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Posts tagged Dead:

Corpse Road

In medieval Britain, corpse roads provided a practical means for transporting corpses from remote communities to cemeteries in larger towns, that had burial rights. Concomitant expansion of church building throughout the UK during the late medieval period inevitably encroached on the territories of existing mother churches or minsters. Demands for autonomy from outlying settlements made minster officials feel that their authority was waning, as were their revenues, so they instituted corpse roads connecting outlying locations and their mother churches that alone held burial rights.
For some parishioners, this decision meant that corpses had to be transported long distances, sometimes through difficult terrain: usually a corpse had to be carried unless the departed was a wealthy individual. Many of the corpse roads have long disappeared, while the original purposes of those that still survive as footpaths have been largely forgotten, especially if features such as coffin stones, on which the coffin was placed while the parishioners rested, or crosses no longer exist.
Such corpse roads have developed a great deal of associated folklore. The essence of spirit lore is that spirits, that is, spirits of the dead, phantasms of the living, wraiths, or fairies move through the physical landscape along special routes. Such routes are conceived of as being straight and by the same token, convoluted or non-linear features hinder spirit movement.



Similarly, corpse roads would run in a straight line over mountains and valleys and through marshes. In towns, they would pass the houses closely or go right through them. The paths end or originate at a cemetery; therefore, such a path or road was believed to have the same characteristics as a cemetery, where spirits of the deceased thrive. As such, corpse roads became intrinsically associated with fairy roads and the supernatural entities which reside there. 
[Image Source]

Corpse Road

In medieval Britain, corpse roads provided a practical means for transporting corpses from remote communities to cemeteries in larger towns, that had burial rights. Concomitant expansion of church building throughout the UK during the late medieval period inevitably encroached on the territories of existing mother churches or minsters. Demands for autonomy from outlying settlements made minster officials feel that their authority was waning, as were their revenues, so they instituted corpse roads connecting outlying locations and their mother churches that alone held burial rights.

For some parishioners, this decision meant that corpses had to be transported long distances, sometimes through difficult terrain: usually a corpse had to be carried unless the departed was a wealthy individual. Many of the corpse roads have long disappeared, while the original purposes of those that still survive as footpaths have been largely forgotten, especially if features such as coffin stoneson which the coffin was placed while the parishioners rested, or crosses no longer exist.

Such corpse roads have developed a great deal of associated folkloreThe essence of spirit lore is that spirits, that is, spirits of the dead, phantasms of the living, wraiths, or fairies move through the physical landscape along special routes. Such routes are conceived of as being straight and by the same token, convoluted or non-linear features hinder spirit movement.

Similarly, corpse roads would run in a straight line over mountains and valleys and through marshes. In towns, they would pass the houses closely or go right through them. The paths end or originate at a cemetery; therefore, such a path or road was believed to have the same characteristics as a cemetery, where spirits of the deceased thrive. As such, corpse roads became intrinsically associated with fairy roads and the supernatural entities which reside there. 

[Image Source]

Sin-Eater
Up until the late 19th century various villages throughout England maintained a curious ilk of beggar known as a sin-eater. These men would be summoned, naturally by the lure of a handsome pay cheque, to eat bread, partake of alcohol and recite ritual over a fresh corpse, in the belief that by these means the sin-eater would take into his body the sins of those who had died without chance to repent. The sin-eater would receive his pay and the deceased would enjoy an easy ascension to the heavens.

An account of Richard Munslow (d.1906)[1], the last sin-eater of England, reads thus:


By eating bread and drinking ale, and by making a short speech at the graveside, the sin-eater took upon themselves the sins of the deceased. The speech was written as: “I give easement and rest now to thee, dear man. Come not down the lanes or in our meadows. And for thy peace I pawn my own soul. Amen.

In Funeral Customs (1926) Bertram S. Puckle tells of a Welsh sin-eater in 1825 who, “Abhorred by the superstitious villagers as a thing unclean … cut himself off from all social intercourse with his fellow creatures … he lived as a rule in a remote place by himself, and those who chanced to meet him avoided him as they would a leper. This unfortunate was held to be the associate of evil spirits, and given to witchcraft, incantations and unholy practices; only when a death took place did they seek him out, and when his purpose was accomplished they burned the wooden bowl and platter from which he had eaten the food handed across, or placed on the corpse for his consumption.”[2]
Unapproved of by the church the practice faded out towards the end of the 19th century.
[Image Source]

Sin-Eater

Up until the late 19th century various villages throughout England maintained a curious ilk of beggar known as a sin-eater. These men would be summoned, naturally by the lure of a handsome pay cheque, to eat bread, partake of alcohol and recite ritual over a fresh corpse, in the belief that by these means the sin-eater would take into his body the sins of those who had died without chance to repent. The sin-eater would receive his pay and the deceased would enjoy an easy ascension to the heavens.

