not easy and dangerous to mother and child. As far as superstitions go some still are followed to this day. When I had my children my mother tied a red ribbon bow with a blue eye charm to the crib to ward of evil. 😊 I let her it was tradition.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. I am happy that you liked it!! Thank you!! Ha, a protective charm eh? That’s how such superstitions last so long; they become family traditions. Even if you don’t believe in their effectiveness. you kinda do it because its traditional 😉 Fascinating! Thank you for sharing that! Stay Well 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  8. That would be terrifying for childbirth way back then 😮 also same over here too.

    Now, is thankfully, WAY more advanced lol ❤️

    Mine were easy though except number 2 – he was too big – he coulda killed me lol ✌️

    The stars thing… well isn’t that still sort of a thing? Lol … as in astrology? Star signs… hey what’s your sign? 😘

    We also have beliefs about how a woman carries – and what sex the baby will be

    Or little backwoods superstitions lol … those kinda still float around

    I grew up with a saying of children born on certain days…

    Monday’s child is fair of face,
    Tuesdays child is full of grace,
    Wednesday’s child is full of woe,
    Thursday’s child has far to go,
    Friday’s child is loving and giving,
    Saturday’s child must work for a living,
    The child born on Sunday is fair, wise, good and gay.

    (And by “gay” they mean happy – is very old poem)

    As a mom… 🙌 I have little home remedies I swear really work 😘

    Tonight we talked about Mummy kisses … because when they were kids and they would get hurt … I would do mummy magic and do this thing and then kiss it – and somehow it was always fine after lol 😄❤️ I always remind them and they roll their eyes

    Tonight she said to me… no there was no mummy magic… so I said yes because MY kisses always made you smile and feel better – I had mummy magic 🪄❤️ 🙌

    Then they grew up 🤨🙄

    Hmm??? I do not understand your last paragraph and I read it a few times? What are you referencing with regards to adoption in France back then ? What is no hope to answer?

    Liked by 6 people

    1. Yes!! It is such an important moment in life that we all have these traditions which are remnants of much older superstitious beliefs. As you say, many are deeply embedded in our consciousness like the position of the stars or the days of the week.
      Ha, yes, there is definitely such a thing as Mummy Magic 🙂 🙂 I know it is the way of the world but isn’t it a little sad when our little ones grow up enough to not believe in some of the things they innocently did, like the Tooth Fairy or Santa 😉
      Thanks for the feedback on the last para. I shall rewrite it! What I was trying to say was that the notion of a fair for illegally adopting children at a church festival sounded so fantastic that, if true, it’s a pity we had no further details. 😉

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Yes – my daughter no longer innocently believes in magic lol … at 14 she now innocently thinks she knows everything about the world 🙄

        Oh I see ok. Wow yes! That is crazy!

        But … some couples so desperate for a child… In those cases – I can see that happening way back…

        And if there was an abundance of children? And the church could find someone who wanted them??

        Nowadays adoption is not easy and also expensive… of course, many more regulations too…

        Sadly so many wait to be adopted … and we have many children to be adopted in our own country – but I think maybe is less expensive or easier to get a child from another country – that seems to be done a lot??

        People will go to great lengths and do crazy things if they are desperate enough for a child.

        I can’t imagine a fair like that myself nowadays – but back in those days I could see it.

        It is a pity to not have all details though!

        Liked by 5 people

      2. Haha, yes, she is at that wonderful age where she has all the answers but not yet all of the questions 😉
        Yes, I would have thought adoption would have been legal back then but it was rare and mainly used as a way of ensuring land rights etc, rather than caring of children. The accounts of existence in the orphanages of old are truly harrowing 😦 Things may not be perfect today but they are a whole lot better than they were at least 😉

        Liked by 3 people

      3. Hahaha that is the perfect way of putting that 😄😄 … yes she has all the answers but none of the questions lol 😄❤️

        We have orphanage horror stories here also from way back.

        It is better – but like you say not perfect.

        Liked by 4 people

  9. Thanks, yet again, for a wonderfully interesting post regarding the role of folklore in the process of marriage, conception and childbirth; supported by such great paintings. Ah, the lure of superstition and how some linger to the present day. Best Regards.

    Liked by 6 people

    1. Thanks Goff! I am pleased that you enjoyed the read! Yes, you are right, traces of similar superstitions are still around today! I remember hearing about how a woman carried foretold the sex of the unborn and that suspending a wedding ring on a chain above the belly would also tell the same. 😉 Stay well! 🙂

      Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you very much for saying so!!! Ha, yes, a surprising number. Perhaps because people did not really move around much, certain regions retained their own unique traditions longer than they otherwise would have done? 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  10. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised at all by the customs and superstitions surrounding childbirth since even today people have some wild ideas. The one that made me laugh was if a newly cleansed woman first sees a dwarf she will lose her milk! Another great post Colin. Maggie

