medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture

and, what about that business of "bundling" practiced in colonial New

Bundling was an Old English custom exported to the colonies. Back here, it
was a perfectly acceptable and moral form of courtship in a peasant society
where heating was minimal and privacy hard to find.

It took place under the girl's family roof with the approval of her parents.

If a couple wished to 'date' (as I believe is the late 20th C term)
seriously, as a prelude to marriage, they were permitted to go to bed
together. There usually only was one bed in the peasant cottage (possibly in
the loft), so this was a comparatively comfortable and private place. The
approving mother ensured that her daughter was fully dressed and had her
garments tied tightly around her knees and / or her ankles before the young
man (also fully clad) was allowed to join her beneath the blankets.
Sometimes as an extra precaution, a bolster was fixed lengthwise down the
middle of the bed to keep the lower parts of the couple from coming into
contact. They were then left alone. i.e. the sniggering younger siblings
were booted out of earshot. If the couple liked each other as a result of
this encounter, the marriage was announced speedily. If not, it was assumed
that the girl was still virgo intacta and therefore suitable to be courted
by someone else. Mama would soon know if the girl was not, from the state of
her clothes. In this case, the marriage would also follow right speedily,
with Dad and the brothers applying persuasion if the lad seemed unwilling.

Bundling was always intended to be a prelude to marriage and permitted after
the young man had expressed honourable intentions. It had no connection was
ascetic practices of renunciation. Of course, accidents did sometime happen.
We are only human, but I doubt if many bastard children resulted from
bundling - a few premature ones, perhaps.


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