Helen Frisby 2011

University of the West of England, UK

Limb burials, the Lyke Wake and rosemary for remembrance: folk funerary custom and the Victorian cemetery

This forum has regularly addressed the legal, the topographical, sociological, anthropological, archaeological and political aspects of the Victorian burial ground. It is certainly important that we try to understand cemeteries, then and since, from as many perspectives as we possibly can. However it strikes me that throughout, we have rarely considered the ritual aspects of burial during the heyday of the Victorian garden cemetery. What did Victorian mourners actually do in the cemetery? What about the catalogue of folk beliefs and customs which attended the burial liturgy, and burial grounds in general? From the widespread use of ‘rosemary for remembrance’ during the Victorian period, to the Lyke Wake Dirge and the curious custom of limb burials, this paper will support Julie Rugg’s contention that ‘modernity’ did not perhaps have as great an impact upon popular funerary practice as has frequently been assumed.


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