Grave Concerns 2
Plant Flowers on the Grave
Cemetery superstitions said that if the deceased had lived a good life, flowers would bloom on their grave. But if they had been evil, only weeds would grow.
It is still common today to plant flowers on graves, particularly on Memorial Day or Armistice Day.
Cover the Mirrors
Another common superstition was the belief that the spirits of the deceased could enter the mirrors, which served as portals to the “other side”.
So as soon as someone passed away, family members rushed around covering the mirrors with blankets or cloths.
If it was decided that the mirrors did not get covered soon enough, and the deceased’s spirit was stuck in the mirror, breaking it would release them.
During the Victorian era, it was common for people who lived in London, Paris, New York, or any large city to take a daytrip to large park-like cemeteries in the countryside.
Funerals were often an all-day affair, so mourners brought along a picnic lunch. They packed dainty ham sandwiches, little lemon cakes, and tea in a basket to be eaten on blankets on the grass. This gave them leisurely time to reminisce about their departed loved ones and ancestors buried there.
Some undertakers even rented “picnic wagonettes” and helped to plan “pleasure parties” at the cemetery.
But they had to be careful about where they set up their event. It was considered bad luck to sit or walk on someone’s grave.
You may have been invited to a meal after a funeral. It’s a common custom. But where did that tradition start?
During the Victorian era, a funeral mass or memorial service was often held at a local church or in the home of the deceased. Bread and wine were shared, following the Christian practice of partaking of the last supper, sacrament, or communion in remembrance of Christ dying for the sins of mankind.
A superstition sprung up that the guests themselves were taking upon them the sins of the deceased to allow their departed loved one to pass straight into heaven, sin-free. This practice was known as “sin-eating”.
Taking on someone else’s sins was a rough business, so people started to hire someone to do the deed. In England and Wales, funeral sin-eaters were generally community outcasts who were paid sixpence for their services.
Funeral biscuits were also wrapped in white paper and sealed with black sealing wax and given to departing guests to take home to those who could not attend.
Following up to four days of visitations at the home, the burial occurred, and then a meal was served to close family and friends. Pork pie, a large wheel of cheese, and fruit cake might be on the menu.
Funeral processions used to consist of walking from the home to the church, trailing behind those who carried the coffin. The deceased was then buried in the churchyard.
This was often done at night, with each person carrying a candle or lantern to light the way.
Even horse-drawn hearses had lanterns on them to light the way, as in the photo above.
Small magnetic flags are placed on the hood of each car and headlights are turned on so others in the community will recognize the slow-moving convoy as a funeral procession and give them due respect.
Other travellers are expected to wait for the funeral procession to pass uninterrupted. This evolved from the superstition that anyone who interfered with the deceased going to the grave would attract the wrath of evil spirits.
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