An account of Richard Munslow (d.1906)[1], the last sin-eater of England, reads thus:

By eating bread and drinking ale, and by making a short speech at the graveside, the sin-eater took upon themselves the sins of the deceased. The speech was written as: “I give easement and rest now to thee, dear man. Come not down the lanes or in our meadows. And for thy peace I pawn my own soul. Amen.

In Funeral Customs (1926) Bertram S. Puckle tells of a Welsh sin-eater in 1825 who, “Abhorred by the superstitious villagers as a thing unclean … cut himself off from all social intercourse with his fellow creatures … he lived as a rule in a remote place by himself, and those who chanced to meet him avoided him as they would a leper. This unfortunate was held to be the associate of evil spirits, and given to witchcraft, incantations and unholy practices; only when a death took place did they seek him out, and when his purpose was accomplished they burned the wooden bowl and platter from which he had eaten the food handed across, or placed on the corpse for his consumption.”[2]

Unapproved of by the church the practice faded out towards the end of the 19th century.

[Image Source]

Danse Macabre
Dance of Death is an artistic genre of late-medieval allegory on the universality of death: no matter one’s station in life, the Dance of Death unites all. The Danse Macabre consists of the dead or personified Death summoning representatives from all walks of life to dance along to the grave, typically with a pope, emperor, king, child, and labourer. They were produced to remind people of the fragility of their lives and how vain were the glories of earthly life. Its origins are postulated from illustrated sermon texts; the earliest recorded visual scheme was a now lost mural in the Saints Innocents Cemetery in Paris dating from 1424–25.
[Image: The Dance of Death (1493) by Michael Wolgemut]

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned before, but Danse Macabre is one of my favourite allegorical concepts! You can see another here.

Danse Macabre

Dance of Death is an artistic genre of late-medieval allegory on the universality of death: no matter one’s station in life, the Dance of Death unites all. The Danse Macabre consists of the dead or personified Death summoning representatives from all walks of life to dance along to the grave, typically with a pope, emperor, king, child, and labourer. They were produced to remind people of the fragility of their lives and how vain were the glories of earthly life. Its origins are postulated from illustrated sermon texts; the earliest recorded visual scheme was a now lost mural in the Saints Innocents Cemetery in Paris dating from 1424–25.

[Image: The Dance of Death (1493) by Michael Wolgemut]

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned before, but Danse Macabre is one of my favourite allegorical concepts! You can see another here.

The Strange World of Professor Copperthwaite

The Strange World of Professor Copperthwaite was a taxidermy collection of all manner of weird and wonderful creatures billed in the 19th century as having been brough to the UK by the fictional Victorian adventurer Professor Copperthwaite. The collection includes bizarre stuffed animals including [2-7] a unicorn, a bat-duck hybrid, a winged cat, a "cheasant" or "phicken", a Cambodian woolly pig, and a yeti. It is thought Victorians were fooled by these mythical creatures because they appeared alongside real animals and other curiosities such as conjoined lambs.

(Source: telegraph.co.uk)

Mummy Brown
Mummy brown was a rich brown bituminous pigment, intermediate in tint between burnt umber and raw umber, which was one of the favorite colors of the Pre-Raphaelites.
Mummy brown was originally made in the 16th and 17th centuries from white pitch, myrrh, and the ground-up remains of Egyptian mummies, both human and feline, one London colourman claiming that he could satisfy the demands of his customers for twenty years from one Egyptian mummy.
It fell from popularity in the early 19th century when its composition became generally known to artists. According to Jasmine Day, in her book The Mummy’s curse: Mummymania in the English-speaking World, “In 1881, the artist Laurence Alma Tadema, famous for his romantic ancient Egyptian scenes (such as that above which is very … brown), saw his paint preparer grinding up a piece of a mummy.  Realizing where “mummy brown” came from, he alerted his fellow painter, Edward Burne-Jones [and] together with some family members, the remorseful artists held an impromptu funeral burying a tube of mummy brown paint.” [Source]
Mummy Brown was also extremely variable in its composition and quality, and since it contained ammonia and particles of fat, was likely to affect other colours with which it was used. It was produced up into the 20th century until the supply of available mummies was exhausted.

