Restore Your Virginity the 17th-Century Way

by Lili Loofbourow

Picture it: London. 1624. You got a little carried away with John Donne, who recited “The Flea” at you until you succumbed. But! Your wedding to a cheese merchant is in a week. He expects you to stain the sheets. What do you do?

You dive into the market for born-again virgins, that’s what. Hymenorraphy! How to bleed with sex, even if it’s not your first time. If you were a 1620s woman, your Cosmo subscription wouldn’t tell you to gird your DH’s loins with scrunchies or doughnuts. It wouldn’t tell you What Guys Wish You Knew. Instead of offering 75 Crazy-Hot Sex Moves, it would lure you with 101 Ways to Bleed (He’ll Never Know!). Features might include ways to delay your wedding day till that time of the month (fake greensickness), DIY blood-capsule projects, and above all, How to Get That Hymen Back in Place. Now, you’d be hard-pressed to find a doctor to perform reconstructive surgery for a one-time hymen-mending event. This isn’t the twenty-first century. Luckily, these aren’t the dark ages: the seven-day diet has been invented, and can help.

Not only can it help, it can make your hymen as good as new. Your seven-day Revirginifying Diet is below. It’s what every fallen woman needs, the pancake to her shame syrup. This broadside ballad was printed sometime around 1624 and written by a humorist who would come back reincarnated as Roald Dahl and write it again — losing the virgin angle for the sake of The Children — as George’s Marvelous Medicine. The ballad-writer was a kinder, simpler Roald who, instead of making the misbehaving harridan disappear to universal relief (this is known as treating the symptom), tried to help “silly Maidens” fix the source of their grumps: their tattered unvirginal netherbits.

Our narrator starts off moonily trying to invent something, anything, when he “smells” out a medicine that restores hymens in the first stanza. You’re skeptical, and you’re right to be. Because this isn’t just a medicine. It’s a lifestyle. The lady should cut all roast meat and sod* out of her diet. No sod sandwiches for you, 1620s Liz Lemon! Nor should she bake — gluten is out, eel slime is in (strain it through a ladder for best results). The enterprising revirgin can and should listen to music.

Full text below, with modernized spelling and the best parts in bold. Make sure you have all the ingredients before you start. Those who “in their Virginitie amisse somwhat fell” will need a Spanish friar’s fart and, unless they have a good supplier, will have to tan their own Louse leather.

Once busy in study betwixt night and day,
with choice of inventions I had in my mind,
And many odd matters my mind did assay,
but any to please me I could not well find:
then suddenly casting the nose in the wind,
I smelt out a Medicine both precious and plain,
How to help silly Maidens that had been somewhat kind

to get by good order their Maiden-head again.

First the Maid must be brought into a sleep,
for three hours together before she awake,
And seven days after this diet must keep,
with these kind of compounds the which she must take,
She must eat neither roast-meat, sod, neither bake,
but all kind of dainties she must refrain,
save only this medicine, the which if she take,

then it will restore her Maiden-head again.

The first day give her the slime of an Eel,
blown through a Bag-pipe with the wind of a bladder,
with two or three turnings of a spinning wheel,
boiled in an Egg-shell, and strained through a ladder:
The tongue of an Urchin, the sting of an Adder,
boiled in a blanket in a shower of rain,
With seven notes of music to make her the gladder,
and it will restore her maiden-head again.

The second day give her the peeping of a Mouse,
with three drops of thunder that falls from the sky,
And temper it with three leaps of a Louse,
and put therein three skips of a Fly,
With a gallon of water of a Widow’s eye,
that weeps for her husband when death hath him slain,
Let her take this medicine and drink by and by,
and it will restore her maiden-head again.

The third day give her the chattering of a Sparrow,
roasted in Mitten of untann’d Leather,
Give it her with the rumbling of a wheel-barrow,
and baste it with three yards of a black Swans feather,
The juice of a Whetstone thereto put together,
with the fart of a Friar brought hither from Spain
Let her lay all these in an ell of Louse leather,
and lay warm her belly to help her great pain.

The fourth day give her the song of a Swallow,
well tempered with Marrow wrung out of a log,
With three pound and better of Stock-fish tallow
hard fried in the left horn of a Butchers blue dog,
With the gaggling of a Goose, & the frisks of a Frog
the bill of a shovel, or a Humble-bee’s brain:
Give her this tasting, with the grunting of a Hog,
and it will restore her mayden-head again.

The fifth day give her betwixt eight a clock and nine,
Some gruel of Grantum made for the nonce,
The brains of a birdbolt powdered very fine,
and beat in a Morter of Ginne-wrens bones,
Boiled in a nut-shell betwixt two mill-stones:
with the guts of a Gudgin before she be staine:
Let her be sure to drink all this at once,
and it will restore her maiden-head again.

Now mark well the sixth day what must be her trade,
she must have a Woodcock, a Snipe, or a Quaile,
Bak’d fine in an Oven before it be made,
and mingle it with the blood of a Snaile,
With four or five Inches of a Jack-an apes tail:
what though for a while it put her to paine,
Yet let her take it without any faile,
and it will restore her maiden-head again.

The seventh day give her a pound of Maid’s moths,
braid in a basket of danger and blame,
With conserves of Coleworts bound in a box,
to comfort her stomach with the syrup of shame:
Although she be past all hope of good name,
and unto her honesty a very great stain.
Let her take it to remedy the same,
and it will restore her maiden-head again.

Lo these are our Medicines for Maidens each one,
which in their Virginity amiss somewhat fell,
Pray you if ever you hear them make moane,
and gladly would know the place where I dwell,
At the sign of the Whip and the Egg-shell,
near Pancake alley on Salisbury Plain,
There shall they find remedy using this well
or else never to recover their maiden-head again.

*Boiled meat, back in 1618.

Lili Loofbourow is a writer living in Oakland. She writes about 17th-century ideas of reading and digestion, cognitive science, Chile, and femscularity. She blogs for Ms. Magazine and as Millicent over at