The Works of Aristotle the Famous Philosopher

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For a female child, let the woman lie on her left side, strongly fancying a female in the time of procreation, drinking the decoction of female mercury four days from the first day of purgation; the male mercury having the like operation in case of a male; for this concoction purges the right and left side of the womb, opens the receptacles, and makes way for the seminary of generation. The best time to beget a female is, when the moon is in the wane, in Libra or Aquaries. Advicenne says, that when the menses are spent and the womb cleansed, which is commonly in five or seven days at most, if a man lie with his wife from the first day she is purged to the fifth, she will conceive a male; but from the fifth to the eighth a female; and from the eighth to the twelfth a male again: but after that perhaps neither distinctly, but both in an hermaphrodite. In a word, they that would be happy in the fruits of their labour, must observe to use copulation in due distance of time, not too often nor too seldom, for both are alike hurtful; and to use it immoderately weakens and wastes the spirits and spoils the seed. And this much for the first particular.

The second is to let the reader know how the child is formed in the womb, what accidents it is liable to there, and how nourished and brought forth. There are various opinions concerning this matter; therefore, I shall show what the learned say about it.

Man consists of an egg, which is impregnated in the testicles of the woman, by the more subtle parts of the man's seed; but the forming faculty and virtue in the seed is a divine gift, it being abundantly imbued with vital spirit, which gives sap and form to the embryo, so that all parts and bulk of the body, which is made up in a few months and gradually formed into the likely figure of a man, do consist in, and are adumbrated thereby (most sublimely expressed, Psalm cxxxix.: "I will praise Thee, O Lord, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.")

Physicians have remarked four different times at which a man is framed and perfected in the womb; the first after coition, being perfectly formed in the week if no flux happens, which sometimes falls out through the slipperiness of the head of the matrix, that slips over like a rosebud that opens suddenly. The second time of forming is assigned when nature makes manifest mutation in the conception, so that all the substance seems congealed, flesh and blood, and happens twelve or fourteen days after copulation. And though this fleshy mass abounds with inflamed blood, yet it remains undistinguishable, without form, and may be called an embryo, and compared to seed sown in the ground, which, through heat and moisture, grows by degrees to a perfect form in plant or grain. The third time assigned to make up this fabric is when the principal parts show themselves plain; as the heart, whence proceed the arteries, the brain, from which the nerves, like small threads, run through the whole body; and the liver, which divides the chyle from the blood, brought to it by the vena porta. The two first are fountains of life, that nourish every part of the body, in framing which the faculty of the womb is bruised, from the conception of the eighth day of the first month. The fourth, and last, about the thirtieth day, the outward parts are seen nicely wrought, distinguished by joints, from which time it is no longer an embryo, but a perfect child.

Most males are perfect by the thirtieth day, but females seldom before the forty-second or forty-fifth day, because the heat of the womb is greater in producing the male than the female. And, for the same reason, a woman going with a male child quickens in three months, but going with a female, rarely under four, at which time its hair and nails come forth, and the child begins to stir, kick and move in the womb, and then the woman is troubled with a loathing for meat and a greedy longing for things contrary to nutriment, as coals, rubbish, chalk, etc., which desire often occasions abortion and miscarriage. Some women have been so extravagant as to long for hob nails, leather, horse-flesh, man's flesh, and other unnatural as well as unwholesome food, for want of which thing they have either miscarried or the child has continued dead in the womb for many days, to the imminent hazard of their lives. But I shall now proceed to show by what means the child is maintained in the womb, and what posture it there remains in.

The learned Hippocrates affirms that the child, as he is placed in the womb, has his hands on his knees, and his head bent to his feet, so that he lies round together, his hands upon his knees and his face between them, so that each eye touches each thumb, and his nose betwixt his knees. And of the same opinion in this matter was Bartholinus. Columbus is of opinion that the figure of the child in the womb is round, the right arm bowed, the fingers under the ear, and about the neck, the head bowed so that the chin touches the breast, the left arm bowed above both breast and face and propped up by the bending of the right elbow; the legs are lifted upwards, the right so much that the thigh touches the belly, the knee the navel, the heel touches the left buttock, and the foot is turned back and covers the secrets; the left thigh touches the belly, and the leg lifted up to the breast.


The reason why children are like their parents; and that the Mother's imagination contributes thereto; and whether the man or the woman is the cause of the male or female child.

In the case of similitude, nothing is more powerful than the imagination of the mother; for if she fix her eyes upon any object it will so impress her mind, that it oftentimes so happens that the child has a representation thereof on some part of the body. And, if in act of copulation, the woman earnestly look on the man, and fix her mind on him, the child will resemble its father. Nay, if a woman, even in unlawful copulation, fix her mind upon her husband, the child will resemble him though he did not beget it. The same effect has imagination in occasioning warts, stains, mole-spots, and dartes; though indeed they sometimes happen through frights, or extravagant longing. Many women, in being with child, on seeing a hare cross the road in front of them, will, through the force of imagination, bring forth a child with a hairy lip. Some children are born with flat noses and wry mouths, great blubber lips and ill-shaped bodies; which must be ascribed to the imagination of the mother, who has cast her eyes and mind upon some ill-shaped creature. Therefore it behoves all women with child, if possible, to avoid such sights, or at least, not to regard them. But though the mother's imagination may contribute much to the features of the child, yet, in manners, wit, and propension of the mind, experience tells us, that children are commonly of the condition with their parents, and possessed of similar tempers. But the vigour or disability of persons in the act of copulation many times cause it to be otherwise; for children begotten through the heat and strength of desire, must needs partake more of the nature and inclination of their parents, than those begotten at a time when desires are weaker; and, therefore, the children begotten by men in their old age are generally weaker than, those begotten by them in their youth. As to the share which each of the parents has in begetting the child, we will give the opinions of the ancients about it.

Though it is apparent that the man's seed is the chief efficient being of the action, motion, and generation: yet that the woman affords seed and effectually contributes in that point to the procreation of the child, is evinced by strong reasons. In the first place, seminary vessels had been given her in vain, and genital testicles inverted, if the woman wanted seminal excrescence, for nature does nothing in vain; and therefore we must grant, they were made for the use of seed and procreation, and placed in their proper parts; both the testicles and the receptacles of seed, whose nature is to operate and afford virtue to the seed. And to prove this, there needs no stronger argument, say they, than that if a woman do not use copulation to eject her seed, she often falls into strange diseases, as appears by young men and virgins. A second reason they urge is, that although the society of a lawful bed consists not altogether in these things, yet it is apparent the female sex are never better pleased, nor appear more blythe and jocund, than when they are satisfied this way; which is an inducement to believe they have more pleasure and titulation therein than men. For since nature causes much delight to accompany ejection, by the breaking forth of the swelling spirits and the swiftness of the nerves; in which case the operation on the woman's part is double, she having an enjoyment both by reception and ejection, by which she is more delighted in.

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