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Lexilogio

Superstitious?

Related to the other thread on believing in ghosts.

I had a conversation at work this week about churches being turned into houses. And it turned out that many of my colleagues would simply not live anywhere where someone had died, or was buried. I find this bizarre. Given the history of the planet, I think its a reasonable estimate that someone has died on most patches of ground across the habitable world.

So why do we shy away from sleeping near official graves?

Oh - and before you ask - yes I have slept in a room overlooking a graveyard. I slept like the dead.....
Shaker

I think that a taboo about the spirits of the deceased and their supposed ability to interact with and affect the living is nigh universal - it's a very, very, very old human construct and has been around far, far, far longer than any scientifically-minded rationalist and sceptical dismissal of such claims, so it's hardly surprising that it seems to be instinctively hard-wired into the human animal generally. The existence of what are recognisable funeral rites in the graves of very ancient humans indicates that there was a belief in some kind of posthumous existence a long, long time ago.

Cultural practices such as decapitating certain corpses, burying suicides at crossroads, cutting out or impaling the hearts of corpses and so forth - which I'm sure still go on in certain parts of the world even now - indicate a belief that in some cases the spirits of the dead can be a malign and negative force: that some people die and their spirits don't go off to wherever but hang around and cause trouble for those still here. Such a belief must be hundreds of thousands of years old at least (an anthropologist of the right discipline would know about this sort of thing) and I think like a lot of things is insitinctive and automatic. The by and large Western scientific, sceptical, rationalistic approach is a Johnny-come-lately, very much a thin veneer on top of hundreds of millennia of superstition: you have to actively work at being scientifically-minded in this sense and sceptical; it's not yet had anywhere near enough time to become automatic and instinctive. Will it one day, given enough time? I don't know. I'd like to think so.
Leonard James

I think you are right, Steve. I quite definitely don't believe in ghosts of any kind, but if I have to go through a cemetery at night I don't hang about! Yet in the daytime I feel nothing untoward.

We have been so indoctrinated by culture with such things that is well-nigh impossible to remain totally indifferent ... especially if you are, like me, of a very imaginative turn of mind!
Jim

While broadly agreeing with you, Shaker, I'd point out that fear of living with the dead was not universal, even on these islands.
The only evidence for some form of mummification in Britain came from two examples - badly decayed - found in sites in the Western Isles. While found under the flooring of a structure which was probably a house, indications were that they spent a considerable time - maybe over a century - exposed to the open air (or, rather, peat smoke from fires).
This would indicate that, for a time at least, they spent time, as corpses, in the midst of living people. There is no sign, incidentally, of a site which could be seen as ritual ( the catch-all archaeology phrase which translates as 'I-haven't-a-clue-what-this-is-so-it's-bound-to-be ritualistic')
gone

It is just possible there is the body of a girl buried in the garden of our previous home. A gravestone was dug up about 30 years ago when the garden was being redesigned, so the digger driver told me. He stopped digging for fear of disinterring a body! My husband was digging the foundations for a wall in the part of the garden where the gravestone had been found, and came across part of a backbone. Our GP and my brother-in-law, also a doctor, reckoned it could have been human. According to the stone the girl died in 1778 aged fifteen. I reburied the gravestone just before we moved house. I wrapped it up well in plastic sheeting with an explanatory letter, should it be dug up again.
Jim

What kind of plastic did you use?
I ask because, far from preserving paper, some plastics, particurly polythene and polyurethine, can actually destroy it.
gone

Jim wrote:
What kind of plastic did you use?
I ask because, far from preserving paper, some plastics, particurly polythene and polyurethine, can actually destroy it.


I put the letter in a plastic carrier bag sealed with tape and then inside the plastic sheeting with the gravestone. Hopefully it will survive, but if not then someone else will have a mystery on their hands.
Powwow

An elderly man across my street took his rifle and blew his brains out in the basement of his house several years ago and a few weeks ago a young fella across my alley went on a drug induced rampage in his home and then hung himself. Both houses are still being lived in.
I have no superstitions regarding dead bodies. Both my grandpa's and my aunt's dead bodies, in their open caskets, were kept in their living rooms for several days.
gone

pow wow wrote:
An elderly man across my street took his rifle and blew his brains out in the basement of his house several years ago and a few weeks ago a young fella across my alley went on a drug induced rampage in his home and then hung himself. Both houses are still being lived in.
I have no superstitions regarding dead bodies. Both my grandpa's and my aunt's dead bodies, in their open caskets, were kept in their living rooms for several days.


