Medieval women cheated on virginity tests

In the 12th century, the doctor Trotta of Salerno sounded the alarm. I have discovered that women of marriageable age sometimes hide a great secret: they are no longer virgins.

in this book De passionibus mulierum curandarum (On Gynecology) I listed a number of methods for exposing deception. Trotta recommended the use of charcoal and smoke, because virginity was a serious issue in medieval Europe.

The bride and groom’s family puts their reputations on the line when their children get married. The higher the family’s rank, the more important virginity was.

When there were rumors that a young lady had tarnished her honor, she had to do her best to prove her virginity. Like leeches or guts.

Shame lasts forever

When a medieval woman was no longer a virgin, her value in the marriage market fell dramatically and brought shame to her family. According to the French chronicle of the Hundred Years’ War, Bavarian Duke Stephen the Great was also afraid that his daughter would fail a virginity test for the French court:

She must pass a test before she can marry the king. I would be very upset if I sent my daughter to France and came back. If the French king did not want her, she would bear the disgrace for the rest of her life.

Virginity was also of great importance to the church as evidence that the woman was pious. The nobles and wealthy merchants were primarily concerned with preventing illegitimate children.

If the bride’s virginity was not intact before the wedding night, it is possible that a stranger may have conceived her at some point. This fear spread throughout society, and eventually the poor farmers refused to marry a sexually experienced woman.

Anyone who can read can find advice from the Italian doctor Niccol Falcucci. He advised mixing crushed charcoal with water and letting the bride drink it. If she has to urinate right away, she is no longer a virgin.

If that doesn’t work, you can expose the woman to the smoke of burning sorrel leaves, according to Falcucci. When she paled, her virginity was intact.

You can also check the sheet for blood stains after the wedding night. If the bride bled, it was said that she was a virgin.

But you had to beware of cheating, Doctor William warned of Salicito. According to him, some women tried to cover up their lost virginity by placing bloodied pigeon guts on their bodies on the night of the wedding.

“They exploded during the climax,” Willem wrote.

leeches make stains

Furthermore, a shrewd bride can plan the wedding night to coincide with her menstruation, said William Salecito. The family was able to prevent this by counting the days, but another trick was more difficult to spot, according to doctor Trotta van Salerno.

In her medical work De passionibus mulierum curandarum She wrote that fallen women often put a leech on one of their blades. And when they removed it again, a crust formed that ruptured during intercourse. Then I bled a little.

But it wasn’t only women who really sinned who resorted to deception. In the Middle Ages, the virginal test usually consisted of looking inside the vagina to see if the hymen was intact.

It was not until the 20th century that the hymen was generally known to be a myth. Women only have a mucous membrane around the entrance to the vagina.

But in the Middle Ages, true virgins could be destroyed if there was no hymen to be seen. They could only hope to prove their innocence through a large-scale “sieve test”.

For centuries, the sieve was such an important symbol of virginity that the unmarried English Queen Elizabeth I photographed it with him in 1583.

The test stemmed from a strange myth that a virgin could stop running water.

The woman had to hold a sieve in her hands, into which water was poured. If the water did not pass, she was a virgin. A girl who wanted to sabotage the test brought her own sieves, which she smeared with the clear fat of sheep’s wool. This made the sieve watertight, and its reputation was saved.

Even after the Middle Ages, virginity tests were still used. Sources indicate that plastic testing was still used in Denmark in the mid-19th century. Today, virginity is still tested in the cultures of the Middle East, India, and parts of the Far East.

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