Sunday, January 26, 2014

... on Birth and Baptism and Midwives and Middle Ages

Video commented on:
Mad Man In A Box : Medieval Lives Birth, Marriage, Death Episode 1 A Good Birth
I (deleted)
Comparison with Helen Castor knowing the Pastons and myself knowing the people whose correspondence I grew up with (CSL, JRRT)
"That knowledge can't have helped Margaret Paston's nerves as she was waiting to deliver her first child ..."

Indeed it can. Catholics train themselves to face suffering in certain ways, including fasting (staying away from food till three pm and eating just once a full meal on fast days = weekdays in Lent, Fridays and Saturdays in Advent ... and a few more)
"The people who studied medicine were themselves clerics" ...

At least not priests or priest candidates.

And no, physicians were not required to vow celibacy or to stay celibate.

They might have been required to do it while studying, though ...

[Theologians preparing for priesthood were the main students at universities]

Castor and Rawcliffe are saying that lots of physicians were priests. I think it was forbidden in canon law for a practising physician to be a priest - or was that surgeons I was thinking of?

So, clergy thought women were bad luck during menstruation, but ordinary people would not have ideas like this?

Sorry, my mother is not a priest but ... and there are populations where this view is very strong among people who are not clergy - some of them like Jews (or Moslems too?) do not even have unmarried clergy at all.

Rawcliffe reminds me of Ginzburg's idea that the miller with an idea about a world without God in which all life arises through spontaneous generation (you know what flies and maggots and such appearing in certain matters like Corsican cheese were supposed to come from until Pasteur proved they came from eggs laid by flies) who was tried by the Inquisition represented an Atheism very current among ordinary people (as now), whereas Christianity was mainly believed by the clergy. Plus some minoritarian nonclergy who happened to be weakminded enough to get influenced, no doubt.

No. Suppose a man from the Middle Ages came to visit us. He might think that believing dinosaurs lived Milllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllions of years ago was only done by the odd and heretical clergymen called scientists, but of course ordinary people knew that the world was created 5199 before Christ!

They might start to ask themselves if this was really so, when reflecting on the fact that people were agreeing that scientists should be paid for being scientists. You usually do not pay people to pretend believing the tooth fairy when you do not do so.

Plus of course, ideas about bad luck or good luck were then as now less predominant among clergy who had been taught to reject divination and superstition.
If being pregnant at thirteen wasn't terrifying enough ... why should it be?

It is now that it can be terrifying with modernity telling the young mother "you can't have a child when you are one yourself".

Twelve was indeed the earliest age in which a girl could be married according to canon law.* Fourteen was the age for boys. In certain classes of society they could however have an incentive to wait - like waiting till 24 when a craftsman could at the earliest be master instead of journeyman or knight instead of esquire.

It was also canon law that a girl who was not yet ready for consummation physically was not really juridically unrevocably married before she was so. Some medieval so called divorce procedures where annulations where it was claimed the bride was not yet mature enough at marriage, I should think.

St Bridget was married at thirteen but her husband waited one year before consummation. Maturity came slower in Nordic countries before electric light and imported lemons and oranges and so.

[*I can say "was" because with dubious validity of the decision the age limits were raised two years for each sex during the XXth C - at the beginning of which Spain still had 14/12, which had been the Roman limit even before Christianity. Italy had however 18/18, which was a liberal and masonic idea - and a King that was excommunicated and whose successors remained so till 1929.]

Margaret never conceived again.

It is true that childbirth at thirteen is not as good as waiting till seventeen from the p o v of avoiding pains. On the other hand waiting till thirty is even worse (note that my mother studied medicine and would have specialised on gynaecology if that had not involved abortions these days - and that she often informed me about such matters while I was younger).

Her nine year old daughter ... now, English secular law, at the time, allowed earlier marriages than the Church. And continued to do so for some centuries after the Reformation and the breaking away from Rome and thus Trent. A Catholic country after Trent could hardly have kept such a legislation in teeth of the Canon law.
I am pretty sure the midwife of the Paston lady must by now be in Heaven. She was coming even if she had to be pushed in a barrow. Not very much time in Purgatory for her, if any at all, I'd say!

Midwives had been important far before Christian times, Socrates' mother was a midwife.
The miracles that WERE BELIEVED TO have happened by the intercession of St Thomas Becket?

Where is your reserve?

On the happenings, the miraculousness or the intercession behind it?

Obviously, the Reformation started very soon attacking all three ... while the Catholic Church to this day continues to record miracles. As per the promise of Christ to His Church.

[Later:] About the relics stolen at Reformation:

"Rumour had it they were still working miracles in storage"

I suppose the Reformation stopped much of the formal process of documentation of miracles. As already said, they were miracle haters and miracle deniers.
Ten days later their child was dead? He had been baptised at the latest two days before that, right?
Burying woman and child intact?

Well, in some cases it would be excused by physical difficulty of removal, I think.
"Today we think of baptism as ..." - a chance to remove original sin and to open Heaven to a soul, which could depart earlier than asking for baptism of own will. If we are Catholic. Check that out on Catholic Forums.
"It was the only time a woman could ever administer a sacrament"

Not so. A woman is always a layman, never a priest. But two sacraments need no priests to be administered: baptism and marriage.

A solemn baptism you have had time to prepare is administered by at least a deacon. In an emergency (threat of very early death by midwives, as you mention, but also others, like prolonged isolation from the Church, threat of being martyred before getting baptism and so on) laymen can and should baptise.

Marriage is ONLY administred as a sacrament by laymen and always by two of them, one of each sex.

Sacramental marriage takes place when two baptised persons of obviously opposite sex licitly marry each other, and the constituent acts are first of all the "I do" and then the consummation of it. In Church the priest gives a blessing, which is not a sacrament itself but a sacramental annexed to marriage.

Note that this is the Roman Catholic understanding, you can read it up well before Trent in St Thomas Aquinas (whose handwriting was of same ductus as the Paston family's or even a bit more quick and simplified, but there are printed versions as well). Greek Orthodox disagree and say the marriage sacrament is the blessing of the priest.
The Scientific Revolution ... was more than a century away?

When it comes to birth actually several ones. Semmelweiss noted in XIXth C. that it was safer to be delivered by midwives than by doctors - because the latter came from obductions.

[Not abductions with an A, but in Swedish the word for AUTOPSY is obduction. See below.]

His try to make it safer to be delivered by a physician led him to captivity and premature death (by an infected wound) in the Mental Hospital of Steinhof.

The comfort of saints and relics was gone forever ... no. The Reformation is not an universal that happened everywhere. You are forgetting the Catholic and the Orthodox worlds.
Saraleah Sands
Hello Hans, for english speaking readers we better clarify what you mean with "obductions". The english word you were looking for is Autopsy, which is called Obduktion in danish. English readers would mistake "obductions" for abductions which is another kettle of fish entirely. I hope this was helpful to english readers. I did not in any way intend to criticize your very informative and relevant info on Semmelweiss. I hope you forgive a swedish girl interfering with danish language and english translations :)
Hans-Georg Lundahl
+Saraleah Sands
I am actually Swedish myself, and yes, obductions would be either Scandinavian language or for that matter probably Norwegian too, where there are other words for abductions with an A.

I meant autopsies, of course!

No comments: