Sex in Rus': how then they conceived and gave birth to children

Sex in Rus': how then they conceived and gave birth to children

Very little is known about the sexual traditions of our distant ancestors: the authors of ancient chronicles were monks who avoided detailed descriptions of love pleasures. Historians and culturologists had to collect information about this side of life bit by bit, relying on songs, fairy tales and other works of folklore, as well as records of village rituals made by ethnographers. In the process, it turned out what a meadow was, who was called navel cutters, and how many wives the ancient Slavs had. These and other nuances of ancient Russian family life are in the material “Subtleties”.

Freedom of morals

In pagan times, the intimate relations of the Slavs were natural and free: sex before marriage was quite encouraged, ritual ceremonies and holidays were accompanied by incendiary love games, and in some places even polygamy was in the order of things.

The Byzantine historian Procopius of Kemari wrote that in the families of the Eastern Slavs there could be from two to four wives. No one demanded special fidelity from them: if the wife was not the most beloved, she could freely meet with other men. //” media=”(max-width: 549px)”>

Sex in Russia: how then they conceived and gave birth to children


Even the Baptist of Rus', Prince Vladimir Svyatoslavich, before the adoption of Christianity, was in several quite official marriages at once. Yes, and after baptism he was married twice more, however, already consecutively. On the holiday of Ivan Kupala, any girl or woman, even married, could choose her betrothed and spend the night with him. In some regions, it was even believed that if a wife and her lover managed to escape from her husband that night, then they could live together, and the previous marriage was considered terminated.

One of the main Slavic values ​​was fertility, so sexual games accompanied not only holidays, but also agricultural work. One of the traditional rituals during the sowing season is the meadow: women and men made love right on the arable land to ensure a rich harvest.

At night, the girls went around the fields naked to share the power of childbearing with mother earth, and in the summer, during a drought, they went out into the field and lifted up their skirts, trying to “seduce” the sky and make it rain.

In winter, sexual life moved to the bathhouse: the first wedding night of the newlyweds often took place there, and the husband and wife retired from the large family. They also steamed in the bathhouse together – separate “soaps for men and women” appeared only under Catherine II.” media=”(max-width: 549px)”>

Sex in Russia: how then they conceived and gave birth to children


Religious restrictions

After the adoption of Christianity, sex becomes a taboo topic: from the point of view of the church, it is possible only in marriage, in a missionary position and exclusively for conceiving a child. Any deviation from these dogmas was considered “a senseless sacrifice of semen to the devil” and “illegal fornication.”

For excessive liberties provided for a variety of punishments. So, even if a man dreamed of having sex with his own wife, he had to immediately repent, pray and beat off the required number of bows, and for love outside of marriage, daily prayers with numerous bows for a period of 3 to 10 years relied. According to the Charter of Yaroslav the Wise, a wife was imprisoned in a monastery for treason, but the husband could get off with a fine and an obligation to return to the family.


A lot of signs and customs were associated with the process of bearing and giving birth to a child among the Slavs. A pregnant woman was surrounded by care and tried to protect from any trouble. Therefore, she was forbidden to sleep on her back, wear jewelry, sew and knit, slander, look at fires and fights.

Childbirth in Rus' was often taken in a bathhouse: it was believed that this was the cleanest and most peaceful place, and before the birth of a baby, the floor and walls of the bathhouse were cleaned white. Women in labor were helped by midwives, who were popularly called navel cutters. To stimulate childbirth, they often used medicinal herbs. Sometimes village sorcerers resorted to dubious, albeit effective, methods: to relieve birth pains, they could sprinkle the birth canal with sugar, and if the baby was born weak, he was briefly sent to the oven on a wide wooden shovel at the lowest heat so that he would “bake” and grow strong and healthy.

The midwife encouraged the woman in labor, immediately after the birth of the child she cut the umbilical cord and washed the mother with baby in the bath. Often the husband was also present at the birth: he had to help his wife in the process and even shout loudly instead of her in order to divert the attention of evil forces.

After giving birth, the woman returned to work only a few weeks later. The restoration ended with the ceremony washing hands: the young mother and the midwife washed each other's hands and asked for forgiveness.

What else to read on the topic

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  • How did the Russian prince differ from European princes?

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