Here's a tidbit for any Wonders and Marvels readers out there who may be thinking about starting a family.
Until the late seventeenth century, Galenic notions of the body as a complex system of fluids (humors) dominated. In the sport of baby-making, the end goal was to mix male and female "seed" in just the right quantity and quality to make a boy. So this meant that the hotter the better.
Men were considered hot and dry in humoralist models. So, if the seed mix was hot, a boy would be born.
So, here are a few seventeenth-century tips for all of you out there. If you want a girl, stick with those cold foods like fruit and lettuce. If you want a boy, head straight for foods that early-modern physicians classified as hot: wine, meat, arugula.
I'm not so sure about the recipe for dried stag testicles, though. If it works for you, let us know. Early doctors recommend that you sprinkle them liberally onto your food.
Imagine this: "Excuse me, Sire. But could pass the salt and testicles?"
For more eclectic musings on embryology, childbirth, chastity belts, brothel madams, you name it...
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