Welcome to , invitee authors, Karen Harris and Lori Caskey-Sigety! Harris together with Caskey-Sigety receive got of late penned a novel non-fiction book, The Medieval Vagina: An Hysterical and Historical Look at All Things Vaginal During the Middle Ages, now available on Amazon. Please relish their fascinating article–guaranteed to entertain!
Medieval Virginity Testing together with Virginity Restoration
In the Middle Ages, virginity was a sought-after commodity, primarily because it was the surest method to guarantee paternity. The exclusively means to brand absolutely certainly that a tike born to a marriage–a tike who would inherit belongings from his father–is a legitimate heir was to bed a virgin bride. Thus a high value was placed on virginity, making it a commodity of sorts. As alongside all things, 1 time a value is assigned an object, people volition become to bully lengths to evidence its authenticity together with to regain it if it is lost. Such was the instance alongside medieval virginity.
A unique characteristic of the vagina is that it comes hermetically sealed. For centuries, that seal, the hymen, has been the tangible proof of virginity. An intact hymen, or virgo intacta, offers evidence to the manly someone block of gild (the clergy, the courts, the crown, fathers, together with time to come husbands…all the ones who receive got assigned a high monetary value to virginity) that determined its presence.
The most obvious means to verify a woman’s virginity was to inspect the hymen. While this was commonplace inwards the Middle Ages, it was non infallible. Some women are born without hymens together with others rupture theirs prematurely doing the strenuous activities that comprised women’s function inwards the medieval era. It vicious to midwives to hit hymen inspections. Some midwives, demonstrating the bonds of sisterhood, declared a adult woman to hold upwards a virgo intacta when she clearly wasn’t. But most midwives were honest inwards their appraisal together with their findings served to, inwards a sense, throw their swain woman someone nether the medieval bus. Why would they hit this? The pollex of oppression nether which medieval women lived was so large, so omnipresent, so engrained inwards society, that most women believed the cultural rhetoric that labeled females every bit wicked, untrustworthy, inferior, together with dishonest. To “fake” her findings to aid some other adult woman salve expression upwards would hold upwards a bold together with courageous motion for a medieval adult woman who lived her whole alive believing she belonged inwards the second-rate, subservient role.
Most often, however, the absolute proof of the presence of virginity occurred every bit it was lost. Honeymoon sheets streaked alongside blood was all the evidence a bridegroom needed to verify virginity. In fact, the bloody sheets were sometimes snatched from the bed together with shown around to others every bit evidence of nuptials black purity. Katherine of Aragon, legend says, kept her blood-stained honeymoon bedding for years together with presented them to the courtroom during the annulment instance brought against her past times Henry VIII. Yes, the spilling of virginal blood was proof of purity, but this, too, could hold upwards faked.
It wasn’t every bit good hard for a clever, yet unclean bride to larn a vial of blood. Most medieval households had adjoining farms together with animals were routinely butchered for dinner. H5N1 fleck of chicken blood could easily hold upwards hidden inwards a slice of jewelry together with spilled on to the sheets nether the embrace of darkness.
The first-night’s blood together with the hymen inspection were tangible, medically-based ways to ascertain virginal status, however, equal validity was granted to spiritual together with folkloric virginity tests. Virgins, it was believed, were endowed alongside magical powers together with could repose swarming bees, tame wild animals, concur H2O inwards their hands, together with command the urge to urinate, amid other things. Medieval medical books oftentimes included references to this final myth. To run into if a maiden was really a virgin, the medical books advised, receive got the adult woman drinkable large amounts of a diuretic. If she was able to refrain from visiting the lilliputian girls’ room, together with then she was, indeed, a virgin. But tinkling meant she was lying nigh her sexual experience. These same medical tomes also suggested a unopen inspection of woman’s urine every bit some other means of verifying virginity. H5N1 pee sample that was crystal clear could exclusively come upwards from a virgin.
This connector betwixt peeing together with virginity is closely connected to 1 of the other folkloric legends…virgins holding running H2O inwards their hands. One mutual means to examination a maiden’s virginity condition was to mitt her a sieve together with run into if, inwards her pure together with virginal hands, it would concur water. H5N1 leaky sieve was akin to a leaky bladder together with signified a sullied maiden. Anecdotal evidence tells us that women could “cheat” the sieve examination past times only coating the within of the sieve alongside lanoline. This metaphor of the water-tight sieve was so prevalent inwards the Middle Ages that it tin hold upwards seen inwards the symbolism of the fine art together with literature of the time. The famous 1579 icon of Queen Elizabeth, the Virgin Queen, shows her holding a sieve, together with Cesare Ripa’s 1611 woodcut example depicts the personification of Chastity, fighting off Cupid alongside 1 mitt piece holding a sieve inwards the other.
If the mightiness to concur her fluid was a hallmark of a virgin, the passing of H2O inwards full general – urine, tears, H2O – all seemed to indicate to a sinful woman. The metaphor extended to include non exclusively actual fluid, but verbal fluid every bit well. H5N1 talkative, gossipy adult woman became synonymous alongside loose morals; later all, if she easily opened 1 orifice, she would opened upwards them all. Here, I am reminded of Chaucer’s Wife of Bath, who rambles on together with on inwards her lengthy Prologue earlier she fifty-fifty gets around to telling her tale.
Although virginity was such a valued commodity inwards the medieval era, it was non a renewable resource. Once it is gone, it is gone forever, for every bit St. Jerome noted inwards his Letter to Eustochium, “Although God is able to hit anything, He cannot heighten a virgin later she has been defiled.” Of course, his words did zilch to discourage women, either those witting of the economical value of virginity or ones attempting to erase a bad determination or two, from trying.
