5 Old-Timey Courtship Rituals That Will Make You Cringe

Illustrated by Norah Stone.
Courtship traditions have existed as long as cultures have accepted the concept of romantic love (though many believe they're mostly a Western thing). Some traditions, including those of ancient Chinese and Jewish societies, took on a more contractual approach to courtship, dictating that marriage be a matter of negotiation between two families. (That approach may sound like a less swoon-worthy history, but it probably led to just as much romance — and heartache — for courters.)

Since then, suitors of the modern era have attempted countless grand gestures to woo the ones they love — and the executions haven't always been so smooth. While some people have successfully hoisted boomboxes over their heads or evaded airport security, others have embarrassed themselves on Jumbotrons.

Luckily, people of yesteryear didn't have as much technology available to them, which automatically lowered the stakes of their demonstrations of love. But that doesn't mean their low-tech gestures were any less ridiculous.

Ahead, check out five of our favorite courtship traditions from history. You can thank your lucky stars (and possibly your ancestors) that you don't have to go through any of them today.

This month, we're sharing steamy personal stories, exploring ways to have even better sex, and wading through the complicated dynamics that follow us into the bedroom. Here's to a very happy February. Check out more right here.
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Illustrated by Norah Stone.
Offering Your Crush An Apple Soaked In Your Sweat
Imagine going out to the club, hitting the dance floor, and tucking a peeled apple under your armpit. Now, imagine after dancing — and sweating — for a solid hour, handing off your armpit apple to your crush so that they could eat it, thus exposing them to your scent.

This custom was passed from generation to generation in England, surviving into the Elizabethan era. It was also conducted (using only a slice of apple) in 19th century Austria.
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Illustrated by Norah Stone.
Using Wooden Spoons To Take Things To The Next Level
On a less pungent note, elaborate wooden spoons were the go-to token of love in 17th century Wales. A man would carve symbols of his love and family name into the handle, and then give it to a woman to show that he was ready to take their flirtation to the next level.

Fun fact: You can still buy a lovespoon if you're interested, although it could cost you up to $150. No one said love came cheap.
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Illustrated by Norah Stone.
Taking Your Love To The Battlefield
Teutonic women
happily risked their safety during wartime as they traveled with their beloveds from skirmish to skirmish. They'd nurse and feed the soldiers, as they were told to do, but their real value came in their bloodthirsty cries for victory while their men would fight. Some historians even call them the first cheerleaders.

The most devoted would take up arms themselves, following their future husbands onto the battlefield and killing their enemies if it came to that. Think of it as a very literal, first-century interpretation of Pat Benatar's "Love Is A Battlefield."
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Illustrated by Norah Stone.
Keeping Things Short & Sweet — To Avoid Death
In Viking societies, love poems and songs were considered crude, and were said to reflect poorly on the lady who was being courted.

In fact, suitors were told they shouldn’t see much of their beloved at all before proposing. But the thing is, a prolonged courtship could also tarnish a lady’s reputation. Such an offense would provoke her family to avenge her social standing by brutally attacking or even killing the suitor.

In other words, this was a real damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't scenario.
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Illustrated by Norah Stone.
Dabbing A Man's Penis With Ticks
Ancient Greek and Egyptian love potions could contain anything from ticks to semen to stingray bile. And some of these substances were meant to be dabbed directly onto a man's penis. Who wouldn't find that hard to resist?

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