Mummy Brown

Mummy brown was a rich brown bituminous pigment, intermediate in tint between burnt umber and raw umber, which was one of the favorite colors of the Pre-Raphaelites.

Mummy brown was originally made in the 16th and 17th centuries from white pitch, myrrh, and the ground-up remains of Egyptian mummies, both human and feline, one London colourman claiming that he could satisfy the demands of his customers for twenty years from one Egyptian mummy.

It fell from popularity in the early 19th century when its composition became generally known to artists. According to Jasmine Day, in her book The Mummy’s curse: Mummymania in the English-speaking World, “In 1881, the artist Laurence Alma Tadema, famous for his romantic ancient Egyptian scenes (such as that above which is very … brown), saw his paint preparer grinding up a piece of a mummy.  Realizing where “mummy brown” came from, he alerted his fellow painter, Edward Burne-Jones [and] together with some family members, the remorseful artists held an impromptu funeral burying a tube of mummy brown paint.” [Source]

Mummy Brown was also extremely variable in its composition and quality, and since it contained ammonia and particles of fat, was likely to affect other colours with which it was used. It was produced up into the 20th century until the supply of available mummies was exhausted.

Father Christmas is Dead
Sorry kids…
Historians have uncovered evidence that Father Christmas lived in Essex and died nearly 500 years ago. Archivists at the county’s records’ office have discovered a brief archive entry that states Father Christmas was laid to rest at a churchyard in the village of Dedham on May 30, 1564. It simply reads: ‘The 30th Day, Father Christmas was buried.’
[Obviously there’s a boring explanation for this, which you can read about in the original article]



Advent Calendar of Oddments 2012: December 23rd

Father Christmas is Dead

Sorry kids…

Historians have uncovered evidence that Father Christmas lived in Essex and died nearly 500 years ago. Archivists at the county’s records’ office have discovered a brief archive entry that states Father Christmas was laid to rest at a churchyard in the village of Dedham on May 30, 1564. It simply reads: ‘The 30th Day, Father Christmas was buried.’

[Obviously there’s a boring explanation for this, which you can read about in the original article]

Advent Calendar of Oddments 2012: December 23rd





Engraving of occultists John Dee and Edward Kelley ”in the act of invoking the spirit of a deceased person” (1806)




16th Century Necromancers
Edward Kelley was an ambiguous figure in Renaissance occultism, a self-declared spirit medium who worked with John Dee in his magical investigations. Besides the professed ability to summon spirits in a crystal ball, which Dee so valued, Kelley claimed to possess the secret of transmuting base metals into gold. Dee was a mathematician, astronomer, astrologer, occultist, navigator, imperialist and consultant to Queen Elizabeth I. He devoted his life to the study of alchemy, divination and Hermetic philosophy, straddling the worlds of science and magic just as they were becoming distinguishable.
Kelley approached Dee in 1582. Dee had unsuccessfully been trying to contact angels with a crystal ball but Kelley professed the ability to do so, impressing Dee with his first trial. They subsequently devoted huge amounts of time and energy to these “spiritual conferences”. A year later, Kelley appeared with an alchemical book and some red powder which, he claimed, he had been led to by a “spiritual creature”. With the powder Kelley believed he could prepare a red “tincture” which would allow him to transmute base metals into gold. He reportedly demonstrated its power a few times over the years.
Dee and Kelley lived a nomadic life in Europe, seeking the patronage of various monarchs but ultimately failing to impress. Eventually their involvement in necromancy caught the attention of the Catholic Church, and they were required to defend themselves in a hearing with the papal nuncio. Dee handled the interview with tact, but Kelley infuriated the nuncio by criticising the “poor conduct of many … priests.” The nuncio noted in a letter that he was tempted to toss Kelley out of the window, defenestration being a common tradition in Prague at the time. 
Then, possibly as an act to end the fruitless spiritual conferences so that he could concentrate on alchemy, which was beginning to make him wealthy, Kelley revealed to Dee that the angels had ordered them to share everything they had—including their wives. Anguished, Dee broke off the conferences, though he did share his wife. This “cross-matching” occurred in 1587, as noted in Dee’s diary. Nine months later Dee’s wife gave birth to a son and although there was speculation that the child was actually Kelley’s, it was raised as Dee’s. 
Though it seems the two shared a basically cooperative and innocent partnership, it was often characterised as “quarrelsome” and “tense”. Kelley left Dee at Trebon in 1589, possibly to join the emperor’s court at Prague and Dee returned to England. They did not see each other again.

