Once the body passes away, the soul leaves the corpse and goes to the Heaven or sinks into hell to be doomed forever. Some people used to find the souls of the dead in butterflies, others in doves flying around, but everyone used to open windows and doors in the house the sick person had passed away to facilitate its departure.
Sometimes the soul was delaying the departure. In the city of Modica for instance, it was believed that due to yelling souls were refrained to leave and that is most likely the reason why in hospitals souls were kept in there just wandering around and frightening the patients. These were called “doomed souls”.
Once left the body, the soul did not immediately leave for its final destination but sometimes indulged in wandering around the house and attending the funeral feasts. In other circumstances, it was believed that the unsettled soul used to roam around the cross placed on the location its body was killed, scaring the living with whispering to them like the wind howls.
In the city of Augusta, it was said that the unsettled soul used to possess birds, which were then making noises on the rooftops of the house of its enemy. The soul of a man burned alive it was commonly believed to go straight to the Heaven as the flames of hell were already experienced on the Earth.
The soul was believed to sink straight into hell if the dead man did not regret his sins before his demise. It was commonly believed that whether the fate of the dead man was to be foretold the sky must have been inspected in the night of a full moon three months after the man’s death. If the east sky was cloudy and wind was howling, and a dog was barking the dead was then most certainly doomed. In case the east sky was clear, there was no wind, but an owl was hooting nearby the dead was believed to be hold in purgatory. In case of the east sky was clear, there was no wind blowing and most important a shooting star was to be seen falling down, the dead was then probably in Heaven. When it comes to the figure of dog, it is to be mentioned that among demons the dog is one on them, along with the symbolism of the wind, which was commonly believed to be blown by the devil, all perceptions of bad omens.
The common beliefs as they were passed on till nowadays stand for an incredible source of information on the history of Sicily as well as an outstanding heritage of our Sicilian ancestors’ talent in trying to explain death and drive out its mystery.