Burchard (c.960-1025) was the Bishop of Worms during the early 11th century. He was a ruthless political leader and administrator, as well as an influential theologian and prolific writer. Burchard’s best-known work was the Decretum, a 20-book treatise on canon law that took him a decade to complete.
The 19th volume of the Decretum is a penitential, a fairly standard guide for churchgoers on what they should do to make peace with God if they have sinned. Three of the more bizarre penitentials listed by Burchard are for women who go to extreme lengths to win the love of their husbands:
“Have you done as some women are accustomed to do? They lie with their face to the floor, bare their buttocks and order that bread be kneaded on their buttocks. The baked bread they then give to their husbands; this they do so that they will burn the more with love of them. If you have done this, you shall do penance for two years on approved holy days.”
Burchard also warns against a more common form of love potion: the use of menstrual blood in food:
“Have you done as some women are accustomed to do? They take their menstrual blood and mix it with food or drink, and give this to their husbands to eat or drink, so that they might be more loving and attentive with them. If you have done this, you shall do penance for five years on approved holy days.”
Arguably the coup de grace was Burchard’s penitential for serving your husband a fish drowned in your own placenta:
“Have you done as some women are accustomed to do? They take a live fish and place it into their afterbirth, holding it there until it dies. Then, after boiling and roasting it, they give it to their husbands to eat, in the hope they will burn more with love for them. If you have done this, you shall do penance for two years on approved holy days.”