In ancient Russia, people often got married, mainly to continue the family line. They believed that children are God's blessing, and childlessness of a married couple was perceived as the greatest misfortune. The bride and groom were thoroughly tested for fertility before the wedding. That is, the ability to become parents.
What is fertility
The medical term "fertility" comes from the Latin word fertilis, which translates as "fertility, fertility." For a man, this is the ability to conceive a child, and for a woman - to become pregnant, bear and safely give birth to a healthy baby.
Fertility of the stronger sex depends on the viability of their sperm. Women's fertility is directly related to the menstrual cycle, it largely depends on the general condition of the body.
According to the World Health Organization, for one reason or another, about 5% of the world's population is sterile. In the developed countries of Europe and North America, the number of infertile women reaches 15%, and in Russia this figure fluctuates around 6-8%, depending on the specific region.
The inhabitants of Ancient Russia found their own ways to check the fertility of young people. If we talk about a bride, her ability to conceive, bear and give birth to healthy children was determined according to three criteria:
- The number of children in the parental family and the closest relatives (married sisters, aunts);
- "Healthy appearance" of the beauty, determined during the show;
- The body constitution of the girl, which was noticed during the traditional pre-wedding bath.
First of all, the groom's relatives found out all the information available to them about the family of a potential bride: are there hereditary diseases, what is the moral character and mores of these people, are the mother and sisters fertile. Based on these indirect information, one could assume what the chances of having healthy children are. The girl's fertility was also determined at the bride. In honor of the ancient Russian grooms were brides full, large physique. The slenderness of the bride was not welcomed, as it could indicate prolonged malnutrition, which negatively affects reproductive function. Therefore, slender girls sometimes wore more clothes to the bride to appear fuller and stronger.
An obligatory part of the Old Russian tradition was the pre-wedding bath. Often the mother or other relatives of the groom steamed with the bride, and in some regions (for example, in the Vologda region) - local healers. These women examined the girl "in all its glory", evaluating her figure in terms of fertility.
It is no secret that wide bones of the hip joint are one of the conditions for a successful birth. The bride's health was believed to be indicated by lush hair, general condition of nails and teeth.
The inhabitants of Ancient Russia were not forbidden to marry pregnant women. The very fact that the bride was in the position indicated that she was not barren.
Historian and religious scholar Alla Sokolova in her book "Traditions of the Russian Folk Wedding", which was published in Moscow in 2014, spoke about testing grooms for fertility.
It consisted of three stages:
- collection of information about the family of a young man, his character and the presence of novels; - watching the yard (farm) when the parents of the potential bride come to the boy's house; - the wedding night.
In Ancient Russia, almost everyone knew about the neighbors, so it was not difficult to get information about the customs that reigned in the groom's family. Rumors of the young man's romantic adventures were also taken into account by the bride's relatives.Moreover, if the girl was still appreciated for her chastity, then the guy had to be a "daring fellow", bestowing the attention of local beauties. Then no one had doubts about his physical ability to have sexual intercourse.
What is “yard watching”. The bride's relatives visited the groom's place of residence, examined his house and farm (availability of arable land, livestock, utensils and dishes). At the same time, they carefully examined the potential spouse himself, assessed his healthy and tidy appearance, heroic appearance, behavior.
Note that the marriage was considered valid only after the first night. This was the last test of the young man's ability to perform marital duties.
Marriage for the sake of procreation
The famous ethnographer and historian Nikolai Vladimirovich Zorin in his book "Russian wedding ritual", which was published in Moscow in 2004, called the continuation of the family and the upbringing of children as the main goal of any ancient Russian family. Moreover, the well-being of the peasant economy largely depended on the health and hard work of the younger generation.
The most important condition for marriage in Russia was the attainment of childbearing age. Historians analyzed the dates of births and weddings of 40 guys and 13 girls from princely families. It turned out that most brides were married at the age of 14-17, while their grooms were between 16 and 20 at the time.
It is known that in that era, by the legislation of the Byzantine Empire, for example, girls were allowed to marry from the age of 13, and young men from the age of 15.