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Morturary Custom


1240. If salt water pigeons' feathers are in a bed, the sick person on

it will not die easily.


1241. In old colonial burying-grounds--in Plymouth, Concord, Cambridge,

and Rutland, Mass.--the graves are so placed that the headstones face

west, that is, the body lies with the feet toward the east.

Perhaps general in New England.

1242. Among Irish
atholics it is usual to place the body with the feet

toward the door. The body of a young girl is usually draped in the robes

of the society to which in her church she belonged. Over the corpse is

constructed a white canopy, from one end of which images of white doves

are often hung. At the feet is a stand or table, on which flowers are

laid, and where, at night, candles are kept burning.

Boston, Mass.

1243. Country people turn the mirror to face the wall while one lies dead

in the house.

Northern Ohio.

1244. While the corpse is in the house, the looking-glass must be turned

toward the wall; otherwise, whoever looks into the mirror will die within

the year. This custom is said to be most common among Irish Catholics,

but it is not confined to them.

Baldwinsville, N.Y.

1245. Bad luck (instead of death) is also said to follow violation of

this rule.

Washington, D.C.

1246. If, when any one dies, you put the coffin in any other room than

the one the corpse is in, some other member of the family will die within

a year.

Western Massachusetts.

1247. I have noticed at funerals of the aged, that when elderly people

passed by the casket they would touch the forehead of the dead person. I

was confident that there was some superstition connected with the act,

because the same look was apparent on every face; but on being asked why

this was done, they pretended it was bidding an old comrade good-bye. At

last one told me that it was that they might not dream of the dead or see


Westport, Mass.

1248. It is usual, after the conclusion of the funeral service, for the

persons present at the ceremony to pass in front of the dead, and look on

the face. Not to perform this token of respect is felt as a lack of

propriety. It is not uncommon for the undertaker, or some person in

charge of the proceedings, to say in a loud voice: An opportunity is now

offered to those who desire to look on the face of the corpse, or words

to that effect.

General in the United States.

1249. Only male relatives take part in the funeral procession.

Philadelphia, Pa.

1250. In regard to the ceremonies at the grave, usage differs widely. In

New England it is usual for near relatives to attend; and, in the case of

important persons, for a procession to march to the cemetery. Among

Catholics a great number of friends attend the hearse of persons in

humble life.

1251. It is an old Connecticut custom that the yard gate should never be

shut after being opened to let through a body being carried from its

former home to the graveyard.

1252. The funeral procession must not cross a river.

Baldwinsville, N.Y.

1253. I was first led to notice the superstition about crossing a river,

from having to attend funerals on the south side, when they would

otherwise have been held on the north side. This is losing ground, owing

to the frequency of crossing to reach the cemetery, but I had an instance

only last spring.

Baldwinsville, N.Y.

1254. The corpse must not pass twice over any part of the same road.

Baldwinsville, N.Y.

1255. It is unlucky in a funeral, for those present to repass the house

where death has occurred.

Baldwinsville, N.Y.

1256. At a funeral, entering church before the mourners means death to

some of the entering party.

Boston, Mass.

1257. It is a bad sign to drive past a funeral procession.


1258. It is unlucky to pass through a funeral procession, either between

the carriages or the files of mourners on foot.

This is a general superstition. The custom, which has become instinctive

with many persons, is usually set down to the score of decency and


General in the United States.

1259. To meet a funeral is bad luck. To avert it, turn round and take

three steps backward before going on.

St. John, N.B.

1260. It is bad luck to meet a corpse. One may follow it, but never meet

it. A colored person will turn square about on seeing a funeral

procession approaching.

Talladega, Ala., and Virginia.

1261. To keep the corpse in the house over Sunday will bring death in the

family before the year is out.

South Framingham, Mass.

1262. If the grave is left open over Sunday, another death will occur

before the Sunday following.

Boxford, Mass.

1263. If a grave is covered on Friday, another in the same family will

follow inside of a year.

Chatham, N.B.

1264. If a grave is left open over night without the corpse, another

death in the family will soon follow.


1265. It is bad to disturb an old grave, as by putting up a tombstone;

you will thus herald a death.

Chestertown, Md.

1266. Many will not go through a graveyard on the way to call on friends,

for fear of bringing death into the house.


1267. The clothes of the dead wear out quickly.

Westport, Mass.

1268. The clothes of the dead never wear long when used by the living.

New York.

1269. If you put clothes of a live person on a corpse, when the clothes

decay the owner will die.

St. Joseph, Mo.

1270. It is quite customary, both in the United States and in Canada, to

give the whole house a thorough cleaning after a death has occurred, even

when the deceased has undergone no prolonged illness and has died of no

contagious disease. A day or two after the funeral one sometimes sees,

particularly in country homes, feather beds, mattresses, etc., etc., put

out to air. Sometimes even rooms are whitewashed in the purification