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 Rites and Rituals

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Temperance
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PostSubject: Rites and Rituals   Mon 03 Dec 2012, 13:10

I've just got back from Manchester, where I attended the funeral of an old friend.

Funerals are always pretty grim, but this one was grimmer than most, mainly because of the determination that it should not be grim.

I honestly didn't know what to make of it all. Held at the local Crematorium, it was a determinedly - even aggressively - atheist business: no priest, no hymns, no reading from religious texts, no mention of a soul or after-life. Fair enough, but it seemed that there was to be no acknowledgement either that someone had actually died. The D-word was to be avoided at all costs: this was to be a "celebration", a joyful occasion, a defiant throwing of sceptres at the non-existent gods.

Except that it wasn't. It was actually awful - a very strange and uncomfortable experience. There were several "jolly" readings - performances really - got through as quickly as possible and then, with huge sighs of relief and not a little feeling of utter bewilderment, we all trooped out. It had been an excruciating fifteen minutes or so. The box at the front - and its contents - had seemed almost like an embarrassing irrelevance. Why bother at all with the bit at the Crem, I found myself wondering - why not just send the body there for disposal and be done with it. Omit all pretence of ritual and head straight for the pub. The wake is what matters - the proper send-off, with the music and the alcohol - not all the other stuff.

But are we actually losing something important? Funerals were never like this in other times/other cultures, were they? Did the "other stuff" - the formal rites and rituals, with all the difficult obligatory contemplation of the terror of it all - actualy help or hinder the process of grief? Or were the ceremonies of the past just empty ritual anyway - custom, not genuine belief, to be got through as soon as possible? Actually, what struck me on Friday was how there seems, these days, to be no place for - or patience with - grieving anymore: no one cried; no heads were bowed in contemplation of dreadful eternity; hardly anyone dressed in black - it's just not the done thing. And this not giving in - or giving way - to emotion doesn't seem to be simply the traditional stiff upper lip; weeping and wailing in public has after all never been an English thing. No - somehow this apparent lack of emotion seemed to me to go beyond the usual demand for decorous self-control. Is the insistence on "No flowers - or mourning - please" actually all about unhealthy denial?

Meanwhile, at the pub, I wondered what I should say or not say to the widow. She sat there numb with repressed misery, gin and valium - perhaps desperate to be allowed to break down and ask for mercy from someone or something, not just for her dead husband, but also for herself and for a son who had refused to attend his father's funeral. But in the end it seemed best not to say anything - other than the usual trite and useless words of "comfort" - who can tell?

Timor mortis conturbat me. Apparently not anymore. Certainly not in an age when you can be buried or otherwise disposed of in a coffin fashioned like a mobile phone or an enormous trainer. Death is just another excuse for a mad party. Good thing or bad? Answers on a postcard, please. Not meant to be "The Morbid Thread" - honest - but any thoughts on attitudes to death/funeral rites/customs in our own times and/or from the past?

http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/3945628/Wacky-caskets-put-fun-into-funeral.html

What on earth would the Vikings have thought?



PS Suttee wasn't a good idea.


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Meles meles
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PostSubject: Re: Rites and Rituals   Mon 03 Dec 2012, 14:04

Oooo Temp you have touched a nerve there with me.

This is written straight off after reading your post... and I apologise for if it's a bit brusk... raw... a gut reaction.

I am an atheist and I lost my partner - 12 years together, 10 years civil partnership - he died at 14:20 on the 29 Spetember 2011.

But then his funeral was completely taken over by his oh so loving, catholic parents: "a shameful 'gay' death... so embarassing.. but nobody needs to know and it must be quick and secret, no invites, no publicity" ... and no it wasn't AIDS! Frankly I was disgusted by their attitude. And no, we no longer speak.

So I actually agree with you Temp... I wanted to celebrate the life of someone dear and to mourn etc. wiith all his friends. A few friends from the village came but no-one else from his family, because his parents would not contact anyone, didn't want family there, and wanted it done so quick that virtually no-one would have time to get there. His parents took over the funeral and insisted it was done their way, full "Catholic" with a priest and all that .... who I had to pay for... cash only! The fact that Olivier professed to considerable agnosticism was totally ignored.

