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Cockle bread was a bread baked by English women in the seventeenth century which was supposed to act as a love charm or aphrodisiac. The dough was kneaded and pressed against the woman's vulva and then baked. This bread was then given to the object of the baker's affections.
Seventeenth-century English practice
John Aubrey wrote of it: Young wenches have a wanton sport which they call 'moulding of cocklebread' - they get upon a table-board, and then gather up their knees and their coates with their hands as high as they can then they wabble to and fro with their buttocks as if they were kneading of dough with their arses, and say these words: 'My dame is sick and gone to bed/ And I'll go mould my cocklebread'. I did imagine nothing to have been in this but mere wantonness of youth ... but I find in Buchardus's book Methodus Confitendi ... one of the articles of interrogating a young woman is, if she did ever subjugere panem clunibus, and then bake it, and give it to the one she loved to eat ... So here I find it to be a relic of natural magic, an unlawful philtrum [i.e. aphrodisiac or love charm]. [from A. McLaren, Reproductive Rituals (1984), p. 37].
In the 19th and 20th centuries, Cockle-Bread was a children's game in which one squats on his/her haunches with hands clasped beneath the thighs, while others grasp his/her arms and swing him/her to and fro. This action was often accompanied by a rhyme:
- My granny is sick and now is dead
- And we'll go mould some cocklety bread
- Up with the heels and down with the head
- And that's the way to make cocklety bread.