Engraving of occultists John Dee and Edward Kelley ”in the act of invoking the spirit of a deceased person” (1806)

16th Century Necromancers

Edward Kelley was an ambiguous figure in Renaissance occultism, a self-declared spirit medium who worked with John Dee in his magical investigations. Besides the professed ability to summon spirits in a crystal ball, which Dee so valued, Kelley claimed to possess the secret of transmuting base metals into gold. Dee was a mathematician, astronomer, astrologer, occultist, navigator, imperialist and consultant to Queen Elizabeth I. He devoted his life to the study of alchemy, divination and Hermetic philosophy, straddling the worlds of science and magic just as they were becoming distinguishable.

Kelley approached Dee in 1582. Dee had unsuccessfully been trying to contact angels with a crystal ball but Kelley professed the ability to do so, impressing Dee with his first trial. They subsequently devoted huge amounts of time and energy to these “spiritual conferences”. A year later, Kelley appeared with an alchemical book and some red powder which, he claimed, he had been led to by a “spiritual creature”. With the powder Kelley believed he could prepare a red “tincture” which would allow him to transmute base metals into gold. He reportedly demonstrated its power a few times over the years.

Dee and Kelley lived a nomadic life in Europe, seeking the patronage of various monarchs but ultimately failing to impress. Eventually their involvement in necromancy caught the attention of the Catholic Church, and they were required to defend themselves in a hearing with the papal nuncio. Dee handled the interview with tact, but Kelley infuriated the nuncio by criticising the “poor conduct of many … priests.” The nuncio noted in a letter that he was tempted to toss Kelley out of the window, defenestration being a common tradition in Prague at the time.

Then, possibly as an act to end the fruitless spiritual conferences so that he could concentrate on alchemy, which was beginning to make him wealthy, Kelley revealed to Dee that the angels had ordered them to share everything they had—including their wives. Anguished, Dee broke off the conferences, though he did share his wife. This “cross-matching” occurred in 1587, as noted in Dee’s diary. Nine months later Dee’s wife gave birth to a son and although there was speculation that the child was actually Kelley’s, it was raised as Dee’s.

Though it seems the two shared a basically cooperative and innocent partnership, it was often characterised as “quarrelsome” and “tense”. Kelley left Dee at Trebon in 1589, possibly to join the emperor’s court at Prague and Dee returned to England. They did not see each other again.

The Wax Effigy of Sarah Hare
Sarah Hare died in 1744 at the age of 55 of a commonplace accident. It was said that she “used to sew on a Sunday and as a punishment died from pricking her finger. “ Sarah did indeed die after injuring herself while sewing, likely, from septicemia. [She] made no extraordinary contributions to this world except one – a wax effigy of herself, the only such mortuary statue of its kind in England outside of Westminster Abbey [See Also]. 
Today we know very little about Hare’s life except that she never married and was not very pretty. In a will dated August 1743, Sarah made a series of curious requests:

“This I hope my Executor will see firstly performed before Sunset … I desire to have my face and hands made in wax with a piece of crimson satin thrown like a garment in a picture hair upon my head and put in a case of Mahogany with a glass before and fix’d up so near the place were my corps lyes as it can be with my name and time of Death put upon the case in any manner most desirable if I do not execute this in my life I desire it may be done after my Death.”

Her wishes were met … molded impressions were made of her face and hands, which were poured in wax. She was buried in the Hare mausoleum in Holy Trinity church. Surrounding her closed mahogany cabinet, which is situated in a corner of the vault, are memorials to the Hare family, dating from the 17th-20th centuries.
Her cabinet is plain. A bronze plate engraved with the words – “Here lyeth the body of Sarah Hare…” – its only adornment. Her lifesize effigy has waited for over 250 years behind a pair of mahogany doors for the occasional visitor to find it.

The Wax Effigy of Sarah Hare

Sarah Hare died in 1744 at the age of 55 of a commonplace accident. It was said that she “used to sew on a Sunday and as a punishment died from pricking her finger. “ Sarah did indeed die after injuring herself while sewing, likely, from septicemia. [She] made no extraordinary contributions to this world except one – a wax effigy of herself, the only such mortuary statue of its kind in England outside of Westminster Abbey [See Also]. 

