Showing posts with label burial. Show all posts
Showing posts with label burial. Show all posts

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Carried to the other side

"The Burial Customs of the Ancient Greeks"

Frank Pierrepont Graves
Project Gutenburg
As soon as death had laid hands upon the victim, the relatives or friends, after gently closing the eyes of their loved one, inserted, in the dead man’s mouth, the obol, a coin valued at about three half pence, or about three cents of our money, which was to serve as passage money over the Styx. They were very careful not to overlook this duty, since it was believed that, if old Charon could not collect his ferriage, the unlucky shade would be sent back to life.
They also examined the coin closely, to see whether it would pass current among the inhabitants of the lower world.
An admirable verification of this custom was, in this century, excavated in the town of Samos in Cephallenia. A tile coffin dug up at that place was found to contain the bones of an initiate of the Bacchic mysteries and between the back teeth of the skull, thedanake, a coin, somewhat more in value than an obol, was still firmly lodged. The late excavations in Italy, Greece and Asia have revealed numerous coins in the tombs. The[22] painting on a vase, which is described by Pottier, shows a small coin held between the thumb and fore finger of the figure which represents the deceased. In the “Frogs” of Aristophanes, Dionysus is told by Heracles, who has returned from the lower regions, that he will be obliged to pay two obols as ferriage, since his servant, Xanthias, is with him.

Monday, 5 October 2015

Killed by lightning

"The Burial Customs of the Ancient Greeks"

Frank Pierrepont Graves
"....  burial was denied, or at least entombment with others was refused, to those who had been killed by lightning. This, from the modern point of view, seems more extraordinary than the other cases of forbidden sepulture that have been mentioned, but the ancients considered any one who was killed in that manner as struck by a god, who knew of some crime that had been hidden from mortal eye. Theseus, who was renowned for his piety, in speaking of those slain at Thebes, declared that he would burn the corpse of Capaneus apart, because he was struck by the flame hurled from Zeus’s own hand, but that he would burn all the others on a single funeral pyre. Plutarch declares that the bodies of those who have been killed by that means never putrefy, and that “many people never burn nor bury such bodies, but let them lie above ground with a fence about them, so that every one may see that they remain uncorrupted.” In some cases, on the other hand, the remains of these wretched beings were cremated and then interred. We must bear in mind, however, that the prohibition of burial or a separate entombment in the case of a man struck by lightning, did not necessarily signify disgrace, but was,[16] in a certain sense, indicative of distinction. His corpse was considered “sacred” or appropriated to the gods, and, as such, could not be dealt with in the conventional way."

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Protestant Bethany Homes babies ignored - Irish Examiner

Protestant Bethany Homes babies ignored 
Irish Examiner
"The Dublin Foundling Hospital which was established by Royal Charter had a death rate of over 90% in the 19th century, as Joseph Robins records in his brilliant study of Irish children living on charity, The Lost Children: a Study of Charity Children in Ireland, 1700-1900 (Institute of Public Administration). If this book were reissued now we might begin to get some perspective and some historical context to the Tuam babies episode.

At the Dublin Foundling Hospital, the gate porter had the duty of disposing of the bodies of the dead infants, as Joseph Robins writes:

“For the sake of convenience burials were confined to three days a week. Between burial days, the dead infants accumulated and the porter stated that he had buried as many as thirteen at one time. Wrapped in grey blankets, the bodies were taken to a field at the back of the hospital and interred there. So frequent were the burials that the field was completely bare of grass.”

By Victoria White (Irish Examiner)

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Joseph Pyke - Died 1958

Irish Salem
(Read more)
"Brother Gibson was then rebutting claims by the Joseph Pyke Memorial Trust that Joseph Pyke died in 1958 after a beating by a Brother in Tralee industrial school. Having stated that he was quoting from the boy's death certificate he said last Monday that on February 9th, 1958 Joseph Pyke had died of "bilateral pleural effusion". This he understood to mean pneumonia. However, a copy of the death certificate of 16-year-old Joseph Pyke "apprentice bootmaker", since seen by The Irish Times, gives the cause of death as "Bilateral Pleural Effusion. Septicaemia. Certified". Mr Pyke is recorded as having died in St Joseph's Industrial School, Tralee, on the date given, February 9th, 1958. Brother Gibson did say, however, that the death certificate had been officially changed from the original which, he said, gave "senility" as a cause of the boy's death. That, he said, was changed later to "septicaemia".

