Auður Ingvarsdóttir: Wise women and the ‘óborið’ child: Aspects of the medieval woman’s experience
In the medieval text Landnáma, there is an interesting narrative about a wise woman who took care of what was called an ‘óborið’ child. Scholars have speculated about the meaning of the word ‘óborið’, relating it primarily to caesarean operations or to a traditional way of receiving a child in the family. In this article, it is claimed that the word should be related to pregnancy. The duration of the pregnancy was known and thus the idea existed that a woman could fail to carry a child to full term. If a woman ‘bore a child’ before full term, then it was probably called ‘óborið’. The word ‘óborinn’ can quite clearly be related to the Anglo-Saxon word misborn, which means ‘premature’ in Anglo-Saxon medical texts. In the medieval world, a woman who was able to take care of, and save the life of, a premature child would certainly have deserved the title of a wise woman.
Keywords: medical knowledge, wise woman, ‘óborið’ child, pregnancy, premature child, bearing a child