I‘ve noticed a lot of traffic comes to my blog directed to a post I did quite a while ago about bundling;see http://pbenjay.wordpress.com/2010/06/12/bringing-back-the-bundling-board/ so I thought I should do some research and look deeper into this ancient tradition.
Worldwide Bundling: One of the most fascinating aspects of this subject is that the practice of bundling was not limited to the United States. I had always associated the term with the Amish and Colonial America. However, in the book, The Art of Bundling, by Dana Doten, (The Countryman Press and Farrar & Rinehart, 1938) there is a paragraph inferring bundling was an early practice in the British Isles and Wales;
“If you are eligible for the Sons or Daughters of the American Revolution you have bundling blood in you. More especially is this true if your forbears (sic) lived north of the Mason -Dixon line, a circumstance which should recompense you for those same ancestors’ failure to provide your line with colored slaves and a “big house before the war.” Because bundling is a proud heritage”.
In another authoritative book on bundling, the: History of Bundling: Its Origin, Progress and Decline in America, by Henry Reed Stiles, there is a traveler’s account describing the practice of bundling in Wales in 1797. Stiles comments that this practice was probably limited to the lower class of Welsh society.
In northern Europe, specifically Norway and Sweden, bundling was practiced as a form of courtship and as in Colonial America, long distances led to the practicality of a suitor spending the night before his long journey home. Swedes referred to the practice of young couples sleeping together before marriage as frieri. In Norway, “night running” was defined as young suitors having to travel quite far to court. And it wasn’t just Europe; there is evidence that this practice was part of the cultures in Central Asia and Afghanistan.
Colonial America: In my previous blog, I wrote about the practice of bundling in America; bundling was both a form of courtship as well as a practical solution to long distance relationships. It was also a means to earn a bit of money if you rented half a bed. Hotels and Inns were few and far between, so many a household offered to rent half a bed to a traveler for the night. A traveler might find himself sharing the bed with a young maiden but more likely it would be the head of the household AND there would be a bundling board between them.
Religion to the Rescue: New England and New Amsterdam seemed to be hot beds of bundling, especially Connecticut. Puritans saw this method of courtship as both convenient and practical. Bundling fell out of favor in the late 1700′s due primarily to a crusade against the practice led by the evangelical Congregationalist, Jonathan Edwards (1703-1793). From his pulpit in Northhampton, Massachusetts, Edwards delivered many hell fire and brimstone sermons. Eventually other preachers joined the crusade and by 1800, bundling had disappeared, at least publicly.
The Amish and Mennonites: Bed Courtship - These two religious sects have their own set of beliefs and practices and what went on in New England had no effect on them. They continued to bundle through the 19th Century and well into the 20th Century. Actually, there is evidence that bundling is still used as a form of courtship. Thaddeus Stevens, a powerful Republican from Pennsylvania once stated that for every case of “bundling” in Lancaster County, there were twenty cases in Vermont. I read an excerpt from a letter written by a Beachy Amish Mennonite woman living in Ohio and she said that bundling was still a practiced form of courtship in her small community.
Bundling was condoned in the Old Testament, if one takes the time to look up the Book of Ruth to prove it; and if it was the custom then among the Jews for “men and women to lie on the same bed, as lovers, without undressing,” then we have little doubt but that our plain friends used the same methods for getting couples into a convivial mood and a convenient embrace.
Harrison Ford bears “Witness”: In the movie, Witness, Harrison Ford spends the night sharing a bed with a beautiful woman. And there it was for all to see – the bundling board!
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