The corpse

The corpse was blessed by the attended priest

Posted by Sicilian Ancestry on Sep 10, 2019

The act of putting a coin in the corpse’s mouth was something very common in Sicily in ancient times. Talismans were put on the dead’s hands to protect him against enemies’ bad omens.

Before the coffin was sealed, locks of the dead hair were cut off and shreds of his clothes were ripped up to be kept as holy relics during dire times. When the corpse was already placed in the pit, a bunch of the earth surrounding it was usually picked up and kept for the same reason. If the dead was a virgin, a palm and a garland were laid on the coffin, if it was a child just a garland was laid instead.

Window in Sant'Ambrogio

Among the peasants nowadays, relatives in black clothes are often seen to follow the dead to the church or to the cemetery. Seeing a procession on the street is perceived as a bad omen for the living, especially for a young couple. In order to ward off that unpleasant sight, it is used to touch iron or tiny red horns people wear as talismans. It is commonly believed as it follows: if the dead seen on the street is an elder, other people will soon die too. If it is a priest, two more priests will pass away too and in case it is a young girl two more young girls death will follow. Finally, whether it drizzles during the procession, rain will pour for eight days.