Much similar virginity testing, virginity restoration techniques ran the gamut from medically-based remedies together with potions to prayers, incantations, together with pseudo-scientific quackery. Again nosotros tin await at medieval medical books together with other texts to run into directions for potions together with remedies to restore virginity. One recipe said to boil together myrtle leaves together with nettles without prickles inwards H2O together with then the adult woman should usage this mixture to launder her feminine parts every morn together with eve for nine days to restore her virginity. If 1 needed quicker results, some other medical mass advised placing basis upwards nutmeg inwards the vagina, together with straight off virginity would return. Within the literary industrial plant of several people, including Ovid, Samual Pepys, John Wilmot, together with John Baptista Porta, at that spot are references to the usage of alum H2O every bit a virginity restorer. Alum H2O is a chemic chemical compound of hydrated potassium aluminum sulfate used to tan leather together with pickle meats together with gear upwards the dye inwards wool. H5N1 fundamental belongings of alum H2O is that it is an astringent. It shrinks together with tightens skin. So used inwards the vaginal area, alum H2O could shrink the tissue, giving the illusion of virginity, without really replacing the hymen.
Fumigation was a mutual medical handling selection inwards the Middle Ages so it is non surprising that some virginity restoration techniques made usage of fumigators. Vessels containing H2O mixed alongside some variety of herbal substance, oftentimes foul smelling ones, were heated over opened upwards fires until steam was produced. The steam was funneled through a underground inserted into a fallen woman’s vagina so the restorative properties of the herbs together with steam could repair the ruptured hymen. Even to a greater extent than awkward was the usage of perfumed resin, suppositories together with rings that were inserted into the vagina of medieval women. These devices acted similar a surrogate hymen, giving resistance during sexual penetration together with thus, tricking the partner into thinking he was bedding a virgo intacta.
Other virginity restoration techniques concerned the spiritual, rather than the physical. In the Penitential of Finnian, written inwards the early on years of the Middle Ages (525-550), a penance is offered every bit a means to reclaim absent virginity. This is also a lengthy process, for, “She must alive for 6 years on breadstuff together with H2O together with inwards the 7th year, she shall hold upwards joined to the alter; together with them nosotros tell her crown tin hold upwards restored together with she may don a white robe together with hold upwards pronounced a virgin.”
In keeping alongside her name, the Virgin Mary made appearances inwards numerous medieval texts every bit a virginity doctor. Stories abound nigh helpless maidens whose virginity was taken past times force, but the Virgin Mary would seem together with assure the victims that their virginity would hold upwards restored, fifty-fifty if a tike was born. Sometimes, the maiden didn’t demand to hold upwards the victim of a rape for the Virgin Mary to brand her a born-again virgin…she precisely needed to experience really guilty nigh giving into the fleshly temptation.
What nosotros know nigh medieval virginity is that it had less to hit alongside values together with morals, together with to a greater extent than to hit alongside ownership together with trust. The sexual condition of a medieval adult woman was real much a populace affair because her virginity, so they idea inwards the Middle Ages, was non hers to own. Rather, a woman’s intact hymen was “owned” past times a man, either her begetter or her husband. Verifying virginity was the exclusively means that a time to come hubby could experience confident that his bride was pure because only bespeak her nigh her past times infidelities was unheard of. Women were eyed alongside suspicion inwards medieval times together with it was mutual noesis that all women were prone to lying together with easily tempted past times carnal desires. Coupling that mental attitude alongside the economical together with spiritual value of virginity together with it is no wonder that an experienced lady sought to reclaim her most valued asset, her virginity, together with the reputation that came along alongside it.
Karen Harris is a college teacher past times solar daytime together with a author past times night. Writing offers Karen a adventure to dabble inwards her other areas of interest, including history together with science. She has written numerous freelance articles together with characteristic stories for publication. She is a hobby farmer, environmental volunteer, together with advocate for volunteer firefighters.
Lori Caskey-Sigety started writing inwards 1991. She hasn’t stopped. Her writing includes blogs, mass reviews, essays, lyrics, plays, poems, together with puppet shows. Lori has authored 2 poesy books, together with her other industrial plant receive got appeared inwards Wildfire Magazine, Orlo, Indiana Libraries, together with Public Libraries. She is an artist, college instructor, librarian, together with musician.
In the Middle Ages much similar today, the vagina conjured fearfulness together with repulsion, yet it held an undeniable allure. In the Medieval Vagina, the authors explore this paradox piece unearthing medieval myths, attitudes together with contradictions surrounding this uniquely feminine together with deeply mysterious organ.
What euphemisms did medieval people receive got for the vagina? Did medieval women usage nascency control? How was rape viewed inwards the Middle Ages? How was the vagina incorporated into literature, poetry, music, together with art? How did medieval women create out alongside menstruation? The Medieval Vagina delves into these topics, together with others, piece introducing the reader to a collection of fascinating medieval women – Pope Joan, Lady Frances Howard, Margery Kempe, Sister Benedetta Carlini, together with Chaucer’s Wife of Bath – who all shaped our sentiment of the medieval vagina.
The Medieval Vagina takes a quick-paced, humorous peek into the medieval world; a fourth dimension when religious ascendance combined alongside newly emerging scientific discipline together with medicine, classic literature, together with folklore to cast a deeply patriarchal society. It may receive got been a man’s world, but the vagina triumphed over oppression together with misogyny.