15 Ancient Childbirth Myths That'll Make You Glad You're a Mom Now

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  • Pretty Corny


    Image via Ville Pohjanheimo/Flickr


    Nowadays, women trying to induce labor at home might try eating something spicy or walking up and down stairs. Back in ancient Egypt, women were willing to resort to more, er, drastic measures, like inserting ground corn or honey-soaked hemp into their vaginas. (Wouldn't an ear of corn have been a bit less messy?)

  • Shoe In


    Image via Trinity Lancaster/Flickr

    We've heard of drinking champagne out of a stiletto, but this Syrian superstition is decidedly less glamorous: To ensure a speedy delivery, pregnant women were told to drink pure spring water out of the father's right shoe.

  • Clean Sweep


    Image via Victoria Imeson/Flickr

    Ancient Roman midwives were worried about more than dirt and debris when they swept up birthing chambers; namely, evil spirits, whom they sought to drive away by using willow brooms to sweep the doorways. (Following successful deliveries, brooms were then taken apart and the pieces scattered.) Would a Swiffer work?

    More from The Stir: 9 Celebrity Moms Who Ate Their Own Placenta

  • Ghostbusters


    Image via little*star/Flickr

    You know what's scarier than ghosts? Homeless ghosts, who apparently used to hang around laboring moms in ancient China in the hopes of possessing new babies' bodies. Luckily, all it took to scare these pushy phantoms away was to light a bunch of red candles in the birthing chamber. Phew!

  • Fairy Tales


    Image via Siona Karen/Flickr

    Anybody who's seen Sleeping Beauty knows that fairies love nothing better than to attend a birth. Anybody who's seen Sleeping Beauty also knows that you don't want those fairies on your bad side, which is why women in Spain used to put dishes of honey out as an offering to the winged creatures.

  • Nevermore


    Image via Kevin Dooley/Flickr

    Nowadays, (some) new moms eat their placentas for good health; Native American (Kwakiutl) women fed the afterbirth to ravens to ensure that their babies would develop psychic powers. (The latter sounds almost more appealing, doesn't it?)

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  • A Horse of Course


    Image via joneser005/Flickr

    Malevolent fairies were also apparently a major concern in long-ago Ireland, where new moms would drive away sprites intent on stealing their babies by filling a bag with old horseshoe nails, hen manure, and salt and nailing it to the wall (also using an old horseshoe nail). Um, that would drive most things away!

  • Snake Eyes


    Image via Eric Bégin/Flickr

    Every laboring mom wants a basket of snakes by her bedside, right? 'Cause that's what women in ancient China got, as husbands were expected to gather a basket of snakes for the birthing chamber, then feed them the afterbirth and release them in an effort to win the Snake Spirit's blessings. 

  • Secret Square


    Image via Marco Fedele/Flickr

    Kind of like carrying around a prenatal to-do list (but not), according to Anglo-Saxon tradition, pregnant women wore a leather bag or metal case containing a square of parchment with a series of letters known as the SATOR magic square for protection. (The same square was used throughout Europe and Britain for everything from fire control to livestock care.) 

    More from The Stir: 25 Pregnancy Beliefs from Around the World

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