What are Cowled children?
September 30, 2005 9:12 AM   Subscribe

I am looking for information on "cowled" children, that is, children born with a defect characterized by a loose flap of skin attached to the forehead.

As a pup, I was told stories concerning such children which regarded them as saintly, such as the Catholics regard stigmatics. In college, I read a book which mentioned them, the title of which I've forgotten. I haven't been able to find anything on Google, anyone have any info on this phenomena or perhaps suggestions as to research material?
posted by undule to Religion & Philosophy (11 answers total)
Best answer: The word you're looking for is caul. IIRC there was an Orson Scott Card book where a cauled child figured prominently.
posted by jessamyn at 9:23 AM on September 30, 2005

Response by poster: Holy cow, you rock! Thanks.
posted by undule at 9:25 AM on September 30, 2005

The cauled child figures somewhat in Giants in the Earth, too.
posted by bricoleur at 10:21 AM on September 30, 2005

Just to be clear, a caul is not something that is attached to the body: it's the membrane that surrounds a mammalian fetus: the amniotic sac. Sometimes babies are born with it intact, which was (is?) considered auspicious.
posted by Specklet at 10:32 AM on September 30, 2005

the kid in the shining had one, too
posted by mabelstreet at 11:07 AM on September 30, 2005

My Dad was born with a caul. He still has it in an envelope. I can't imagine there's much left of it after 70 years. It isn't a defect. Once it's removed (they just pull it off according to g'mother) you can't tell the cauled from the caulless.
posted by Carbolic at 1:07 PM on September 30, 2005

For more on the legendary/saintly tip, check out Carlo Ginzburg's Night Battles, about the Benandanti: "good" witches who wore their birth caul (twisted into a rope) round their neck while they fought the "bad" witches of the devil. The Grimms' also have a bunch of tales turning upon the nine-lives kind of luck the caul-born enjoyed. Finally, more than you ever wanted to know.
posted by ellanea at 3:29 PM on September 30, 2005

There's also a great Alan Moore CD and a related comic book illustrated by Eddie Campbell, both titled The Birth Caul.
posted by Goblindegook at 4:08 PM on September 30, 2005

The Orson Scott Card book, by the way, was Seventh Son, first in the Alvin Maker series. (The caul figures into the story in later books as well.)
posted by kindall at 4:59 PM on September 30, 2005

My mom was born with a caul. She was also the seventh daughter of a daughter, which made it even more impressive. Irish Catholics - what can I say? The story is that the caul was sold for a lot of money. In Ireland, cauls were traditionally packed into matchboxes for sale. Travelling salesmen used to pay a lot of money for them, because they believed that they brought them luck. My mom's was worth a lot more, because of the 7x7 mysticism.
posted by veedubya at 12:00 PM on October 1, 2005

For what it's worth, Charles Dickens' autiobiographical hero, David Copperfield was also born with a caul.
posted by willmize at 3:51 AM on October 3, 2005

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