Broad Beans, Paschal Candles and Graveside Stories February 25, 2013Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern , trackback
Popular superstitions survived surprisingly late in many parts of Europe. However, these superstitions had two enemies, Christianity and urbanization, enemies that gradually scoured them out of mind and memory. From the arrival of Christianity on the scene (any time between 300 and 1000) and increased urbanization (any time from 1700-1950) any superstition would have to survive several hundred priests and several dozen economic imperatives. For our purposes (an interest in knowing what these beliefs actually were) Christianity makes for a better opponent. After all, at least priests sometimes recorded the nefarious crimes that they wanted to get rid of. It is as if the nail in the coffin has some precious mental universes embossed on it just before being hammered into the wood. Beach recently came across a striking example from sixteenth-century Italy the Episcopale bononiensis civitatis (Bologna 1580). The counter reformation is in its full insane fury and, God help you, if you are a peasant practicing the customs of your grandparents. Some of these sound pre-Christian, at least in origin: e.g. the bean giving. Others are Christian but a popular non-approved version of Christianity: e.g. the paschal candle.
Putting an ox yoke on a dying person to help him out of his agony is in no way acceptable. Nor, equally, is it proper to make an opening in the roof of the house, in the belief that otherwise the soul would not escape from that dying body.
It is also prohibited to place two, three or more stones under the head of the dying person, if he has confessed to having in his life removed or displaced two, three or more boundary markers.
In inviting relatives to the burial it is not necessary to send two persons together, nor is it true, as some say, that if only one were sent that person would die within the year in the house; nor should a loaf of bread be sent with a single person: this is an abuse and must be prohibited.
It is not proper to send for the paschal candle and place it on the head of the deceased, while he is in the house.
Likewise it is an abuse not to allow the cross to come into the house when someone has died, in the belief that it would cause others to die in that house within the same year.
There are some who scream and cry out indecently and immoderately at home and in church around the bier, and do the same on the seventh day over the grave, telling ridiculous stories to the onlookers, this must be prohibited.
What were those stories? drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com
Nor is it good practice for the relatives of the dead to give broad beans to the bystanders in church, who then change these into coins for the offering to the priest, or split them in half.
You can almost hear Demeter’s fleet foot running by somewhere out in the fields beyond Bologna.