Monday, 15 October 2012

First burial in a graveyard

Ecclesiastical  Curiosities
Edited William Andrews (1899) Project Gutenburg
© Godric Godricson
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.

Grimm, in his “Teutonic Mythology,” tells us that when the new bridge at Halle, finished in 1843, was building, the common people got an idea that a child was wanted to wall up in the foundations. In the outer wall of Reichenfels Castle a child was actually built in alive; a projecting stone marks the spot, and it is believed that if this stone were pulled out the wall would at once fall down.

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