Olivier's feelings, my feelings? .... well I had nursed him for years, and especially so for the last 3 weeks whilst he was in a coma.... so I'd already said my goodbyes, privately. But maybe others, outside of the family, would have liked to have said their farewells and get "closure" too. But no, his "loving" parents took over. Everthing. Everything except the bill... they refused to help there (and in accordance with French law all his and my accounts were temporarily frozen so I had real trouble paying the undertakers bill).... I had to borrow the money for the funeral from friends, real friends who just wrote the cheque, and advanced me the money with no quibbles.

But now I do regret all that haste a bit. It was not nicely done, especially for some of his close friends who just happen not to live close by. But Olivier is now "home" , and his ashes are scattered around his favourite tree in the garden ... next to where we scattered his father's ashes just five years earlier. And I do no longer speak to his mother and step father. They are gone from my life ... and by their own choice from their son's too. But in life they did always seem to want to cut us both out of their family.... we were never invited to family do's etc, were forbidden from turning up at, say a family wedding etc ... so now they have to mourn alone. I feel sorry for his mother but ...... she's made her choice.


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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: Rites and Rituals   Mon 03 Dec 2012, 14:29

Oh heck, MM I'm sorry - did not mean to touch nerves. Memories of my own husband's funeral are none too good either - trying to please everyone and in the end pleasing no one. I actually got to the point of wanting to run away until it was all over. Church's argument over what I could or could not have on his headstone just about finished me off. I wanted a quotation from Thomas More about meeting "merrily in heaven", but was told that, because More was a Catholic saint, it was not allowed in a C of E graveyard. There was much hysterical laughter over that one, I can tell you. I chose a bit from the Song of Songs in the end because that's the rudest book in the Bible.

No disrepect to atheists - people should do what they want as regards religious or secular ceremonies. It's the idea that ritual and ceremony have in the past been regarded as in some way helping the bereaved come to terms with things that I wanted to explore, and how that today such ceremonies seem more and more to be considered as not helping at all - that they are simply theatrical nonsense best avoided. Perhaps they are???
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PostSubject: Re: Rites and Rituals   Mon 03 Dec 2012, 14:47

Thanks for your words Temp ... (and apololgies to everyone else, who I'm sure don't really want to see me 'wearing my heart on my sleeve' - btw wherever did that expression come from?).

But that was really my whole point: religious, atheist, secular... whatever... I see nothing wrong in mourning the passing of someone: remembering the good times, even laughing at the hilarious times, but still recognising the painful loss that we feel. And it's compforting, even if you don't subscribe to the 'life everlasting' guff, to feel that we all can and often do leave a lasting mark on the world... even if it is just amongst our family, our friends, and those people we have come across and maybe influenced during our brief sojourn on earth.

A good funeral is ... well, if nothing else... usually a good occasion for families' to meet up and remember. Neh?


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PostSubject: Re: Rites and Rituals   Mon 03 Dec 2012, 14:48

I loathe the new fangled 'celebration of life' malarky that some go on with now, it is false in the extreme, to my way of thinking anyway. No-one feels like celebrating when a death occurs, so why even bother pretending? Yet more escapism from the realities of life and living.

As funerals are more about the living than the dead, I do feel that ritual (whatever form it takes) is a necessary part of the process of re-adjustment and possibly why death has been ritualised for millenia and in all cultures across the globe. Ritual is also familiarity at a time of upheaval, there is comfort in that for a great many.

The term 'laying to rest' is so very apt, not only for the departed.


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PostSubject: Re: Rites and Rituals   Mon 03 Dec 2012, 14:49

I've been to a few funerals organised according to advice from the Humanist Society, both in Ireland and Norway, and it seems to me that they can either be very rewarding and successful occasions all round (including room for displays of grief if that comes with the territory) or can be as unrewarding and awkward as any other form. There is no guarantee no matter what one does, I think.

Depending on the personalities and circumstances a funeral is just like any other contrived social occasion. It can be one that surprises the participants as having fulfilled its function and even exceeded expectations in that regard or one that leaves everyone, including the leading participants, often wondering what the hell they're doing there at all.

It definitely doesn't help to have religious stupidity (no More at a C of E ceremony, a Catholic send-off for a gay anti-Catholic - I mean, who needs all that crap) and I do have to admit that I have found this type of carry on is so much more evident by its absence at the Humanist equivalent, where the greatest entertainment can be observing the christians wondering whether to join in the secular ritual the Society sometimes provides for people who like that kind of thing.

