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Folklore

What is a Caulbearer and why is it spooky?

What is a Caulbearer and why is it spooky?
Staff Writer

Feared and idolised throughout human history, the legendary Caulbearer still has the power to provoke superstition and wonder. JAMES WILLIS delves into the history of this enigmatic anomaly.


What is a Caulbearer?

What is a Caulbearer?

From time to time a baby will be delivered in an unbroken amniotic sac (bag of waters) or with some of the amnion (membrane) covering their face. They are said to be born ‘behind the veil’, and are known as Caulbearers. Such children have, for centuries, been both feared and revered.

My own interest in the Caulbearer phenomenon is more than purely academic. Until 2007 I had never heard of a ‘caul’ let alone a ‘Caulbearer’, but in August of that year my own son was born pre-term (as most Caulbearers tend to be) entirely en-caul in Milton Keynes General Hospital.  Delivering an en-caul baby  was a first for all but one member of the labour team. For the senior midwife, an experienced practitioner with many years’ service, it was only the second such birth she had encountered in her career: eerily, her first had taken place the day before on the very same ward! Despite the clinical modern surroundings, the midwife explained that it was a lucky omen and that the boy was destined never to drown. She offered us the caul, but to my regret we declined.

It is estimated that somewhere between one in a 1000 and one in 80,000 babies are born with a caul. Some draw a distinction between those born with the simple face ‘helmet’ and those born en-caul (completely encased in the amniotic sac), but as with all such folklore there is no definitive criteria specifying which of the two ‘styles’ is or is not a true Caulbearer, and determination varies between cultures.

In medieval Britain, the birth of a Caulbearer could apparently be predicted in advance by certain ‘wise folk’, and their arrival was generally seen as a good omen. The child was considered blessed, and destined for greatness. The caul itself was highly prized, and was preserved (by drying or smoking) as a charm to ward off evil.

Possession of a caul was said to bestow good fortune upon the owner, and in particular to protect them from drowning (an ability shared with the Caulbearer himself). Up until the early 1900’s, this purported ability made preserved cauls popular talismans amongst sailors, who would use them as bible covers.

There are many other myths associated with Caulbearers. In Scotland and Scandanavia, the Caulbearer is attributed with  psychic powers. Tibetan Buddhists seek out Caulbearers as future Dalai Lamas, whilst in Egypt the caul-child is considered to be a mystic. The Hmong people  believe that  Caulbearers are reincarnated monarchs, the sac being part of their past attire, and they will aim to return the preserved caul to the original bearer at their funeral to pass  good luck to future incarnations.

Not all cultures consider the Caulbearer to be blessed. In Eastern European it is feared that the caul-child will rise as a vampire after death, or transform into a werewolf. To prevent such a fate the caul might be dried, ground, and fed to the child on its seventh birthday.  Alternatively the preserved caul could be nailed to the front door in order that prowling monsters  would recognise a fellow cursed soul and leave the household in peace.

Whilst caul births are rare at the best of times, they are especially so in modern societies where the majority of babies are delivered in hospitals. Today, if the amniotic sac does not rupture naturally, it is routinely broken with an amni-hook (a hooked, wooden spatula) in the belief that it will hasten the birth.

Whether there is any truth in the legends is debatable. My son hasn’t yet displayed any preternatural abilities, and the only time he howls is when his older sister winds him up… but I shall be keeping a close eye on him!


JAMES WILLIS is the author of ‘Mysterious Milton Keynes’ which is being released on the 1st September 2013. He runs a blog at www.mysteriousmiltonkeynes.com. You can follow James on twitter  @mkmysterious or Facebook.


View Comments (11)

11 Comments

  1. Shannon Lee Wolf

    1st May 2013 at 5:27 pm

    Hi James,

    I just came across your site — congratulations on the birth of your son. :) I did want to make a correction on the status of your son’s birth, however. By your description, your son was born en-caul, which is very different from being born of the caul. En-caul is when the child is born inside of the entire sac; a caul birth is when only the remains of a portion of the sac (or a separate head skin) remains on the head. As I read your blog, I could see that you blended en-caul and caul together as a single phenomenon, which is a very common mistake!

    Thank you for your time in reading this.

    Yours’
    Shannon Lee Wolf, Founder of Caul Bearers United

  2. Rea

    24th July 2013 at 5:13 pm

    My son was born completely in his waters, he is only just one so no sign of any sixth sense yet. We were told at the birth he would be lucky and would never drown. My waters were broken for my two daughters but I remember the midwife saying how tough they were to break. It makes me wonder if they too would have been born in the sac? Good Luck for the future!

  3. Marcel lefaucheur

    18th August 2013 at 3:46 pm

    I was wondering if there was a Caul Bearers Symbol, through history There has always been a symbol created for such a rare occurrence. but through all my research I am finding nothing. Lost maybe ? would love an answer since I to am a Caul Bearer. thanks you

  4. Lady Who Walks

    26th December 2013 at 4:34 am

    Hello Iam a Caulbearer and so is my daughter. I believe both of our cauls were destroyed. Ive had a problematic life and so has my daughter. I, up until just a few days ago was unaware I was a caulbearer,i knew my daughter was,because i was told she had a veil. Or born with a veil. All my life ive been psyhic,but doubt it. It wasnt until a few days ago,i had an Epiphany of what was this about. Much to my surprise,it explained alot,the reason my daughter an i dont get along, Then much to my surprise i found out from my mother,i too was born with a caul. For some reason,i feel my mother too was born with a caul. And this is even weirder we are all 30 years apart. 77,47,17 apparently this runs in families. I want to stop our legacy of tears that has been bestowed upon my mother,myself,and daughter. If any one has any more knowledge about this phenomenon, i beg you to contact me asap,and woe un to you if you have malice in your heart,my protector is always eager. No offense to you nonbelievers, p.s. Dad seek out a special teacher for your son,as we learn differently and he will succeed.

