« PreviousContinue »
chin-cloth; with gloves on the hands, and a cravat round the neck, all of woollen. The women have a kind of head-dress with a forehead cloth.”—Travels in England, translated by Ozell, p. 88. He adds, p. 90, “that the body may ly the softer, some put a lay of bran, about four inches thick, at the bottom of the coffin. The coffin is sometimes very magnificent. The body is visited to see that it is buried in flannel, and that nothing about it is sowed with thread. They let it lye three or four days."
[A correspondent of the Athenæum says: “I can tell you of a fancy that some people have in the wilder parts of Craven, that if the mark of a dead person (the body, however, not being cold) be put to a will, it is valid in law. A few years ago, a case of this nature occurred. A farmer had omitted to make his will; he died, and, before the body was cold, a will was prepared by some relative (of course in his own favour), and a mark, purporting to be that of the deceased, was made by putting the pen into the hand of the dead man, and so making his mark to the will. The body of the man was not then cold. The will was contested by some parties, and, I believe, proceeded to a trial at law : when the circumstance of the belief of the parties came out in evidence."']
It is customary at this day, in some parts of Northumberland, to set a pewter plate containing a little salt upon the corpse. A candle, too, is sometimes set upon the body, in like manner. Salt, says the learned Moresin, is the emblem of eternity and immortality. It is not liable to putrefaction itself, and it preserves things that are seasoned with it from decay.2
I In Articles to be enquired of within the Archdeaconry of Yorke, by the Church wardens and Sworne Men, A.D. 163–, I find the following curious item : “ Whether at the death of any, there be any superstitious burning of candles over the corpse in the day, after it be light.""
? “ Salem abhorre constat diabolum, et ratione optima nititur, quia sal æternitatis est et immortalitatis signum, neque putredine neque corruptione infestatur unquam, sed ipse ab his omnia vendicat.”—Moresini Papatus, P. 154. Considered in reference to this symbolical explication, how beautiful is that expression, “ Ye are the salt of the earth!” Reginald Scot, in his Discourse concerning Devils and Spirits, p. 16, cites Bodin, as telling us that “the devil loveth no salt in his meat, for that is a sign of eternity, and used by God's commandment in all sacrifices." Douce says, the custoin of putting a plate of salt upon corpses is still retained in
[Train, in his Historical and Statistical Account of the Isle of Man, 1845, ii. 136, says: “When a person dies, the corpse is laid on what is called a straightening-board; a trencher, with salt in it, and a lighted candle, are placed on the breast, and the bed, on which the straightening-board bearing the corpse rests, is generally strewed with strong-scented flowers.”')
Dr. Campbell, in his Philosophical Survey of the South of Ireland, 1777, p. 210, mentions this custom as obtaining in Ireland, and says that the plate of salt is placed over the heart. It should seem as if he had seen Moresin's remark, by his supposing that they consider the salt as the emblem of the incorruptible part; “the body itself,” says he, “ being the type of corruption.” Pennant, in his Tour in Scotland, tells us, that on the death of a Highlander, the corpse being stretched on a board, and covered with a coarse linen wrapper, the friends lay on the breast of the deceased a wooden platter, containing a small quantity of salt and earth, separate and unmixed : the earth an emblem of the corruptible body, the salt an emblem of the immortal spirit. All fire is extinguished where a corpse is kept; and it is reckoned so ominous for a cat or dog to pass over it, that the poor animal is killed without mercy.
From the following passage in a Boulster Lecture, 1640, p. 139, the corpse appears anciently to have been stuck with flowers : “Marry another, before those flowers that stuck his corpse be withered.” The following is in Herrick's Hesperides, p. 394 :
“ The Soul is the Salt.
The flesh soone sucks in putrifaction." In the same work, p. 5, is a copy of verses “to Perilla,” abounding with tender allusions to the funeral customs of his time :
" "Twill not be long (Perilla) after this
That I must give thee the supremest kisse :
many parts of England, and particularly in Leicestershire, but it is not done for the reason here given. The pewter plate and salt are laid on the corpse with an intent to hinder air from getting into the bowels, and swelling up the belly, so as to occasion either a bursting, or, at least, a difficulty in closing the coffin. See Gent. Mag. for 1785, lv, 603, 760.