At my mother's funeral, as humanist as one could get, one of the speakers was interrupted when the afternoon summer sky outside the crematorium chapel suddenly darkened. Just as he reached the bit where he said that the deceased had always held out the hope of being a ghost (having been a great fan of Randall & Hopkirk) and would surely come back and say hello at the funeral if it was possible, there was a tremendous flash of lightning outside and the whole chapel shook with the thunder overhead for about a minute. The Catholics blessed themselves, the Protestants bowed their heads. The rest of us burst into applause and laughter. The rest of the ceremony went swimmingly (literally - the bloody rain was torrential afterwards).
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: Rites and Rituals   Tue 04 Dec 2012, 08:44

Good story, nordmann - I suspect had I been there I should have been laughing and applauding too, not crossing myself. Perhaps I'm a closet Humanist after all.

I've read somewhere that traditionally women did not attend funerals in Wales - only the men actually followed the coffin to the grave. Is this true, does anyone know - and was it a "Celtic" (for want of a better word) custom generally?
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PostSubject: Re: Rites and Rituals   Tue 04 Dec 2012, 09:34

Dopn't know about that - but my father's family have a somewhat similar idea, in that women do not attend the crematorium (if there is a church service first).



We happen to have in my paternal grandmother's family, a C of E lay reader, who can and does take funerals. It is amazing how much more comfort there is to be had when the address is given by someone who actually knew the deceased.
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PostSubject: Re: Rites and Rituals   Tue 04 Dec 2012, 10:10

That was the custom in Scotland as well Temp, and very few funerals were conducted in church, there was more usually a short service in the family home. The first church funeral conducted in a church that I attended, about 35 years ago, was my great uncle's and whose father had been church officer there so it was very appropriate that the service took place where he had often played as a child.

It's also relatively recently that 'ordinary' weddings took place in church as well, most were celebrated in the church hall, vestry or a hotel or some function room. My great aunt, the sister of the uncle I mentioned, was married in the that church for the same reason, in the 30s and it was so unusual that it was quite an event in Hamilton. Not just because of the venue but because she wore a 'proper' wedding dress: a smart suit or dress being much more common. I was at a humanist wedding in the spring in the University chapel. It was beautifully done, well conducted and with organ and a harpist for the music but I did miss the chance to bellow some old familiar hymns.
What an admission for a militant atheist.
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PostSubject: Re: Rites and Rituals   Tue 04 Dec 2012, 10:17

@Gilgamesh of Uruk wrote:
It is amazing how much more comfort there is to be had when the address is given by someone who actually knew the deceased.

How very true, but then in the not so distant past that would have been the norm - burial by the parish priest/vicar, whom one had seen, if not necessarily every Sunday, but at least at all major family and parish social events: weddings, christenings, funerals, in times of sickness, Christmas parties, Empire Day, school sports day, the summer fête etc... He would have genuinely known the family and the deceased.

Nowadays your average agnostic still wants the funeral in the pretty parish church... but doesn't have a clue who the current incumbent might be. And of course the church and parish is now probably one of a number served by the same career priest, who will only be in the parish for a few years before moving on.

EDIT ... And I forgot to add:
@Islanddawn wrote:
As funerals are more about the living than the dead, I do feel that ritual (whatever form it takes) is a necessary part of the process of re-adjustment and possibly why death has been ritualised for millenia and in all cultures across the globe. Ritual is also familiarity at a time of upheaval, there is comfort in that for a great many.

I do so much agree. Ritual as a comforting, automatic response in times of sorrow and upheaval. Quite.

And apropos of "funerals being more about the living than the dead"... I used to know a chap who was head of Bereavement Services at a major London Hospice. Their department was always the least funded and least regarded within the organisation. But as he always said: for every one person that dies, there are perhaps a dozen others who suffer... and continue to suffer. The hospice might have had a patient for just a few weeks ... but during that period, and then sometimes long after the death, the close family and friends continue to suffer emotionally, practically, financially, socially....


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PostSubject: Re: Rites and Rituals   Tue 04 Dec 2012, 10:48

An interesting and fairly new phenomenon is the increasing importance of scattering the ashes of the deceased as a part of the grieving and funeral processes. In this there seems to be an opportunity for a more individualised and less mechanical and standardised memorialisation that removes the focus of memory from a particular place, a cemetery for instance, and into a wider arena. Many of the choices for this are personal to the deceased, football grounds or gardens, but many seem to espouse the Romantic ideal of 'wild places' and also an environmental conciousness.

