Thursday, April 4, 2019

Corpse Roads Folklore

Special Pathways for the Dead

Cemetery folklore would not be complete without corpse road superstitions. 

These pathways are supposed to ensure safe transportation of corpses from distant places to the cemeteries, churches or chapels where they will be interred. Also known as funeral pathways, burial roads, coffin roads, lych ways and corpse ways, they originated during medieval times.

The routes specifically connected churches to the burials sites owned by the churches. Over time, due to the rise in non-church burial grounds, many corpse roads were not kept up. Falling to disuse, they disappeared. In some areas funeral pathways still exist,but they are abandoned.

Winding Roadway Supersititons. 

It was believed that the spirits of the deceased always moved along special routes over various landscapes to reach the cemetery. Many thought they preferred straight paths because they were easy to navigate.
Superstition had it that non-linear roads (that zig-zagged like a maze or labyrinth) could hinder the movement of spirits. The winding nature of the pathway could help to deter them from reaching the graveyard.

On the other hand,  for those who wanted the spirits to follow the dead, not linger with the living, it was also believed that  a straight path that connected two places (free of walls, buildings and structures) would make it easier for the spirits to find the graveyard. To make sure they did not come back to haunt the family members of the deceased, different routes would be used for the return back to the church after the buriial.

It’s also interesting to note that the corpse roads in many cases did not cover farm land as it was thought that the spirits could hinder good crop yields. And yet, in other places the funeral pathways were bridges or stepping stones over water that reflected the idea that spirits could not travel across water.

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