Ducking Pond

The term “cucking-stool” is older, with written records dating back to the 13th and 14th centuries. Written records for the name “ducking stool” appear from 1597, and a statement in 1769 relates that “ducking-stool” is a corruption of the term “cucking-stool”. Whereas a cucking-stool could be and was used for humiliation with or without ducking the person in water, the name “ducking-stool” came to be used more specifically for those cucking-stools on an oscillating plank which were used to duck the person into water.

The term cucking-stool is known to have been in use from about 1215. It means literally “defecation chair”, as its name is derived from the old verb cukken and has not quite been rid of in many parts of the English speaking world as “to cack” (defecate) (akin to Dutch kakken and Latin cacāre [same meaning]; cf. Greek κακός/κακή [“bad/evil, vile, ugly, worthless”]), rather than, as popularly believed, from the word cuckold.

Public humiliation has largely disappeared – or been rendered illegal – but the consciousness of propriety has not. The significance is not so much the amendment of an Elizabethan punishment but rather the discard of what was primarily an attack upon women.  Originally the dubious custom was devoted to witches but it also applied to women in general.

The cucking-stool was a form of wymen pine, or “women’s punishment,” as referred to in Langland’s Piers Plowman (1378). They were both instruments of public humiliation and censure primarily for the offense of scolding or back biting and less often for sexual offences like bearing an illegitimate child or prostitution.

It is a shameful curiosity that so often the platitudes of respectability apply to women rather than to men as though for example the mystique of witchcraft somehow descended more conveniently upon women than men.

The Elizabethan Era took place from 1558 to 1603 and is considered by many historians to be the golden age in English History. During this era England experienced peace and prosperity while the arts flourished. The time period is named after Queen Elizabeth I who ruled England during this time.

It is a further oddity that women more often than men enjoy the sublimity of purity. Taken as a whole the consideration of Romeo and Juliet for example forces one to rethink the perils of sex between unwed partners however star-crossed they may be. I suspect even to this day parents likely react unfavourably to the discovery of such clandestine activity notwithstanding the evident motives of love.

Common to both historical and modern themes of social corruption is the putative transgression of an unwritten law; and seldom is there consideration of reason for the alleged impropriety. I know of no one to this day who genuinely approves of the Salem witch hunts.

The Salem witch trials were a series of hearings and prosecutions of people accused of witchcraft in colonial Massachusetts between February 1692 and May 1693. More than two hundred people were accused. Thirty were found guilty, nineteen of whom were executed by hanging (fourteen women and five men). One other man, Giles Corey, was pressed to death for refusing to plead, and at least five people died in jail.

Manufactured Puritanism of this scope in particular is offensive beyond the pale. Yet we all know of instances to this day when such propagation is withstood, sometimes to the point of death; viz., the so-called honour slayings.

Though both men and women commit and are victims of honor killings, in some cultures the code of honor has different standards for men and women, including stricter standards for chastity for women and duty for men to commit violent acts if demanded by honor. In some cases, the honor code is part of a larger social system that subjugates women to men. These asymmetries, combined with the predominance of heterosexual relationships and male perpetrators of violence, mean honor killings are disproportionately violence against women.

It is but a small step to the inclusion of further esteemed violations for the ultimate satisfaction of a ruling châtelaine or governor. I find it difficult to envisage anything but benefit to the perpetrators. There is no comprehensible advantage to the accused notwithstanding the additional outrages of conformity and purification. At this level of manipulation there is little if any difference between the objectives of politicians and spiritual leaders.  So much for the division of state and religion! It reduces to a choice of master. The maintenance of party loyalty or subordination within the ranks of both glorified leaders or exotic spiritualists is stock factory fodder.

Increasingly there are statistics which show the incremental superiority of women. Given the uphill battle that women have historically faced I consider this augmentation far from dangerous. In fact everything I have had to do with women leads me to believe they are fully entitled to their acclamation. Naturally I seek to preserve an open mind to this development for the simple reason that I wish to avoid the peril of yet another fiction. No one will ever prove that men and women are identical even at some elemental level. But this empty conclusion doesn’t contaminate the questionable entitlement of women to a prejudice of rectitude.