If anyone has access, this is an interesting article on the subject "Blowing in the wind? Identity,materiality, and the destinations of human ashes" http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1467-9655.2006.00368.x/abstract
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PostSubject: Re: Rites and Rituals   Tue 04 Dec 2012, 11:04

But increasingly it ain't always as easy as that ferval.

In the past the "little pot of ashes" on the mantlepiece was well-known, if for no other reason than for its comedy potential... and indeed long before cremation became normal. But sadly it is now heavily legislated, at least in Europe.

We had Olivier's fathers ashes in an urn in the house for several years. The rest of his family wanted the ashes to be returned to Belgium and to go in the old family vault. But they all lost interest in that plan when they saw the paperwork, and cost, involved in transporting a body, albeit in cremated form (about the volume and weight of a packet of coffee), across international borders. It has now got even more strict in that I had to make a sworn statement, endorsed by my local townhall, that I would not keep Olivier's ashes beyond a suitable period of time, and that I would dispose of them, promptly and permanently, on my own private land, where there would be no risk of polluting watercourses etc, etc...

But for me that was what I wanted, and what he told me he wanted too. So he's now scattered around a special tree, here in the garden, next to his dad ashes.

My own father's will specifically said he wanted to be cremated and then scattered at a designated place on the South Downs .... But my mother over-ruled this so she could 'bag' one of the few remaining plots in the old churchyard. So Dad's buried in the old cemetry, and now, with my mother on top of him for eternity. Poor man even in death he couldn't get his own way!
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PostSubject: Re: Rites and Rituals   Tue 04 Dec 2012, 11:26

That's interesting, MM, it's not a problem over here except in places like the aforementioned football stadiums. The pot of ashes is just handed over and you're left to get on with it.

The saga of scattering my mother in law's ashes would have made a sitcom, my husband's are distributed widely including a handful in the Nile. They obviously didn't show up on the scanner at the airport.
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PostSubject: Re: Rites and Rituals   Tue 04 Dec 2012, 11:57

Well my father-in-law got his way - buried in the churchyard of the church he attended as a boy, but mother-in-law was thwarted - she wanted to be buried in the graveyard of her parish church. Like so many others, it was full, the replacement cmetery full too - so in the end, she finished up next to her husband - actually at his feet (his was a single plot),so, as in life, they are sort of together, but not together.

I'm not sure about ritual - I suspect it's as much to do with "having done the right thing by X", and there may be some comfort in that, but my main feeling at the time of my father's death was anger - if his hypertension had been diagnosed earlier, he'd probably still be with us now, and almost certainly he'd have seen Senior Monster, born 2 days after his funeral.
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PostSubject: Re: Rites and Rituals   Tue 04 Dec 2012, 12:32

@ferval wrote:
The saga of scattering my mother in law's ashes would have made a sitcom,....

Death, funerals, mourning etc do seem to attract humour.... the forced rituals that we go through, the strained stiff upper lips, or the wild abandonment of all social niceties when we breakdown..... I've unfortunately had my fill of funerals of late but they all remain memorable: sad certainly, but also sometimes bizarre and, with hindsight, often funny.. to the point that I would have loved for the deceased to be there.... just to share the joke!

Many, many years ago my mother came across her sister-in law, my auntie Lou, standing on the middle span of the footbridge that crossed the tidal river in town, fumbling with something she'd just brought out of her handbag. My mum asked what she was doing and my aunt replied that she'd been spring cleaning, and had finally decided to send Cecil, her husband, or rather his remains, on his way. As she explained: "he always wanted to be buried at sea, but, this is the best I can do". And with that she up-ended the ornate little pot. Uncle, after some 25 years in the same container had become somewhat consolidated, but after a sharp wifely smack on the bottom, he fell out as one lump. Rather than as a scattering of ashes, he just went splat onto the mud flats below. It was low tide.

My mum asked why she hadn't asked her son - who made his livelihood from fishing, owned his own boat, and was the skipper of the local RNLI lifeboat - whether he couldn't have arranged something just a bit more nautical. But auntie Lou just said, something like: "he's busy this morning, and I've got a hair appointment at 11 o'clock".

