The Elizabethan People

By Henry Thew Stephenson | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XI
BIRTH -- BAPTISM -- MARRIAGE -- DEATH

MANY were the superstitious rites pertaining to birth, marriage, and death. The Elizabethans talked freely and without shame among themselves in a manner that has gone out of vogue in our more artificial age -- hence it is not surprising that many of their superstitions related to the time preceding birth. Certain features of the body indicated the likelihood of children. An oily palm was thought to be a fruitful prognostication. A child got when drunk was certain to be a girl. An affectionate husband was likely to suffer from toothache during his wife's pregnancy. Pregnant women and women in childbed were especially liable to be stolen by fairies either to nurse the fairy children or to nurse human children who had been stolen by the woodland folk. We are told that a piece of bread, or iron, or the Bible put in the bed in the time of labour was a protection against the malice of the fairies. The knowledge that ones wife was with child was often the occasion for building a bonfire in celebration of the fact.

Birth was also commemorated by the building

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