Saturday, October 31, 2015

Past Customs or Happy Halloween

With my recent hiatus from Cousins, I have not only lost my groove with writing but also with reading blogs. So, today I started surfing again. I just love reading family history blogs. One article leads to another, and soon I am lost wondering how I got to wherever I have ended up. Today I ended up reading about post mortum photographs. What???  Here is a whole topic I knew nothing about. How about you?

I started out reading someone's blog on this topic and one thing lead to another. You know how that goes.  According to some of the articles I read, taking pictures of the deceased was common in the past. Wikipedia says that this was a normal part of American and European culture in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.  It was often the only visual remembrance of the deceased and the photograph was considered a precious possession. It also may have been the only image the family had of the family member.

I possess a few photographs of ancestors in their caskets, but none sitting up in a chair as I saw in several articles.  Some images appear to be professional photographs and others are snapshots. I remember when I was a little girl hearing my mother and aunt discuss whether or not to take a casket photo of a relative. They agreed to do it when no one else was around. It had a bit of a tabu feel to me. It seems that this became the general feeling as photography improved and people began to have numerous photos of their loved ones. I read that at one time 1/3 of all photos were post mortem. Amazing the things one can learn about past customs from just a recliner and an ipad.

I do not intend to be morbid, but became aware of a past custom practiced in Palermo, Sicily from the 17th -19th century that readers might not have heard of before. I know I certainly hadn't. The Capuchin Catacombs houses the largest collection of mummies in the world.  Prior to my September visit to this site, I had read a little about it. Unfortunately, a couple of friends who accompanied me had not. The place was a bit too morbid for them. I found it fascinating, but then I like cemeteries like most genealogists. The following is a list of thoughts or descriptions of the catacombs that are common to reviews.

Dehydrated corpses
Beyond creepy
Almost looks like decorations
Underground passages
Peek back into history
8,000 corpses
Clothing of profession
Hung in niches
Glass sided coffins
Corridors for:
Unique in the world

If you find this interesting at all or are just a little curious, here are a couple of sites to learn more. 

The first site will tell you about the site. The second will show pictures. After clicking on the link, look for Comprehensive Index which is hi-lited. From there find the article The Bone Chilling Catacombs of the Capucin Monks.

Actually unless you like Halloween, I would wait to view these pictures. It is probably about the spookiest place you could be.

We do need to realize some of our current customs could seem as odd to our descendants as the above customs seem to us. Then again, maybe not.

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