  5. carrie

    29th January 2014 at 1:11 am

    My granddaughter was born with a caul like to know where to find more detailed info on this very interesting this is the first I’m hearing all these story’s she was the only second baby to be born like this that they know of at medical ctr of vt

  6. Cary Roberts

    31st January 2014 at 9:22 pm

    Hello there. I am 22years old. I am a caulbearer , I was born en-caul. I and my twin brother were born early. He is not a caulbearer. We had separate sacs. I’ve always wondered about what was so special about my birth.

  7. Joanne

    17th June 2014 at 3:32 am

    I was told I was born with a double veil at Munson Hospital, Traverse City, Michigan and that the delivery doctor wanted me because I would be a genius! No genius tendencies have appeared as yet. Has anyone else heard of this ‘old wives tale’?

  8. boipelo

    16th October 2014 at 3:13 pm

    Good day,my mother told me when i was growing up that i was born wearing a wite veil,and that she used it to bath me ,all my life i could see things before they happen but i did not listen to my intuition,until now when my brothers passed on they gave me signes that something was going to happen but as usual i didnt get it , but i would like to explore more about this,where should i go/

  9. Lanie.dre

    8th January 2015 at 9:23 pm

    My son was born April 15 2013 with a veil over his whole body he has two birthmarks and one is a dolphin and one is a gator . and I hear a lot about kids like that.

  10. Felicity

    1st February 2015 at 8:42 am

    I’ve always known both my Dad and I were born with a caul. I mean, I’ve always been told that I was born with a sheet of skin over my face (not amniotic sac) and apparently it meant I’ll never drown. It sounded strange, but I’ve never forgotten being told. I’ve never looked into the real significance of it until recently. It’s clarified a lot to me. I’ll explain as best I can but without actually feeling these things it may just sound like babble.
    I’m now 32. As a child and through my teenage years I was an outcast, but in a very weird way that I can’t explain. People flocked to me in good and bad ways. I would walk down the street and strangers would be drawn to me, stop me and say what a beautiful smile I had or compliment something about me. This was from a really young age, even as a 5 year old holding Mum’s hand. At school and even around some adults in the ‘family friends’ circle it was a completely different story. I could never really get close to anyone and was bullied quite badly for no reason. You might say that there’s no reason for bullying in many instances, but it’s not common for the fairly intelligent, 5’11” athlete, who is kind to everyone no matter who you are, to be the subject of bullying from EVERYONE at school (including some teachers). I wasn’t top of my class but I was mainly an A grade student. Some people told me it was jealousy but that didn’t make sense to me. It caused me so much grief but that never stopped me from feeling this intense need to help others, even my bullies themselves. They would torment me, I would find them upset for some reason and comfort them, they would accept the comfort and then torment me next time they saw me… And so the cycle continued. This went into my 20s even after moving to a different state. To be honest, I still experience open bullying but it doesn’t quite crush me like it used to.
    I was told by a friend a few years ago that I set myself up for people to take advantage of me. My response was that I know this, but if I didn’t do it I would be missing a part of myself that makes sense to me. I wouldn’t be who I really was without that trait. She couldn’t understand how, after so many years of suffering, I could still feel that way without self preservation kicking in. She also couldn’t see it was why we became friends in the first place.
    I feel Caulbearers are here for that exact reason. We help others without self gain. We’ll always attract people because we have an open nature, be this attraction for good or bad. We don’t fly under the radar well, even if we’re quiet. We struggle to actually open OURSELVES up for fear of being misunderstood. We are humble and flattery can embarrass us. We are empathic by nature and perceive life differently from others in a way that can’t be put into words. We feel good when others do around us. We like to see people succeed. We aren’t good at protecting ourselves, but others will usually perceive us to be capable of this because we protect them.
    Negative people, or even people who are uncomfortable with instinctive feelings they can’t explain, will subconsciously pick up on our ‘difference’ and attack us for it.
    On the other hand, we will also usually be lucky enough to meet people who will be our allies for life (if we survive before having an understanding of what we are and accepting our difference). These people will see into our souls and will come in so many different packages. They will be our saviours in dark times because we have been theirs. They’ll never completely understand why, but they’ll know we’re special and will cherish and protect us. They won’t only be our friends, sometimes just acquaintances, sometimes even strangers. We will touch their lives and they will somehow remember. I’ve always felt that these people are the real reason I am here.
    If you have a Caulbearer child, listen to their premonitions and perceptions, even if they sound strange. If you cherish their difference and give them confidence in their abilities to see things differently, they will find it easier to accept people’s reactions. It’s a tough path but there is so much light at the end of the tunnel. They can achieve greatness in ways many people can never understand.
    Keep the caul. I wish I had mine.

  11. trev hill

    4th March 2015 at 7:23 pm

    Wasn’t David Copperfield (in Dickens’s book)born cauled and the caul later sold?

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