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Running out of burial plots.

"RESIDENTS in Market Weighton, which is fast running out of burial plots, will face the choice of being cremated to stay local – or buried miles away from the town when they die.

The town’s cemetery, on Holme Road, has less than 10 plots left in addition to the spaces that have already been bought by residents who are still alive."

Thursday, 1 November 2012

'Deviant Burial'

"It is believed to be a 'deviant burial', where people considered the 'dangerous dead', such as vampires, were interred to prevent them rising from their graves to plague the living. "

For the full story in "The Telegraph" [ Link ]

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Salem 1692

House of John Procter, Witchcraft Martyr,
1692, by William P. Upham (1902)
Project Gutenburg
"It is well known that the victims executed as witches on Gallows Hill in Salem, in 1692, were thrown into mere shallow graves or crevices in the ledge under the gallows, where the nature of the ground did not allow complete burial, so that it was stated at the time that portions of the bodies were hardly covered at all. It was natural that the relatives of those thus cruelly put to death and left practically without burial, should, where they were able and courageous enough for the dangerous undertaking, remove the bodies to their homes for interment. It is the tradition that this was done in several cases, secretly and during the night, that it might not incur the opposition of the frenzied and deluded people. This removal was made by the children of Rebecca Nourse, and a beautiful monument now marks the spot to which her body was removed. There is a similar tradition in the Procter family, and there is good reason to believe that his body was removed in a similar manner. But if so, the necessary secrecy with which the sad duty was performed has caused the place where he was buried to be known only by the slender thread of tradition which I have mentioned."

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Burial in a new churchyard

Ecclesiastical Curiosities - (1898)
Editor: William Andrews
Project Gutemburg

"Even at the present day there is a prejudice more or less deeply rooted against a first burial in a new churchyard or cemetery. This prejudice is doubtless due to the fact that in early ages the first to be buried was a victim. Later on in the middle ages the idea seems to have been that the first to be buried became the perquisite of the devil, who thus seems in the minds of the people to have taken the place of the pagan deity. Not in England alone, but all over Northern Europe, there is a strong prejudice against being the first to enter a new building, or to cross a newly-built bridge. At the least it is considered unlucky, and the more superstitious believe it will entail death. All this is the outcome of the once general sacrificial foundation, and the lingering shadow of a ghastly practice".

Friday, 1 June 2012

Graveyard at Princeton (1862)

But it was of the dead, not the living, that I was about to speak. Nearly opposite the college Campus we find Witherspoon Street, named after that brave and good man who was president of the college in the days of the Revolution, and one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. Following this street a short distance, we come to the city of the dead. It is situated on an eminence, commanding a fine view of the surrounding country, embracing the village of Kingston, the distant spires of Trenton, and the blue range of hills beyond which roll the dark waters of the Atlantic. In natural advantages it can not compare with some of our modern cemeteries, but the historic interest which attaches to it more than compensates for the lack of picturesque effect.

The first spot to which the visitor is directed, is the inclosure containing the graves of the presidents of Princeton College. They are all of the old-fashioned style of 'table tombs,' now so seldom constructed; a flat slab, stretched on four walls of solid masonry, covering the whole grave. It was on such a tombstone that, in the old Greyfriars churchyard in Edinburgh, the solemn League and Covenant, from which resulted events so important to Scotland, was signed. No 'storied urn or animated bust' records the virtues of these venerable men,—not even marble in its simplest form has been used to mark their resting-place. The slabs are of coarse, grey stone, with long inscriptions in Latin occupying their entire surface. Many of them, especially that of the pious and renowned Jonathan Edwards, who left his New England home only to find a grave in New Jersey, having died a month after his removal to Princeton, have been most shamefully mutilated by relic-hunters and curiosity-mongers; innumerable pieces having been chipped off the edges of the slabs, until even the inscriptions have been encroached upon. To prevent, if possible, further mutilation, the following unique and elaborate, but eloquent notice, enclosed in an iron frame, has been placed over the graves of these reverend fathers. It was written by Professor, now Dr. Giger, of the college.