Perhaps that was the whole point: she was finally fed up with dusting her late husband's pot everyday and had, after some 25 years of mourning, finally decided to move on.
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PostSubject: Re: Rites and Rituals   Tue 04 Dec 2012, 14:23

@Temperance wrote:
I've read somewhere that traditionally women did not attend funerals in Wales - only the men actually followed the coffin to the grave. Is this true, does anyone know - and was it a "Celtic" (for want of a better word) custom generally?

Have you seen the BBC series of Elizabeth Gaskell's Cranford Temp? There was quite a scene over the funeral of Judi Dench's (can't think of the characters names now) sister. As the only next of kin, not only did she attended the funeral but she did the most outrageous thing conceivable for a woman (in 1840s Northern England) and followed her sister's coffin in the procession to the cemetery. It certainly set the village tongues wagging no end.

I'm assuming this was historically accurate? Does anyone know for sure?
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PostSubject: Re: Rites and Rituals   Tue 04 Dec 2012, 14:49

After a dear friend of ours died, her will stated that she wanted her ashes scattered in the sea, off the place (here in Greece) where she had spent every summer for well over 30yrs.

The ashes were bought from England and we all gathered on the beach at dawn to say our final farewells, unfortunately imagination and practicality don't often work in sinc. The mosquitoes and sand flies were in a frenzy and particularly ravenous, the wind was a blowing off the sea so what should have scattered gracefully was blown back into our faces. And the larger and heavier pieces merely fell in one heap right at the edge of the water, and being a greyish colour particularly stood out against the reddish sand.

We were all quite worried that people would be tramping all over her to and from the sea, in hindsight it probably would have been preferable if we had hired a fishing boat and did the scattering a bit further out. It always looks so easy in the movies..........


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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: Rites and Rituals   Tue 04 Dec 2012, 16:42

I'd forgotten about Cranford, ID!

There was an item once on Radio 2 about all this. The worst - or best - ashes to ashes story concerned a poor, obviously rather confused lady who kept her husband in a jar in the kitchen - goodness knows why. He was next to the pot with the mixed spices and she put him in the Christmas pudding by mistake. The whole family ate dad on Christmas Day - with brandy butter and white sauce.
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PostSubject: Re: Rites and Rituals   Tue 04 Dec 2012, 17:05

@Temperance wrote:
I'd forgotten about Cranford, ID!

There was an item once on Radio 2 about all this. The worst - or best - ashes to ashes story concerned a poor, obviously rather confused lady who kept her husband in a jar in the kitchen - goodness knows why. He was next to the pot with the mixed spices and she put him in the Christmas pudding by mistake. The whole family ate dad on Christmas Day - with brandy butter and white sauce.

Still better than what happened in "Travels with my AunT"
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PostSubject: Re: Rites and Rituals   Tue 04 Dec 2012, 17:21

Flipping heck, how much spice did that woman usually put in her Christmas pud? There's quite a lot in an ashes urn and it's not exactly finely ground either. I can't decide which would be worse - a grossly over spiced pudding or a gritty one.
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PostSubject: Re: Rites and Rituals   Tue 04 Dec 2012, 17:28

I think the gritty texture and overall lack of moistness in the pud is what alerted the family as to what mum had done. Perhaps it was a deliberate mistake - you never can tell.

Haven't read Travels. What happened there?

Somebody else made her husband into an egg-timer.
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PostSubject: Re: Rites and Rituals   Tue 04 Dec 2012, 22:55

@Temperance wrote:
I think the gritty texture and overall lack of moistness in the pud is what alerted the family as to what mum had done. Perhaps it was a deliberate mistake - you never can tell.

Haven't read Travels. What happened there?

Somebody else made her husband into an egg-timer.

The Aunt's male companion hid his stash of weed in the protagonist's mother's urn & the police confiscated it.
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PostSubject: Re: Rites and Rituals   Tue 04 Dec 2012, 23:36

greatly enjoyed representing my mother at the smart funeral of one of her 'park mates'. This was an elderly gang who met up daily in their dotage, causing mayhem in the local park with all manner of mischief..... my mother's shopping trolley held the port and glasses.

Sitting beside 'the mate's neighbours - staunch Tories, I almost wept with delight that we all had to sing 'Keep the Red Flag Flying.' Mother regretted not going.
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PostSubject: Re: Rites and Rituals   Wed 05 Dec 2012, 06:15

Meles, what a sad way for you to say goodbye to your partner, and so recent as well, I guess keeping busy as you do will help, and having his ashes there with you.

