Psychology and History of Swaddling: Part Two: The Abolishment of Swaddling from the 16th Century until Today

By Frenken, Ralph | The Journal of Psychohistory, Winter 2012 | Go to article overview

Psychology and History of Swaddling: Part Two: The Abolishment of Swaddling from the 16th Century until Today


Frenken, Ralph, The Journal of Psychohistory


I am tied down; I want to raise my arms, but I cannot do it, and I wail and weep.

- Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy, First Recollections, 1878

SWADDLING IN THE MODERN ERA

In all of Europe swaddling was probably common in Early Modern Times. A woodcut of 1555 (on next page) shows swaddling in the Scandinavian area. The Swedish peasants swaddled their babies, put them into baskets, lashed them and pulled them up in trees.1 The peasants assumed that otherwise serpents would creep into the mouths of their babies, like the accompanying text of the author, catholic Swedish bishop Olaus Magnus (1490-1557), states.

Of course, the writing does not deal with real dangers by serpents, but with superstitious conceptions. The evil often came embodied by serpents or terrible creatures out of the mouth of witches or bad children but before the evil must have intruded somehow into the body.2 Gorer writes of comparable conceptions of the Russian peasants of the 19th century: They were afraid that the devil intrudes by the mouth into the body.3 Still in 1850 the herpetologist Arnold Adolph Berthold studied such assumptions by examining dying amphibians and reptiles in bodywarm water without air.4 He demonstrated that the animals cannot survive in the environment of a human stomach. This superstition may have resulted from the elimination of tapeworms and other parasites, which one perhaps regarded as serpents.

All this shows that the swaddling practice was connected with fears and magical fantasies. These fantasies obviously were connected with projections on the babies. They were on the one hand the place where the evil could intrude, thus they could become themselves dangerous. On the other hand they were victims of the evil, of the devil. These two fantasy conceptions made babies ambivalent creatures: The practice of swaddling appears thus again as a magic ritual action in order to ban these two dangers. The baby was swaddled because it was potentially dangerous, and it was pulled up into the trees in order to protect it. This led to fantastic distortions of the child's image. DeMause presented the concept of the "projective care" in 1974.5 In contrast to the genuine care, which is based on empathy, it comes with the projective care in a first step to the projection of parental fantasies onto the child. In a second step for the now distorted phantasm care is carried out. This concept seems to supply a plausible explanation for swaddling and pulling up into the trees. These projections are facilitated, of course, by the deeply magical conception of the world of late medieval and early modern Europe. Although obviously a certain insight into the physical dysfunctionality of swaddling was also in historically earlier epochs is possible, this did not lead over centuries to an elaborated theoretical or pragmatic criticism of swaddling. Nevertheless, there was a kind of subliminal discussion with this topic in the symbolic-religious and artistic area, as for instance a painting of the 17th century shows densely (above).

The Franciscan Sebastien de Senlis used 1640 the topic of painful swaddling of children literarily:

If you look at these little chubby Babes in the arms of their nurses, and who are wrapped in their little swaddling cloths, wouldn't you say upon seeing them that they are Prisoners who are garrotted in this manner for their very great crimes: they are however young Slaves, whom the sins of their fathers cause to be tied in bonds which are no less painful for being invisible, and who need a Liberator.6

The experience of being swaddled, which seems possibly distant to us today, was a substantial component of the psyches of historical persons and formed accordingly the associated historical mentality. Swaddling probably promoted a varying between passivity and activity and the occupation with (visual) fantasies. Possibly by leading to an emotional deprivation, swaddling may have made necessary the search for idealized objects and over-cathected religious phantasies. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Psychology and History of Swaddling: Part Two: The Abolishment of Swaddling from the 16th Century until Today
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.