Different cultures and religions have distinct beliefs about life after death, but most of them believe in some sort of afterlife. While most religions agree that another world exists beyond this one, they generally hold very different views on many of its aspects, such as its location, availability, and perhaps most importantly, the best way to successfully reach it. Below we have a list of 10 historical funerary customs that supposedly aided the deceased in successfully reaching the afterlife.
During the Middle Ages, churches were very protective of their parish members. When a member of the parish passed away, the church was determined to have them buried in the proper church graveyard. This was because it was considered the right thing to do and also because it meant that the church would receive money for the burial ceremony.
Communities, however, were becoming more and more spread out, which meant that the local parish church could be miles away, making it difficult to transport a body from the village to the church graveyard. As a result, the idea of a corpse road, a road that connected a village to the cemetery, was born. Corpse roads were also known as coffin roads, church ways, or burial roads and often passed through desolate places that were difficult to navigate. This was partly due to landowners being against corpse roads becoming standard routes for trade and travel and partly due to the belief that spirits could only travel in straight lines. Thus, meandering roads, labyrinths, and crossroads ensured that the spirit of the deceased could not return to haunt its previous dwelling. It was also believed that spirits could not pass through water, and as a result, many corpse roads had a river streaming through them. Carrying the corpse with its feet facing away from the direction of its home was also a superstition that was thoroughly followed to ensure that the spirit would not return.
Today, many of these roads have disappeared into history. A few, however, still remain in the UK and the Netherlands. You can recognize them by their name and various landmarks, such as crosses, lych gates, and coffin stones (a stone used for resting the coffin when its carriers needed a rest, as it was inadvisable to allow the spirit to meet the ground) that are scattered throughout these roads. And if you notice a corpse candle floating around, you’ll know you’re definitely on the right road.