|Maltese Death, Mourning, and Funeral Customs|
"Folklore" Vol. 34, No. 4 (Dec. 31, 1923)
"The hiring of poor women and beggars to pray over and watch the corpse for the whole night. This custom prevails mostly in Gozo. In old days official female mourners, named neiffiieha (from neiiiiah, " to cry ") were employed. The prac- tice was abolished in Malta during the plague of A.D. 1676.1 Sicilians employed mourners called Praeficae or Reputatrices, a custom of Greek and Roman origin and practised by the Irish until A.D. 1849. It still prevails among the Corsicans and the Sahara tribes of Algeria.
The old ceremonial of the Maltese female mourners is described by Abela as follows :- They wore trailing veils (kurkdr), and when they entered the premises of the deceased they cut down the bower vines in the yard and threw the flower pots from the balconies and windows into the street. They searched the house for the finest piece of china, dashed it on the floor, and mixed the fragments with ashes from the hearth. They boiled the whole together in a pot, and with the mixture washed the door posts and window shutters of the house. During these proceedings they sang couplets which ended in long-drawn sighs and lamentations. Then they gathered round the corpse and knelt down, extolling the virtues of the deceased, the relations joining in their mourning".