Monday, 12 November 2012

Dib Dib Dib and a Caul for Good Luck

Last week I dashed over to Drayton Methodist Chapel to deliver a talk on Queen Elizabeth I to the Trefoil Society; retired Guide and Scout leaders. It was lovely to see some familiar leaders from my own Guiding days, and the talk was warmly received. We won't mention about how I accidentally smashed my portable mirror whilst applying my make up- some people can be superstitious about these things...

In keeping with the ethos of the Scouting movement, I went away with a challenge: did the word 'caul' (the snood-like net worn over the back of ladies' hair in Tudor times) have any connection with the caul which some babies have over their face at birth?

A Good Question. I Googled it.

And I found this lovely article by Imogen Crawford-Mowday

To paraphrase Imogen's article, the caul is indeed the name for a bit of amniotic sac which sometimes covers a baby's face at birth. It can usually be easily removed. Generally speaking, it seems that in mediaeval times a caul was removed with a piece of paper and said to be regarded as good luck. It could be sold for a sizeable fee, especially to sailors who believed it would prevent them from drowning (one assumes the watery associations were relevant here).

Charles Dickens' character David Copperfield was born a 'caulbearer'. He wrote, 'The caul was won, I recollect, by an old lady with a hand-basket...It is a fact which will be long remembered as remarkable down there, that she was never drowned, but died, triumphantly in bed, at ninety-two"

In the brief bit of research I did I found no mention of a direct link between birth-cauls and hairnet-cauls, but it seems a likely connection to me.

Notable people born 'in the caul' include Edwin Booth, Lord Byron, Charlemagne, Sigmund Freud, Liberace and Napoleon!

The picture at the top shows my 'caul', which is a crocheted copy of the knotted 1570s originals. Crochet wasn't invented in Tudor times, but documents do mention 'cheine lace', which may have been an earlier version of crochet.

1 comment:

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