Dead when I am, first cast in salt, and bring
Still in the coole and silent shades of sleep." Moresin gives us also his conjecture on the use of the candle upon this occasion .' “ It was an Egyptian hieroglyphic for life, meant to express here the ardent desire of having had the life of the deceased prolonged.” Pope, conversant in Papal antiquities, says:
“Ah, hopeless lasting flames ! like those that burn
To light the dead, and warm the unfruitful urn." In Levi's Account of the Rites and Ceremonies of the modern Jews, we read, p. 163: that when any of the sick among that people have departed, the corpse is taken and laid on the ground, and a pillow put under its head; and the hands and feet are laid out even, and the body is covered over with a black cloth, and a light is set at its head. It appears from Scogin's Jests (ed. 1796), p. 4, that in Henry the Eighth's time it was the custom to set two burning candles over the dead body. The passage is curious, as illustrative of more customs than one: “On Maundy Thursday, Scogin said unto his chamber-fellow, We will make our Maundy, and eat and drink with advantage : Be it, said the scholar. On Maundy-Thursday at night they made such chear that the scholar was drunk. Scogin then pulled off all the scholar's cloaths, and laid him stark naked on the rushes, and set a
1 “Lucerna, seu candela mortuis cadaveribus semper apponitur in domibus et templis, quamdiu supra terram sunt, et frequenter toto anno post humationem. An hinc ducto more, oculo, vel lucerna incensa veteres Egyptii vitam significabant, unde veteres soliti sunt lucernas ardentes sepulcbris imponere, hac saltem ratione significantes se mortuorum quamdiu possent vitas producturos.”—Moresini Papatus, p. 89. “ Jubet papa cadaveris expiationes fieri, ut quod valde immundum est, aspergatur aqua benedicta, thurificetur, exorcisetur sacris orationibus, illustretur sacris luminibus, quousque supra terram fuerit,“ &c. Ibid. p. 26.
form over him, and spread a coverlet over it, and set up two tallow candles in candlesticks over him, one at his head, the other at his feet, and ran from chamber to chamber, and told the fellows of that place that his chamber-fellow was dead." Adding, “I pray you, go up, and pray for his soul; and so they did. And when the scholar had slept his first sleep, he began to turn himself, and cast down the form and the candles. The fellows seeing that Scogin did run first out of the chamber, were afraid, and came running and tumbling down ready to break each other's neck. The scholar followed them stark naked; and the fellows seeing him run after them like a ghost, some ran into their chambers, some into one corner, and some into another. Scogin ran into the chamber to see that the candles should do no harm, and at last fetched up his chamberfellow, who ran about like a madman, and brought him to bed, for which matter Scogin had rebuke.”
FUNERAL ENTERTAINMENTS. THESE funeral entertainments are of very old date. Cecrops is said to have instituted them for the purpose of renewing decayed friendship amongst old friends, &c. [Robert de Brunne, writing in the thirteenth century, asks :
“Art thow i-wont at lychwake
Any pleyes for to make ?”] Moresin tells us that in England, in his time, they were so profuse on this occasion, that it cost less to portion off a daughter than to bury a dead wife.' These burial feasts are still kept up in the north of England, and are there called arvals or arrils. The bread distributed on these occasions is called arvil-bread. The custom seems borrowed from the ancients, amongst whom many examples of it are collected by Hornmau in his treatise de Miraculis Mortuorum, cap. 36.
1 “Convivia fnnebria Cecrops primus instituit prudenter, ut amici amicitiam fortasse remissam renovarent, et pro uno defuncto acquirerent his mediis plures amicos, &c. In Anglia ita strenue hanc curam obeunt, ut viliori pretio constet elocatio filiæ, quam uxoris mortuæ inhumatio." Moresini Papatus, &c. p. 44.
Juvenal, in his fifth Satire, l. 85, mentions the cæna feralia, which was intended to appease the ghosts of the dead, and consisted of milk, honey, water, wine, olives, and strewed flowers. The modern arvals, however, are intended to appease the appetites of the living, who have upon these occasions superseded the manes of the dead. An allusion to these feasts occurs in Hamlet, act i. sc. 2, who, speaking of his mother's marriage, says:
“The funeral bak'd meats Did coldly furnish forth the marriage-tables."! The word arval occurs in the provincial poem styled Yorkshire Ale:
“Come, bring my jerkin, Tibb, I'll to the arvil,
Yon man's ded seny scoun, it makes me marvill." Hutchinson, in his History of Northumberland, ii. ad fin. p. 20, thus mentions the arvel-dinner: “On the decease of any person possessed of valuable effects, the friends and neighbours of the family are invited to dinner on the day of interment, which is called the Arthel or Arvel dinner. Arthel is a British word, and is frequently more correctly written arddelw. In Wales it is written arddel, and signifies, accord. ing to Dr. Davies's Dictionary, asserere, to avouch. This custom seems of very distant antiquity, and was a solemn festival made at the time of publicly exposing the corpse, to exculpate the heir, and those entitled to the possessions of the deceased, from fines and mulcts to the lord of the manor,
I Gough, in the introduction to the second volume of his Sepulchral Monuments, p. 6, says: “An entertainment, or supper, which the Greeks called II Epidelavov, and Cicero circompotatio, made a part of a funeral, whence our practice of giving wine and cake among the rich, and ale among the poor.” The ancients had several kinds of suppers made in honour of the deceased. First, that which was laid upon the funeral pile, such as we find in the 23d book of Homer, and the 6th Æneis of Virgil ; Catullus, Ep. lv.; Ovid, Fasti, ii. Secondly, the supper given to the friends and relations at their return from the funeral, as in the 24th book of Homer's Ilias, in honour of Hector. This kind of supper is mentioned in Lucian's treatise of Grief, and Cicero's third book of Laws. Thirdly, the silicernium, a supper laid at the sepulchre, called 'Exúrng Cervov. Others will have it to be a meeting of the very old relations, who went in a very solemn manner after the funeral, and took their leaves one of the other, as if they were never to meet again. The fourth was called epulum novendiale.