Today we know very little about Hare’s life except that she never married and was not very pretty. In a will dated August 1743, Sarah made a series of curious requests:

“This I hope my Executor will see firstly performed before Sunset … I desire to have my face and hands made in wax with a piece of crimson satin thrown like a garment in a picture hair upon my head and put in a case of Mahogany with a glass before and fix’d up so near the place were my corps lyes as it can be with my name and time of Death put upon the case in any manner most desirable if I do not execute this in my life I desire it may be done after my Death.”

Her wishes were met … molded impressions were made of her face and hands, which were poured in wax. She was buried in the Hare mausoleum in Holy Trinity church. Surrounding her closed mahogany cabinet, which is situated in a corner of the vault, are memorials to the Hare family, dating from the 17th-20th centuries.

Her cabinet is plain. A bronze plate engraved with the words – “Here lyeth the body of Sarah Hare…” – its only adornment. Her lifesize effigy has waited for over 250 years behind a pair of mahogany doors for the occasional visitor to find it.

(Source: janeaustensworld.wordpress.com)

Galvanic Reanimation of the Dead
In biology, galvanism is the contraction of a muscle that is stimulated by an electric current. The effect was named after the scientist Luigi Galvani, who investigated the effect of electricity on dissected animals in the 18th century. When Galvani was doing some dissection work in his lab, his scalpel touched the body of a frog, and he saw the muscles in the frog’s leg twitch. Galvani referred to the phenomenon as animal electricity, believing that he had discovered a distinct form of electricity. [Source]
Two decades later, Galvani’s nephew, Giovanni Aldini, took the process one step further when he applied it to the corpses of humans. In 1803 he performed experiments in public on the severed heads of ‘malefactors,’ despatched in Bologna and London. The following accounts demonstrate what was witnessed:

"George Forster was hung … at Newgate Prison, for the drowning of his wife and youngest child in the Paddington Canal. After hanging for an hour in sub-zero temperatures, Aldini procured the body and began his galvanic experiments. On the first application of the process to the face, the jaws of the deceased criminal began to quiver, and the adjoining muscles were horribly contorted, and one eye was actually opened. In the subsequent part of the process the right hand was raised and clenched, and the legs and thighs were set in motion. Mr Pass, the beadle of the Surgeons’ Company, who was officially present during this experiment, was so alarmed that he died of fright soon after his return home.”


"[The galvanic] stimulus produced the most horrible contortions and grimaces by the motions of the muscles of the head and face; and an hour and a quarter after death, the arm of one of the bodies was elevated eight inches from the table on which it was supported, and this even when a considerable weight was placed in the hand."

There is much speculation that Aldini’s experiments were the inspiration for Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. 

Galvanic Reanimation of the Dead

In biology, galvanism is the contraction of a muscle that is stimulated by an electric current. The effect was named after the scientist Luigi Galvani, who investigated the effect of electricity on dissected animals in the 18th century. When Galvani was doing some dissection work in his lab, his scalpel touched the body of a frog, and he saw the muscles in the frog’s leg twitch. Galvani referred to the phenomenon as animal electricity, believing that he had discovered a distinct form of electricity. [Source]

Two decades later, Galvani’s nephew, Giovanni Aldini, took the process one step further when he applied it to the corpses of humans. In 1803 he performed experiments in public on the severed heads of ‘malefactors,’ despatched in Bologna and London. The following accounts demonstrate what was witnessed:

"George Forster was hung … at Newgate Prison, for the drowning of his wife and youngest child in the Paddington Canal. After hanging for an hour in sub-zero temperatures, Aldini procured the body and began his galvanic experiments. On the first application of the process to the face, the jaws of the deceased criminal began to quiver, and the adjoining muscles were horribly contorted, and one eye was actually opened. In the subsequent part of the process the right hand was raised and clenched, and the legs and thighs were set in motion. Mr Pass, the beadle of the Surgeons’ Company, who was officially present during this experiment, was so alarmed that he died of fright soon after his return home.”

"[The galvanic] stimulus produced the most horrible contortions and grimaces by the motions of the muscles of the head and face; and an hour and a quarter after death, the arm of one of the bodies was elevated eight inches from the table on which it was supported, and this even when a considerable weight was placed in the hand."

There is much speculation that Aldini’s experiments were the inspiration for Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

A belief in hell and the knowledge that every ambition is doomed to frustration at the hands of a skeleton have never prevented the majority of human beings from behaving as though death were no more than an unfounded rumor

—Aldous Huxley

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