I know people your side of the Atlantic ocean do things differently to us Brits, but the idea of an open coffin in my living room would be definitely a BIG NO NO! I had no wish to see my father once he had died, I preferred to remember him alive.
Powwow

So you do have issues about death and the dead body after all. If death is but the end of it, what's the cause of your fear of seeing a dead body? You use to write posts very, couldn't care less, about death and the body.
Lexilogio

I don't think this is an issue about one side of the Atlantic or the other. When my Aunt died, we had her in the coffin overnight in the living room. There is a long tradition in many Uk communities of laying out the body.

As for our own house - the previous owner is dead. But I have no idea if he died at home or in hospital.
trentvoyager

We did use to have bodies laid out in the home......when grandfather died in 1967 he was laid out on display in the front parlour.

One of the reasons I have heard put forward for it not happening now is the advent of central heating and the way it affects the body......not sure whether that is true or not  
Powwow

So it is done in the UK, I thought so. Mom and dad's families were from your side of the pond after all.
Lexilogio

trentvoyager wrote:
We did use to have bodies laid out in the home......when grandfather died in 1967 he was laid out on display in the front parlour.

One of the reasons I have heard put forward for it not happening now is the advent of central heating and the way it affects the body......not sure whether that is true or not  


Yes - its a good idea to turn the heating off when laying out a body.
Ketty

In church we sometimes have funerals where the casket is open during the celebration of the deceased's life.  The old tradition and idea of having the deceased laid out at home doesn't worry me at all.  Personally, I prefer to remember the person as they were when a vital living person, but it wouldn't worry me to sleep in the same house/room as a dead person.  Similarly walking through a grave yard at night wouldn't bother me.  It's not the dead we need to worry about, it's the living who may enjoy leaping out from behind a headstone . . .  
Shaker

pow wow wrote:
So it is done in the UK, I thought so.

Nowadays rarely and becoming increasingly so, I'm sure.
cyberman

pow wow wrote:
So you do have issues about death and the dead body after all. If death is but the end of it, what's the cause of your fear of seeing a dead body?


Powow, Willow didn't say she had a fear of seeing a dead body, did she?

She wrote:

Willow wrote:
I had no wish to see my father once he had died, I preferred to remember him alive.


..which has nothing at all to do with fear or superstition.

I do wish you would read posts before rewponding to them.

(OK powwow, I have said something mildly critical of you - time to call me stupid, now.. off you go..)
gone

I have absolutely no fear of dead bodies, I have laid out a few in my time, when I was training to be a nurse. I have no fear of walking around graveyards anytime of the day, I walk round ours daily.

I wouldn't like to see the bodies of friends and rellies if I could help it, preferring to remember them as they were in life. In fact I don't like attending funerals, and usually get out of it. I very much doubt I will attend my mother's when the time comes, I don't see the point. She will be dead, won't know I am attending ,and won't have the 'pleasure' of giving me a telling off as she usually does when she speaks to me!
cymrudynnion

Willow wrote:
It is just possible there is the body of a girl buried in the garden of our previous home. A gravestone was dug up about 30 years ago when the garden was being redesigned, so the digger driver told me. He stopped digging for fear of disinterring a body! My husband was digging the foundations for a wall in the part of the garden where the gravestone had been found, and came across part of a backbone. Our GP and my brother-in-law, also a doctor, reckoned it could have been human. According to the stone the girl died in 1778 aged fifteen. I reburied the gravestone just before we moved house. I wrapped it up well in plastic sheeting with an explanatory letter, should it be dug up again.
Willow, if you have or believe there are interred human remain in the grounds of your private house or garden you are obliged to contact the land Registry and mark on the plan of the property where the remains are located. this applies to corpse and cremated remains.
cymrudynnion

trentvoyager wrote:
We did use to have bodies laid out in the home......when grandfather died in 1967 he was laid out on display in the front parlour.

One of the reasons I have heard put forward for it not happening now is the advent of central heating and the way it affects the body......not sure whether that is true or not  
Body laid out in the front parlour and the curtains drawn. the neighbours out of respect would draw their curtains as well. The fun came getting the coffin out of the parlour usually by totally removing the windows acomplete with frames.

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