Keep your sacrilegious hands off these venerable stones! Parian marble, wrought with consummate skill, could not replace them. Connected with these homely monuments are historical associations that ought not to be forgotten. The scarcity of better materials, the rudeness of monumental sculpture, the poverty of the country, the early struggles and pecuniary embarrassments of the colony, at the period when these monuments were erected, as well as the self-denial and hardships and labors of the distinguished men who gave fame and usefulness to Nassau Hall, are indicated by these rough stones. Nothing modern, nothing polished or magnificent, could suggest the early history of New Jersey. Spare what remains of these broken memorials. Thoughtless young man! why do you break and deface these old monuments? A few fragments carried in your pocket, or placed in your cabinet, will not impart to you the activity and energy of Burr, or the profound and logical intellect of Edwards, or the eloquence of Davies, or the piety and triumphant death of Finley, or the poetical wisdom, the power of governing and inspiring youth, the love of knowledge, and the stern, unflinching patriotism of Witherspoon. If you admire and reverence the character of these great and good men, read their works imitate their example; and forbear, we be[seech you, to add to the shameful mutilation of the frail memorials intended to protect their bones from insult.
But there is a strange and startling incongruity observable in this enclosure. At the foot of the grave where rest the remains of the venerable Aaron Burr, first president of the College of New Jersey, stands a tall white marble monument of modern form and appearance, so utterly out of keeping with the rest of the tombs, that the visitor at once turns to it, and is none the less startled to find that it marks the last resting-place of that other Aaron Burr, the traitor, the duellist, the libertine, whose remains, brought hither in the night, were surreptitiously buried at the feet of his venerated father, and this monument placed over them, years afterwards, in the same manner. And for his father's sake, there they were suffered to remain. 'After life's fitful fever he sleeps well,' in the midst of these old grey stones, and surrounded by the honored dead. The monument bears no record, except his name, the dates of his birth and death, and the statement that he was Vice-President of the United States from 1801 to 1805. It is as if it said,—

'No further seek his merits to disclose,
Or draw his frailties from their dread abode.'

Not a quarter of a mile from where his dust thus reposes, there sleeps, in a neglected grave in a small grove of trees behind the college, one of his hapless victims, a young lady of Philadelphia, who died, as the mouldering headstone, half sunken in the turf, informs us, 'at the early age of twenty-two.'

The next point of interest is the spot where seven or eight elegant shafts of white marble, erected by their class-mates, mark the graves of students who have died during their collegiate course. They are all remarkable for the beauty and chaste simplicity of their design, and the appropriateness of their inscriptions. No historic interest attaches to them; no well-earned fame gilds them with a halo of glory; but a feeling touching and sad creeps over the heart as we read on the tomb the name of each sleeper's distant home, and think of the poor young man dying in the midst of strangers, while doubtless

'There was weeping far away,
And gentle eyes, for him,
With watching many an anxious day,
Were sorrowful and dim.'

Passing on, we reach the graves of the three Alexanders, father and two sons, whose writings are dear to so many Christian hearts. Side by side they repose, under three slabs of pure white marble, inscribed with appropriate epitaphs. That of the father, Archibald Alexander, for fifty years professor in the Theological Seminary, is a simple, unadorned record of his personal history; that of the younger brother, Joseph Addison, who was a man of immense learning, able to read, write, and converse in sixteen languages, tells us that 'his great talents and vast learning were entirely devoted to the exposition and elucidation of the Word of God;' but to New Yorkers that of the elder brother, Dr. James W. Alexander, is fraught with the greatest interest, from his having so lately occupied a prominent place among the first divines and scholars of our country. It runs thus:


A man of God, thoroughly furnished unto all good works; a learned, elegant, and accomplished scholar; a faithful, affectionate, and beloved pastor; an able, eloquent, and successful preacher; professor of mathematics in the College of New Jersey; professor of ecclesiastical history in Princeton Theological Seminary; pastor of the Presbyterian Church, corner of Fifth Avenue and Nineteenth Street, New York. Throughout his life and labors, he illustrated those gifts and graces that exalt humanity and adorn the church of God.

Scattered about the graveyard are many monuments, attractive and interesting from their artistic beauty alone. One of the most chaste and elegant designs I have ever seen is the tomb erected by a gentleman of Philadelphia, to the memory of his wife, son, and daughter, who perished in the burning of the 'Henry Clay' on the Hudson River. It is in the form of a casket, of white marble, beautifully carved and of graceful form, elevated on a pedestal of polished stone, of a blueish tint. On one end of the casket are inscribed the words

on the other end,

while one side bears the appropriate text of Scripture:—

When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee;
and the other the comforting words:—

For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.
Under a drooping cypress tree, half hidden amid its dark green foliage, is a monument of white marble, in the form of a Greek cross, low but massive, on which there is no epitaph or inscription whatever; but on the little foot-stone beyond it are the simple words:—

Died 1851,
Aged 18.

