For many individual's procreation is simply the result of sexual intercourse. However, this has not always been the case throughout the course of history. In ancient times it was believed procreation was controlled by certain rituals and spirits. For example, The Chukchi Eskimos of Western Chukota believed that children were created through sacred stones, rather than sexual intercourse. Other cultures such as the Batak community in Indonesia believed that pregnancy was achieved by placing umbilical cords and placenta underneath the house of the women trying to fall pregnant. Whilst some of these practices may be seem unconventional, however they are methods that people have lived by for many many years - some can still be around today!
In the 1700's infertility was believed to be treated with both medical and folk remedies. This continued through the century until the 1800's when infertility was deemed a pathology with anatomical causes. The 1900's saw the discovery of oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone. The discovery of these hormones and the monumental advances in science throughout the century has brought us to where we are today. In today's day and age, individuals struggling to conceive have the option to make use of a variety of treatments to help them conceive such as IVF and ICSI. But of course, these treatments have not always been around, so it makes you wonder what methods were utilised by people in the past to aid pregnancy? Many cultures may associate these difficulties to external forces such as witchcraft, others may encourage couples try alternative methods to aid conception and test their fertility. These methods have also developed through time...
Ancient Egyptians believed fertility could be measured using a garlic or onion. The garlic or onion was placed inside the vagina overnight and by morning if the smell of garlic or onion couldn't be detected on the women's breath, she was deemed fertile. Alternatively, ancient Hindus placed great emphasis on worshipping a lingam or yoni, both of which are objects believed to represent genitalia in an attempt to aid conception. More recently, communities in China believed that eating animal genitalia can assist virility and fertility. Siberian women were also being encouraged to eat spiders in an attempt to aid conception. Other methods involved wearing amulets to encourage fertility and even eating the eye of a hyena mixed with liquorice and dill. Many women also believe sitting where your pregnant friend was sitting or waiting for the full moon to engage in intercourse can increase your chances of falling pregnant. Additionally, Feng-Shui suggests sweeping under the bed can prevent women from falling pregnant!
Whilst some of these rituals may seem bizarre and also stomach churning, it provides insight into some of the non-western ideas associated with conception - it makes you wonder what other rituals people have engaged in when attempting to conceive! - If you know of any interesting old wives' tales do get in touch! I'd be interested to hear about them!