This Is How The Handmaid’s Tale Society Came Up With Its Horrifying “Ceremony”

Photo: Courtesy of Hulu.
Each new instalment of The Handmaid’s Tale brings to light even more frightening truths about the novel turned Hulu drama’s dystopian reality. That sickening trend continues in season 1’s "Nolite Te Bastardes Carborundorum," when the handmaids learn how they’re going to become pregnant by society’s most powerful men. Before hearing about "the ceremony," or, the state-mandated rapes, gallows humour-loving Moria (Samira Wiley) suspects a turkey baster will be involved in conception. She soon finds out just how wrong she is during practice for the the ritual.
Aunt Lydia (Ann Dowd) is the one to reveal the ceremony’s backstory, after three episodes of wondering how exactly the Handmaid’s society came up with its countless archaic, criminal, and misogynistic rules. Unsurprisingly, it’s cherry-picked from the Bible.
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When Moira asks if the Handmaids are meant to have "intercourse" with their commanders, Aunt Lydia gleefully announces, "When Rachel saw that she bare Jacob no children, she said unto Jacob, ‘Give me children, or else I die.’ And Rachel said, ‘Behold my maid Bilhah. Go in, unto her. And she shall bear upon my knees, that I may have children by her.’"
The quote — which describes the ceremony to an uncomfortably accurate degree — comes almost directly from the Book of Genesis’s Chapter 30, which deals with Jacob, one of the biblical patriarchs. That explains why the men who make up Handmaid’s militant government, the Republic of Gilead, call themselves the Sons of Jacob. In fact, the Sons took their origins verse so seriously, it’s why the Commanders’ wives are involved in the ceremony by holding the Handmaid's in the middle of their aforementioned knees.
"Once a month, on fertile days, the Handmaid shall lie between the legs of the Commander’s wife," Aunt Lydia explains. "The two of you will become one flesh, one flower waiting to be seeded." Despite their criminally obsessive attention to detail for a thousands-year-old text, the Sons still removed a few lines of Chapter 30 from their ceremony explainer, possibly out of respect for their wives.
In the Bible section, Rachel offers her "handmaid" Bilhah to Jacob because she’s deeply jealous of her sister Leah, who is able to have children. Jacob also becomes angry with Rachel over her inability to conceive and is subsequently allowed to "wife" Bilhah, as opposed to solely have intercourse with her. The Sons of Gilead may be performing an endless stream of atrocities, but somehow Jacob managed to disrespect his wife even more than the America-toppling, rapist Commanders do.
It's alleged Jacob lives more for more than 100 years. In the world of Handmaid's, let's hope the Sons Of Jacob don't last another 100 days.
The first series of The Handmaid's Tale is shown on Channel 4 on Sundays at 9pm.
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