Numerous 'broken rosebuds' mark the graves of children, and the device is so often repeated as to become tiresome; but on one handsome monument is carved a wreath of flowers, from which a rose has apparently dropped, and fallen on the pedestal,—a beautiful illustration of the loss the family circle had sustained in the death of her who rests below. Another child-grave, the tombstone a small upright slab surmounted by a wreath of flowers, bears the touching inscription:—

Our only Son,
John Agur E——.
Aged 2 years.

Many graves here, as elsewhere, are adorned with examples of 'graveyard poetry;' but most of it is of that humble character which is illustrated by the following:—

'Farewell, beloved wife: I must go
And leave you in this world of woe.
A few short years, then we shall meet
Together at our Saviour's feet.'

One more epitaph, before we leave this interesting and time-honored place of graves. It is from a plain horizontal slab, not far from the entrance; and is, to our thinking, one of the most beautiful and touching monumental inscriptions ever penned.

Sarah B——,
Wife of the Rev. C—— K——.
A humble worshiper of Christ, she lived in love and died in faith. Truthful woman, delightful companion, ardent friend, devoted wife, self-sacrificing mother, we lay you gently here, our best beloved, to gather strength and beauty for the coming of the Lord.

Friday, 25 May 2012

"Grave reserved by faculty"

© Godric Godricson

I've never seen this one before in a Church of England cemetery but here we have it. There's a queue to enter the cemetery or at least a waiting list for the best seats in the house!

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Doris Seadon

Seadon, Norfolk
Doris Seadon  - Died March 18th 1907

© Godric Godricson

Gorgeous funerals

The Parish Clerk (1907)
Peter Hampson Ditchfield
Courtesy : Project Gutenburg
The records of these gorgeous funerals, which are preserved in Machyn's diary and other chronicles, reveal the changes wrought by the spread of Reformation principles and Puritan notions. In Mary's reign they were very magnificent, "priests and clerks chanting in Latin, the priest having a cope and the clerk the holy water sprinkle in his hand." The accession of Elizabeth seems at first to have wrought little change, and the services of the Clerks' Company were in great request. On 21 October, 1559, "the Countess of Rutland was brought from Halewell to Shoreditch Church with thirty priests and clarkes singing," and "Sir Thomas Pope was buried at Clerkenwell with two services of pryke song, and two masses of requiem and all clerkes of London." "Poules Choir and the Clarkes of London" united their services on some occasions. Funeral sermons began to be considered an important part of the function, and Machyn records the names of the preachers. Even though such keen Protestants as Coverdale, Bishop Pilkington, Robert Crowley, and Veron preached the sermons, twenty clerks of the company were usually present singing. Machyn much disliked the innovations made by the Puritan party, their singing "Geneva wise" or "the tune of Genevay," men, women, and children all singing together, without any clerk. Here is a description of such a funeral on 7 March, 1559:

All Saints - Edingthorpe

© Godric Godricson

"And there was a great company of people two and two together, and neither priest nor clarke, the new preachers in their gowns like laymen, neither singing nor saying till they came to the grave, and afore she was put in the grave, a collect in English, and then put in the grave, and after, took some earth and cast it on the corse, and red a thyng ... for the sam, and contenent cast the earth into the grave, and contenent read the Epistle of St. Paul to the Stesselonyans the ... chapter, and after they sang Pater noster in English, bothe preachers and other, and ... of a new fashion, and after, one of them went into the pulpit and made a sermon." Machyn especially disliked the preacher Veron, rector of St. Martin's, Ludgate, a French Protestant, who had been ordained by Bishop Ridley, and was "a leader in the change from the old ecclesiastical music for the services to the Psalms in metre, versified by Sternhold and Hopkins ."

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Trinitarian thoughts

The Cemetery is a place of reintegration and of community and has been so from a period before the introduction of Christianity in Britain. The dead are reincorporated with their compatriots and the sextons of the past ensured that the dead were stacked and layered to wait for their Resurrection.

