When I was writing Paranormal Petersburg, Virginia, and the Tri-Cities Area, I learned some interesting superstations about death, thanks to taking a ghost tour at Sutherland Tavern in Dinwiddie, Virginia, and Michelle Olger. In past centuries, before a burial of someone who passed away, wakes were held. A wake is when the body was laid out for two to five days. One day was needed to put out the call about the death, another couple of days for people to gather there, and a couple of more days were needed for viewing the body. Parlors in the past were where people placed their dead when “laid out.” They were called death rooms. Not in morgues, as at that time, such places were not there yet. When morgues came into being and dead placed there, that is when parlors became living rooms.
Today, people bring flowers to give the families of the deceased. This, too, had to do with the body in the parlor. It began to smell, so placing many flowers in the parlor helped tone down the stench. Also, all clocks in the house were stopped, and any mirrors covered. Clocks were stopped at the hour of the death of the person laid out. Superstition had them believing that if they were not stopped, the living would have bad luck. There were also superstitions regarding mirrors: covering them wherever the dead were laid out was to prevent disembodied spirits from seeing their own reflections and never finding rest. Other reasons stated that mirrors should be covered so the soul of the departed wouldn’t get caught behind the glass and be unable to pass to the other side. There is one final belief that if the living saw their own reflection in a mirror while a body lay in the parlor, they would die soon after. The pallbearers carried the body out the front door feet first, so not to beckon any souls back into the house.
There are other interesting superstitions concerning death that I found and wrote about in the chapter for Sutherland Tavern:
It is bad luck to meet a funeral procession head on. If you see one approaching, turn around. If this is unavoidable, hold on to a button until the funeral cortege passes.
When a clap of thunder is heard following a burial, it is an indication that the soul of the departed has reached heaven.
Do not hold your breath while going by a graveyard, so you will not be buried.
If the deceased has lived a good life, flowers will bloom on his grave; but if he has been evil, only weeds will grow.
The odor of roses when no one is around indicates that someone will die.
Seeing yourself in a dream means that your death will follow.
If a sparrow lands on a piano, someone in the home will die.
A picture falling off a wall means that there will be a death of someone you know.
A single snowdrop growing in the garden foretells death.
What other traditions or superstitions do you know about death that I haven’t mentioned? Leave a comment about it, plus your name and email (so if you win, I can contact you after I draw the winner October 6th) to be entered to win a signed copy of my new book.