chapter  XIV
32 Pages

THE COUVADE OR MALE CHILDBED

IN dealing with primitive Indian theory of conception I had occasion to point out certain ideas which may help us to understand another much-discussed custom of the South American Indians-the custom generally known under the name of couvade or male child­ bed. Although many explanations have been given of this peculiar and seemingly absurd birth-custom, the sociological problem it involves can hardly be said to have been completely solved. This is partly due to the fact that the couvade, although often observed and commented upon by travellers and ethnographers in South America, has very seldom been studied with the thoroughness necessary for its perfect understanding, but partly also to our defective knowledge of the psychology of savage man in general, and particularly of his magical and animistic beliefs. From my own study it will appear that the latter have first of all to be taken into account if we are to make out the true origin and significance of the male childbed.