The Trinity is a complex doctrine of the Christian faith that also implies at a Divine level a continuing integration beyond the understanding of humanity. The Trinity requires study and reflection to be fully understood and we need to bear in mind the idea of intermingling and integration to understand the doctrine. Denominations often have distinctive views of ‘The Trinity’ and often those denominational views are mutually exclusive and the object of intense debate. We often hate the things and ideas that are closest to us and accept ideas that are stranger and from further away. We can see a continuing development of the doctrine of The Trinity over time from a fairly limited statement of belief by the 4th Century Church at Nicea to a much more developed series of beliefs in the 21st century. The Trinity has become a sort of magic that is a test of orthodoxy and a trap for the unwary who speak without reference to the highly technical and specific language often used in the debate.

© Godric Godricson
Many people initially hear about ‘The Trinity’ from Church services in the Nicene Creed which exposes people to the doctrine and emphasises the central importance of the doctrine.

“I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who together with the Father and the Son is to be adored and glorified, who spoke by the Prophets”. (Wilhelm, Joseph. "The Nicene Creed." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 11. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. 15 Nov. 2009

The Nicene Creed sets out the very basic and unelaborated tenets of the doctrine without explaining that doctrine in detail and this ‘vagueness’ allows debate, confusion and conflict.

In response; The Roman Catholic Church tried to explain and codify the doctrine as part of the “Catechism of the Catholic Church”. Emphasising that the doctrine is a core  ‘mystery’; the Catechism teaches the doctrine in a ‘pithy’ style that draws upon the historical teaching of this particular denomination. Such a mystery relies upon God to reveal the mystery to others and cannot, in isolation, be understood by humanity with reference to reason alone. Equally, the Trinity cannot be understood without reference to the Incarnation. The catechism is a succinct  statement of doctrine that tries to free the denomination from perceived doctrinal error. The Catechism also introduces  specific Church terminology such as "consubstantial Trinity"  which are explained; although,  the explanation is sometimes so highly refined that it is inaccessible for the majority of congregations. Regrettably, humanity tries to understand The Trinity and the interwoven idea of God without thinking about how humanity itself is interwoven in death and for all eternity. Humanity is interwoven in death and in dissolution and although the imagery is sometimes macabre we need to hold onto that idea.

© Godric Godricson

Building on earlier explorations of the doctrine (and acknowledging that some Protestant denominations totally refute the doctrine); Karl Rahner (SJ) has written extensively in this area such as “The Trinity” (1967). Rahner  developed earlier intellectual statements of belief towards a  further refined perception and enhanced an understanding of this doctrine by exploring themes such as the “economic Trinity”  and the “Immanent  Trinity”. Such developments are intellectually complicated and sometimes esoteric although, ultimately, Rahner encourages thinking about the doctrine and it may be that this introspection and reflection may bear fruit as we consider the cemetery.

I would suggest that there are parallels in our consideration of The Trinity and our consideration of death and disintegration as such matters bring humanity together in the ground and in the ashes that we leave behind. Even if we have not lived together, we have the opportunity to coexist together for eternity.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Edwin Chadwick - Interviews (1843)

Detail: Ashill
Parish Church
The following testimony of a lady, respecting the miasma which escaped from one burial-ground at Manchester, is adduced as an example of the more specific testimony as to the perception of its effects. This testimony also brings to view the circumstance that in the towns it is not only in surface emanations from the grave-yards alone that the morbific matter escapes.

You resided formerly in the house immediately contiguous to the burying-ground of chapel, did you not ?

Yes I did, but I was obliged to leave it.

Why were. you so obliged?

When the wind was west, the smell was dreadful. There is a main sewer runs through the burying-ground, and the smell of the dead bodies came through this sewer up our drain, and until we got that trapped, it was quite unbearable.

Do you not think the smell arose from the emanations of the sewer, and not from the burying-ground?

I am sure they came from the burying ground; the smell coming from the drain was exactly the same as that which reached us when the wind was west, and blew upon us from the burying-ground. The smell was very peculiar ; it exactly resembled the smell which clothes have when they are removed from a dead body. My servants would not remain in the house on account of it, and I had several cooks who removed on this account.

Did you observe any effects on your health when the smells were bad ?

Yes, I am liable to head-aches, and these were always bad when the smells were so also. They were often accompanied by diarrhrea in this house. Before I went there, and since I left, my head-aches have been very trifling.

Were any of the other inmates of the house afflicted with illness ?

I had often to send for the surgeon to my servants, who were liable to ulcerated sore throats.

And your children, were they also affected ?

My youngest child was very delicate, and we thought he could not have survived; since he came here he has become quite strong and healthy, but I have no right to say the burying-ground had any connexion with his health.