Oh what Mums get up to!! my Mum it turns out was heavily involved with the IRA, so much so that she had to go to England or get in a lot of trouble. this did not come out while she was still alive, butter would not have melted etc.


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PostSubject: Re: Rites and Rituals   Wed 05 Dec 2012, 06:24

A friend's father fought for the old IRA in the Irish War of Independence and ended up carrying five bullets around inside him for the rest of his long life. At the funeral the major talking point amongst those in the know concerned whether the crematorium staff should be warned. It was decided, for entertainment purposes, it would be best not to say anything. The actual cremation takes place an hour or so after the ceremony in Dublin's only such facility by which time it is expected that all the mourners have dispersed. The staff must have wondered why not only had we not dispersed but the crowd hanging around outside the facility had actually grown by the time the deed was scheduled to be done.

No fireworks though, and a slightly deflated crowd drowned their grief and disappointment in the hostelry across the road for the remainder of the day (spending the deceased's money which he had thoughtfully left behind the bar in advance of his demise).
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PostSubject: Re: Rites and Rituals   Wed 05 Dec 2012, 06:27

How interesting Nordman, I dont believe Mum had any bullets, but whenever we visited in Ireland she would not be photographed.
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PostSubject: Re: Rites and Rituals   Wed 05 Dec 2012, 09:11

@Meles meles wrote:


Perhaps that was the whole point: she was finally fed up with dusting her late husband's pot everyday and had, after some 25 years of mourning, finally decided to move on.


And of course the most famous example of a woman who couldn't - or wouldn't - "move on" has to be Queen Victoria. Her so-called "magnificent obsession" with a dead husband must be the most extreme instance of posthumous domination in history.

She must have driven everyone mad. Apparently even a quarter of a century after Albert's death, she would still bring him into the conversation, even at breakfast, commenting on how "dear Albert would have enjoyed the buttered eggs" (what on earth are buttered eggs?). Was this refusal to be done with grieving simply an excuse for royal malingering, or was it a sign of the times? I've never understood the Victorians' delight in death and the trappings of mourning.

Even *babies* weren't exempt:



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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: Rites and Rituals   Wed 05 Dec 2012, 20:36

I am going to have a codicil added to my will saying that under no circumstances am I to be made into a paperweight.

http://www.ashesintoglass.co.uk/product-overview.php
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Gilgamesh of Uruk
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PostSubject: Re: Rites and Rituals   Wed 05 Dec 2012, 21:24

Buttered eggs - aka scrambled eggs (though often the buttered ones had cream in them)
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PostSubject: Re: Rites and Rituals   Wed 05 Dec 2012, 22:06

Quote :
I am going to have a codicil added to my will saying that under no circumstances am I to be made into a paperweight.

But what about becoming a diamond?
http://www.phoenix-diamonds.com/

I love the suggestion that it's the ethical thing to do, that they are "without the social stigma, the blood sweat and tears of hard labour or the environmental issues having a massive impact on the earth".
I note that your pet's remains can become a diamond. An ex cat on my finger? Perhaps not.
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PostSubject: Re: Rites and Rituals   Wed 05 Dec 2012, 22:50

I'm not sure about buttered eggs, but in my childhood we had creamed eggs, which were eggs broken into a saucer, covered with liquid cream and baked in the oven. They were very nyummy.

Our funerals here are nearly all held in the local community hall (churches too small to hold what amounts to most of the population most times), usually with family members doing a fair bit of the ceremony. In one the wife did the whole eulogy without a single wobble in her voice - I don't know how she had the strength, but she is South African and they seem to me a strong people.

I was unfortunately not at the funeral recently where my ex-next-door-neighbour (his wife got sick of silly drunken violence so he is no longer welcome in the family home) came into the church/hall and heaped abuse on the dead man (who was his friend). Caused quite a bit of consternation, police action and front page news in the newspaper.

Meles' experiences are not as uncommon as they should be, and one of the main reasons gay people have called for full marriage rights, I think. We have had in NZ a long-running saga about the burial of a Maori man. He asked to be buried in a plot in the town he lived with his (I think European) wife and family. But his Maori whanau (extended family) have fought this, stolen the body, and I am not sure, after some five years, that the whole business has been resolved yet.