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Haha, agreed, given how difficult it was, I suppose its natural to discover a rich vein for childbirth superstitions 😉 Yes, that was an odd one but then so was the treatment for grieving mother to lose her milk 😦 I also love the “do not let a baby see its reflection” and wonder how an earth that came about! Thanks for reading and I am glad you liked it!! Stay well! 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Haha, thank you!! I am pleased that you liked it! Ha, yes, those two are quite strange aren’t they. The toad was not liked here so I presume that some of its malign power was thought able to be turned to some good? I have no idea what linked the mouse with bedwetting though. 😉 Stay safe! 🙂

      Liked by 4 people

  11. Another interesting post. I laughed at some of the old beliefs, like a woman wearing her husband’s trousers to ensure a painless delivery. The wreath after baptism was kind of sweet. But drinking a hare’s blood or sheep’s urine to prevent pregnancy? YUK! Glad we have modern birth control.:-)

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Thank you!!! 🙂 I try to not get too carried away but it can be hard knowing which bits to drop and which to retain. What’s more annoying is discovering a gem that I should have included and I try and slip those in at some stage 😉 Many thanks for your support – much appreciated!! 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  12. Such an interesting subject! It’s amazing how many superstitions there were in the old days around childbirth and babies. Beautiful collection of childbirth and motherhood related artwork.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Ooh, right, that is good to know! If ever I need a spell lifted, you can expect my call haha 😉 There is actually a web site that tells you the phase of the moon on any given day! I know this as I had great fun inputting various birthdays to see what sit right 🙂
      I am glad you had an enjoyable read!! Stay well! 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  13. Oh my !!!! There is so much of stories and superstition. It must have been extremely stressful to be women and pregnant in those days. Not that it is easy even now, but this gives a perspective. I loved the photos and artwork on this blog, they are just wonderful. Amazing post.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thank you very much!! I am glad that you liked them! 🙂 Yes, it must have been quite stressful! I wonder if some of these superstitions helped provide a sense of order? Whether any worked or not was not as important as whether folk thought they might. Hmm 😉

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I sometimes think it must have originally started to keep a sense of order, but morphed in to something stressful and superstitious. Not sure whether it did create any order but it must have caused a lot trauma

        Liked by 3 people

    1. Haha yes, more stresses added to an already fraught time! I was struck by the high rates of death amongst both mothers and babies! Hard living in those days 😦
      Thank you greatly, Holly! I am glad that you found it interesting to read!! 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I can’t imagine how hard life was back then. All very natural for them as it is for us now when future generations will probably say how bad we had it ( not to mention the pandemic. ) 🌻

        Liked by 4 people

    1. Thank you!! I am very glad that you enjoyed the read!! They certainly did things differently in the past but then if they helped young mothers get through the ordeal then that’s all that matters. 🙂 Stay safe! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  14. You did it again today I learnt that thank heavens I was born in this century. It really is amazing any woman survived . You are a treasure trove of historical information. Congratulations. I keenly await your next lesson. Thank you again for all your skills . 😊😊

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ha, yes. for all its faults there is much to commend this century over others 😉 I am glad that you liked the post and appreciate you saying so, thank you very much indeed!!! Stay safe! 🙂 🙂


    1. Haha, yes although, to be fair, not all applied in each locality here but still, a staggering number of things to be aware of 😉 You are right but I think a draft of sheep urine would be a pretty effective turn-off 😉 Thank you so much for reading and liking this post!! Stay safe! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I was torn between this post and prayers and pancakes. Both of them bring back memories. The terrible sadness of the dead baby. Then the gaiety of the pancakes, cooked over an open fire. My mother was a whizz at tossing
        pancakes, not so much my Dad! Such lovely postings. Thank you.

        Liked by 3 people

      2. I am very pleased that you enjoyed both posts Gwen! Thank you taking the time to read them! 🙂 I hope only happy memories were brought to mind!
        One thing I noted in the old paintings was how often a skillet or long-handled pan was used. Makes me wonder how ancient are the flipping pancakes traditions? Stay well! 🙂


  15. Such interesting stories you tell. Our African nanny is pregnant. She wanted a cup of earth on unused land to eat to help with the birth. We live in a city. We told her we will pray hard. We will. But eating earth is not going to help at all. Aparently it is an ancient tradition in Zimbabwe. Her baby is due tomorrow. We pray for an easy birth. And we shall welcome the new boy into our lives and he too will become our family.
    Thank you also for always liking my far less interesting blogs. Much love. Sasha/Sonya.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so very much for saying so! I am very pleased that you like my posts and appreciate you reading them! 🙂
      Eating earth? I have heard of that before but not in relation to the world of today. Has she said why? Is it symbolic of the land. sympathetic magic or an old custom derived from helping the mother cope with the pain? Hope that it all goes well tomorrow!!
      And your are very welcome – I enjoy your writings!! Love & light always 🙂


      1. I understood that it was to assure an easy birth. The importance was that the land was free and not farmed or used in any way. I shall ask more questions when she comes home wit her new baby.

        Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Create your website with
Get started
%d bloggers like this: