What is kuvada, or Why men "got pregnant" and " gave birth»

In modern anthropology, the term "kuvada" refers to special ritual actions performed by a man when his partner is pregnant or giving birth. During the kuvada, representatives of the stronger sex radically change their lifestyle and even sometimes imitate pregnancy themselves. Now this phenomenon is rare, mainly among peoples who have preserved pagan beliefs, but in the old days the ritual was widespread everywhere, including in Europe.

What is kuvada, or Why men "got pregnant" and " gave birth»

The word "couvade" comes from the French language, in which it literally means "hatching eggs". In France, this rite has existed for many centuries, mainly among the Basques who inhabit the southwestern part of the country. Now the inhabitants of the Pyrenees have forgotten about it and the mention of kuvada can only be heard in old Basque fairy tales and songs.

So if you want to get to know the men who practice kuvada, you will have to go to South America or Southeast Asia, where several tribes continue to adhere to the traditions of their ancestors. Despite the fact that ritual pregnancy is widely forgotten, some funny customs associated with it exist in different parts of the world, including among the peoples inhabiting Siberia and Pomerania.

There are many different forms of kuvada, ranging from soft, almost symbolic, to hard extreme forms. The simplest and most common version of the ritual can be called food bans imposed on the future father while his wife is carrying a child. There are also prohibitions on the participation of the husbands of pregnant women in some agricultural work.

What is kuvada, or Why men "got pregnant" and " gave birth»

Such a kuvada can still be found in India, in the Travancore region. There, men are not allowed to do agricultural work for seven days after giving birth to their spouses and eat only fruit. A hundred years ago, among the Eskimos of Greenland, men were forbidden to hunt and fish from a boat for several weeks if a newborn was expected in their family.

The least troublesome type of kuvada for the stronger sex was the custom of depicting pain during childbirth and demanding comfort, gifts and treats from others. So the guys of some African and South American tribes "helped" their wives to give birth.

What is kuvada, or Why men "got pregnant" and " gave birth»

Approximately the same behavior of men among the peoples of the northern coast of the Black Sea in the era of antiquity looked like. Apollonius of Rhodes in his poem "Argonautica" wrote about kuvada the following:

In the Smolensk province, they went even further. There, a man during the birth of his wife climbed on the floor of the bed, and the midwife tied a string to his genitals. During labor pains, she pulled it, thereby causing the future father pain. The Old Believers-bespopovtsev from the upper reaches of the Kama River already in the 20th century, there was a custom to put on a man some part of the clothes of a woman in labor, in order to magically convey to her husband part of her pain.

What is kuvada, or Why men "got pregnant" and " gave birth»

Childbirth in the Russian village

The same Old Believers sometimes attracted random guests to the kuvada, who were not quite happy to unwittingly participate in the rite. In 2000, ethnographers recorded the story of a man who was forced to stay overnight in a house where a woman was about to give birth.

In order to pass on some of her agony to the guest, the hosts mixed a laxative into the guest's food, which made him spend the next day sitting under the bushes rather than walking. This was done because the woman in labor did not have a husband and a stranger who was not part of the family had to take part in the kuvada. It was, by the way,in the 20th century, and not in the Middle Ages. This rite was called by the Old Believers "robyachy torments".

The most radical manifestation of kuvada can be considered a complete imitation by a man of the behavior of a pregnant woman, a woman in labor and a young mother. The men complained of feeling unwell, went to bed next to the baby, and simulated breast-feeding.

What is kuvada, or Why men "got pregnant" and " gave birth»

A similar rite was practiced by the Indians of the Caribbean Islands. There, a man 5 days after the birth of his wife lay with the baby next to him and completely abstained from eating and drinking. Then he fortified himself for 5 days only with mabi, a local beer made from the fermented bark of the kolubrin tree. This was followed by 30 days when the cassava fruit was allowed to be added to the mabi, and for 41 days the kuvada ended with a traumatic ritual.

As a sign of the completion of a kind of fast, the family and friends of the newly-made father scratched his skin with sharp fangs of animals and rubbed hot pepper into the wounds. It was forbidden to wash off the ritual composition, so you can imagine what the parent felt.

The study of kuvada began relatively late — in the second half of the 19th century. Ethnographers put forward many hypotheses about the origin of this custom, but could not come to a common solution. In the earliest theories, the ritual was called a relic of matriarchy, born at the time of the transition to patriarchy.

What is kuvada, or Why men "got pregnant" and " gave birth»

According to pundits, men, imitating pregnancy and childbirth, reproduced the typical matriarchal logic of inheritance of the family on the maternal line. Previously, when promiscuity reigned in society, it was almost impossible to establish paternity and kinship was determined by the female line. It was believed that the kuvada was a relic of the times when children had mothers, but no one cared about fatherhood. Later, this theory was rejected as far-fetched and anti-scientific.

Relatively recently, kuvada began to be interpreted as the practice of redistributing power. In a patriarchal society, procreation humiliates men who are used to being the first in everything. Thus, the strong half tries to return the "status quo" and prove that they are no worse than mothers.

What is kuvada, or Why men "got pregnant" and " gave birth»

One way or another, but the kuvada, which has existed for thousands of years, sometimes manifests itself in an inexplicable way in modern families. It is known that in the Western world, up to 40% of men experience discomfort and even pain when their partner gives birth. Even distances do not affect this phenomenon — a husband and wife can be in different hemispheres, but at the same time feel such a mystical connection. There are also cases of postpartum depression in men, which is also difficult to explain.

Keywords: Pain | Wife | Research | Infant | Husband | Tribes | Ritual | Childbirth | Paganism

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