Irish Death Superstitions

1.  The hand of a corpse was believed to be a cure for all diseases.  Sick people would be brought to a house where a corpse was laid out so that the hand could be laid on them.

2. The candles used at funerals were also thought to have curative powers. The butts of the candles would be saved to cure burns. Another Irish cure for burns is said to be raw potato.

3. Nettles gathered from a churchyard and boiled down were believed to cure water retention when boiled down into a drink.

4. It is believed that the souls of the dead that die abroad, wish to be buried in Ireland. The dead will not rest peaceably unless buried with their forefathers and people of their own kind.

5. The spirit of the dead last buried has to watch in the churchyard until another corpse is buried. Duties include carrying water for the dead that are waiting in Purgatory. This keeps them very busy. Purgatory is a very hot place. This superstition has been known to cause fights when two funeral processions try to enter the same churchyard at the same time. No one wants their loved one to be the last buried and have to perform these duties.

6. If anyone stumbles at a grave it is considered a bad omen. If you fall and touch the ground you will most likely die by the end of the year.

7. If you meet a funeral you must turn back and walk at least four steps with the mourners.

8. If the nearest relative touches the hand of a corpse it will shout out a wild cry if not quite dead.

9. On Twelfth Night the dead walk the Earth. On every tile of your house a soul is sitting waiting for your prayers to take it out of purgatory.

10. If a magpie comes to your door and looks at you it is a sure sign of death. Nothing can be done to avert the doom.

11. When a swarm of bees suddenly quits the hive it is a sign that death is hovering near the house.

12. Similarly the corner of the sheet used to wrap a corpse was used to cure a headache or a swollen limb.

13. When someone dies you should close the curtains because should a moonbeam shine through the window onto the corpse or coffin then the devil sends his demons down it to steal the soul.

14. Stop all clocks at the time of death to confuse the devil and give the soul time to reach heaven.

15. In Ireland the dead are carried out of the house feet first, in order to prevent the spirit from looking back into the house and beckoning another member of the family to follow him.

16. Family photographs were also sometimes turned face-down to prevent any of the close relatives and friends of the deceased from being possessed by the spirit of the dead.

17. Cover all mirrors at the time of a death in the house or the soul will be trapped within the mirror.