Cockle bread was a bread baked by English women in the seventeenth century which was supposed to act as a love charm or aphrodisiac. The dough was kneaded and pressed against the woman’s vulva and then baked. This bread was then given to the object of the baker’s affections.
In the 19th and 20th centuries, Cockle-Bread was a children’s game in which one squats on its haunches with hands clasped beneath the thighs, while others grasp its arms and swing it to and fro. This action was often accompanied by a rhyme:
My granny is sick and now is dead
And we’ll go mould some cocklety bread
Up with the heels and down with the head
And that’s the way to make cocklety bread.
Earlier references, however, show both rhyme and action with a more serious purpose. John Aubrey (1686: 43-4) notes:
Young wenches have a wanton sport, which they call moulding of Cocklebread: viz. They gett upon a Table-board and then gather up their coates with their hands as high as they can, and then they wabble to and fro with their Buttocks as if they were kneading of Dowgh with their A—, and say these words:
My dame is sick and gone to bed
And I’le go mould my cockle-bread…
The dough thus kneaded would be baked and the bread given to the object of the young woman’s fancy, which would thus ensure his undying love for her. Cockle-Bread is also mentioned in George Peele’s play. The Old Wives Tale (1595) and Richard Brome’s Jovial Crew (1652).