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10795113
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PostSubject: Re: Rites and Rituals   Thu 06 Dec 2012, 07:21

True buttered eggs are freshly laid eggs which then had the shell rubbed all over with butter to seal them, egg shell is of course gas permeable. It was a method of extending the life of eggs before the days of refrigeration. When poached or scrambled they are said to have a distinctive rich buttery taste.

But as Gil says most buttered egg recipes on the intenet are just scrambled eggs. There's even one recipe that claims to be an 'historic recipe' , based on Charles Darwin's wife's own recipe .... it then goes on to describe standard scrambled eggs! (There is no associated original recipe or even a quotation from either Darwin or his wife). And I would have thought Mrs Darwin, like nearly every wife for the past millenium could do scrambled eggs without the need to either write down or follow a recipe. Whatever next, how to boil an egg the 'historic' way?

Sorry for the eggy deviation from the topic.
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PostSubject: Re: Rites and Rituals   Thu 06 Dec 2012, 08:17

As a kid I thought eggs were preserved in isinglass, I recollect buying it in bags and it looked like a mass of wispy noodles. I remember being fascinated mixing up a solution of this stuff with water in a large glass sweet jar and dropping a handful of nails and old brass screws into it, then over a period of time watching odd shapes grow into a colourful and weird underwater world.
I always wanted to grow a ‘garden’ of this stuff in an aquarium, rinse it well and then introduce fish... but it always worried me what it might do to the fish.

Sorry... back to buttered eggs, and the OP I suppose.
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PostSubject: Re: Rites and Rituals   Thu 06 Dec 2012, 08:34

The eggy deviation is most interesting, MM!

I'm going to try and do an old-fashioned buttered egg now - but it'll go all greasy and horrible, I bet.
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PostSubject: Re: Rites and Rituals   Thu 06 Dec 2012, 09:05

@normanhurst wrote:
As a kid I thought eggs were preserved in isinglass, I recollect buying it in bags and it looked like a mass of wispy noodles. I remember being fascinated mixing up a solution of this stuff with water in a large glass sweet jar and dropping a handful of nails and old brass screws into it, then over a period of time watching odd shapes grow into a colourful and weird underwater world.
I always wanted to grow a ‘garden’ of this stuff in an aquarium, rinse it well and then introduce fish... but it always worried me what it might do to the fish.

Sorry... back to buttered eggs, and the OP I suppose.

If you try that with isinglass (fish swim bladder extract) it won't work. Waterglass (sodium silicate) is the stuff - isinglass is for clarifying or fining wines and beers. I grew crystal gardens with waterglass, but I don't think they'd stand up to washing, and I'm not sure the fish could tolerate the waterglass.
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PostSubject: Re: Rites and Rituals   Thu 06 Dec 2012, 10:03

I read about growing a rock garden in a children’s science book... isinglass it said, isinglass I asked for in the chemists, and isinglass it said on the packet, as far as I knew it was isinglass I mixed into the water... until now I’d never heard of waterglass, but thank you for re-educating me Gil.

Seems like I wasn’t the only one confused.

http://kitchengarden.co.uk/forum/viewtopic.php?t=3222&view=next
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PostSubject: Re: Rites and Rituals   Fri 07 Dec 2012, 12:46

@Meles meles wrote:

Sorry for the eggy deviation from the topic.


I wonder if an Eggy Thread would take off? Eggs are very interesting.

Apparently the Romans were particularly fond of a good stuffed egg, but the earliest recipe we have for the dish dates from the 15th century (Italian). A favourite filling used cheese, lots of raisins and *sweet* spices. I can't imagine a sweet, devilled egg at all - sounds horrible. I wonder why *devilled* eggs are so called? Were spiced eggs considered bad in some way?

Here's a recipe for a 15th century giant boiled egg, cleverly made using pigs' bladders!

A dish made from 30 or 40 eggs


In order to make a dish from 30 eggs or 40 in form of one big egg, you must take two pig's bladders, one of them smaller than the other. Rinse them carefully inside. Then take the eggs, remove the shells, and separate the whites from the yolks. Take the small pig's bladder, mix the yolks and put them into the smaller bladder, until the bladder is full. Tie the bladder up carefully and give it into a pot. Let it boil, until the big yolk becomes solid. Then take away the bladder from the big yolk. Take the bigger bladder and cut a hole in it, big enough to put in the big yolk. Sew up this hole in the bigger bladder with the big yolk within. Then you have to mix up the white of the eggs. Take a funnel, put it into the opening hole of the bigger bladder and pour the white of the eggs on top of the yolk within the bigger bladder, so that the bladder is filled. Tie it up, put it into the pot and let it boil once more. The white of the eggs will boil around the big yolk, and there will be one big egg. You can serve it with a sauce of vinegar.



