Status: Probably Real
An anonymous contributor sent me a link to this image
depicting an ancient Huichol Indian labor pain relief technique. The text reads:
Huichol Indians are descendants of the Aztecs, and live in the mountains of North Central Mexico. During traditional childbirth, the father sits above his labouring wife on the roof of their hut. Ropes are tied around his testicles and his wife holds onto the other ends. Each time she feels a painful contraction, she tugs on the ropes so that her husband will share some of the pain of their child's entrance into the world.
Do the Huichol Indians really have such a custom? I assumed it was a joke, but after googling for a bit I came across a scholarly article
that mentions this practice and also provides a source to back up the claim. The birthing tradition is mentioned at the very end of the article (I don't know who the author is):
I would like to leave the audience with one parting thought/image, from a yarn painting
pictured in Art of the Huichol Indians
(Kathleen Berrin, ed., 1978), which was created by Guadalupe, who was married to Ramón Medina Silva (a mara’akáme). The two of them participated in the filming of a peyote hunt (pilgrimage) in 1968, which became a documentary, To Find our Life (Furst 1969), and were the subjects of several ethnographic works on the Huichol... Here is the title of the painting and description (from the book):
How The Husband Assists in the Birth of a Child:
According to the Huichol tradition, when a woman had her first child the husband squatted in the rafters of the house, or in the branches of a tree, directly above her, with ropes attached to his scrotum. As she went into labor pain, the wife pulled vigorously on the ropes, so that her husband shared in the painful, but ultimately joyous, experience of childbirth. (Berrin 1978: 162)
So, given that the scrotum-tied-husband custom is apparently mentioned in Kathleen Berrin's Art of the Huichol Indians
, I'm inclined to believe that the custom is real. Though, of course, the Huichol woman who created the yarn painting may have intended it as a joke. I'll need to do more research to get to the bottom of this.