I am a huge fan of Marina Warner’s books.
At the moment I am reading Alone of All Her Sex, The Myth and Cult of the Virgin Mary.
In Chapter 18 she talks about the Virgin Mary’s Girdle and how it was venerated as an aid to childbirth.
The chapter starts with part of a wonderful poem ~ Farewell, Rewards and Fairies by Robert Corbet (d.1635)
Witness those rings and roundelays
Of theirs which yet remain
Were footed in Queen Mary’s days
On many a grassy plain.
But since of late Elizabeth
And later James came in,
They never dance on any heath
As when the time had been.
By which we note the fairies
Were of the old profession
Their songs were Ave Maries
Their dances were procession…
In the same chapter Ms Warner talks of Anne of Austria and her many contributions to the shrines of the Virgin in France.
Anne favoured the shrine at La Puy where one of Mary’s girdles were preserved. This sash which she let fall to the earth at her Assumption was believed to quicken the womb.
Anne’s devotions were fruitful. In 1638, after twenty-two years of barren marriage, she gave birth to the future Louis XIV.
To show his gratitude at this long awaited miracle, Louis XIII dedicated the whole of France to the Virgin Mary.