PS My buttered egg - or rather my Benecolled (Light) Proven to Lower Cholesterol - egg, which I prepared yesterday and boiled today, tasted no different from an ordinary boiled egg. I just ended up with a greasy saucepan. Prince Albert would have been most disappointed.
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PostSubject: Re: Rites and Rituals   Fri 07 Dec 2012, 12:49

But how long are the eggs meant to be left in their buttery overcoats? I'm going to try preparing one now for consumption at the weekend, with the real McCoy spread lavishly around it.

I thing Heston B did something very similar to your giant egg the other day on his TV show.
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PostSubject: Re: Rites and Rituals   Fri 07 Dec 2012, 16:52

@ferval wrote:
But how long are the eggs meant to be left in their buttery overcoats? I'm going to try preparing one now for consumption at the weekend, with the real McCoy spread lavishly around it.

I thing Heston B did something very similar to your giant egg the other day on his TV show.

Most egg preserving recipes are intended to last through the winter - until recent times, almost all hens moulted and stopped laying in autumn, and didn't start again till spring (day length is the key, now we can extend it ad lib). Cheapest alternative was reckoned to be whitewashing the egg to seal the pores.
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PostSubject: Re: Rites and Rituals   Fri 07 Dec 2012, 17:31

Quote :
Cheapest alternative was reckoned to be whitewashing the egg to seal the pores.

Now that's interesting, could the painted egg Easter tradition be linked to this? By Easter, no matter how well sealed, I imagine rolling down a hill would be the best fate for an egg that's been hanging around since autumn.
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PostSubject: Re: Rites and Rituals   Sat 08 Dec 2012, 10:51

It could well be ferval, also (traditionally) eggs were not permitted during the lenten fasting period. Decorating the previous season's eggs and using them for games such as rolling, could have been a convenient way of using up any of the old stock before the hens began laying a fresh batch in the spring?
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PostSubject: Re: Rites and Rituals   Sat 08 Dec 2012, 20:13

Eggs last fresh a lot longer than people give them credit for; we had hens when I was a child and gathered the eggs for sale. About every six weeks we took them to the egg market and then they would have been packaged up for sale, so presumably the oldest eggs were about two months old when sold. We didn't have complaints about their quality, as far as I know.

I have a book The Cookery of England by Elisabeth Ayrton which talks of traditional methods of cooking. She doesn't talk about preserving eggs but does say till the 19th century people used a great number of eggs in their cooking. I was a little surprised that a book published in 1974 should mention looking out for free-range eggs as an alternative to the 'chalk-white eggs laid by battery-reared hens'. Just this week in NZ new rules have been drafted for hens - battery cages to be phased out in ten years. There have been howls of protest about this, but I would have thought ten years was ample time to pull down structures and put new ones up. You could build a city in that time.

Ms Ayrton gives a recipe from 1615 for Bacon and Eggs: "take the best Collops and Eggs, you shall take the whitest and youngest Bacon, cut the Collops into thin slices, lay them in a dish, put hot water into them, and so let them stand an hour or two for that will take away the extreme saltness; then set then before the heat of the fire so as they may toast which done take your ehhs and break them into a dish and put a spoonful of venegar [sic] into them; then set a clean skillet with fair water on the fire and as soon as the water boileth put in the eggs and then dishing up the Collops, lay the Eggs upon them and so serve them up."

Preserving eggs in the past used lime water, or immersion in sodium silicate, burying them in salt, cooking them briefly in boric acid, or coating with vaseline, glycerine, wax or varnish. In WWII powdered egg was used in cooking and less successfully for eating straight.
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PostSubject: Re: Rites and Rituals   Sat 08 Dec 2012, 21:00

Hi Caro, I remember powdered egg from the wartime, it came to England from USA. I used to enjoy it as scrambled egg, it tasted stronger than normal eggs, we were only allowed a couple of eggs per week in rations.
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