“It is said that your life flashes before your eyes just before you die. That is true, it’s called Life.”
― Terry Pratchett, The Last Continent
Another Sunday. Another Sunday starting and ending exactly in the same way as all Sundays in the last year.
Boring, I know, but it is when you are bored that all sorts of things come to mind, as if your brain wants to give you something different to think about, to replace the usual “what can I cook for lunch/dinner?”, or “should I do the fifth re-watch of Friends?”.
And this morning, while I was sipping my coffee and I was starting to plan my lunch, my brain clearly had enough and reminded me of prèfiche.
Prèfiche were professional mourners, women that were paid to cry at funerals. This job has very ancient roots, starting from Ancient Egypts and China, but was practised up until the ’80s in the South of Italy.
These women would go to the house of the defunct and start crying and shouting in a very dramatic way, scratching their own faces and pulling their hair, obviously dressed in total black. Behind all these noises, there is not only a way to take part to the family’s grief, but it was also believed that the spirit of the dead would be scared away by the yelling, and this would guarantee that the ghost wouldn’t come back.
The shouting would intensify while transporting the coffin from the house to the cemetery, and also any time somebody would go to visit the family of the defunct, that for up to 9 days would stay in the house with the windows and shutters closed, using only candles to get some light.
Thinking about it, it is so different compared on how death is perceived nowadays, in a time when grief is meant to be experienced as quietly as possible, preferably with a post on social media.
I would like to find out more about funerals and grief around the world, if you have any stories to share please let me know in the comments!