The couvade


I must now argue that the original interpretation of the couvade given by Bachofen in his great treatise’ in 1861, and supported by Giraud-Teulon, fits substantially with the facts, and is justified by them. He takes it to belong to the turning-point of society when the tie of parentage, till then recognised in maternity, was extended to take in paternity, this being done by the fiction of representing the father as a second mother. He compares the couvade with the symbolic pretenses of birth which in the classical world were performed as rites of adoption. To his significant examples may be added the fact that among certain tribes the couvade is the legal form by which the father recognizes a child as his. Thus this apparently absurd custom, which for twenty centuries has been the laughing-stock of mankind, proves to be not merely incidentally an indicator of the tendency of society from maternal to paternal, but the very sign and record of that vast change.

TYLOR Edward: On a Method of Investigating the Development of Institutions; Applied to Laws of Marriage and Descent. The Journal of the Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, Vol. 18 (1889), 255-256


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