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Nature volume 113, pages 727729 (17 May 1924) | Download Citation



GYPSY BURIAL CUSTOMS.—A detailed account of burial customs of the English gypsies is given by Mr. T. W. Thompson in the Journal of the Gypsy Lore Society, N.S. vol. hi. pt. i. These show marked signs of a fear of pollution. It is, for example, very unusual for a gypsy to take part in laying out a corpse, and any food in a tent when a death takes place is buried. A fast follows until the burial, and, with the Boswells, this takes the form of a red-meat tabu. The coffin is made specially large to hold a great part of the deceased's personal possessions. Anything not so included is burned. Among the objects usually placed in the coffin, in addition to clothes, are the watch and other jewellery, a knife, fork, and plate, a hammer, and sometimes grain and bread, the latter a potent influence against evil. Clothes are turned inside out. Some gypsies place a tuft of grass or sod on the breast, and in Scotland at one time a knot of red and blue ribbons was used. Annual gatherings at the grave were in some cases made the occasion of offerings, such as beer, poured on the soil, tobacco, sugar, and even, in one instance, a Christmas pudding.

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