unbaptized babies

unbaptized babies
   Until recent times, the Church of England and Roman Catholic Church did not allow miscarried or stillborn babies to be buried in consecrated ground, as they had not been *baptized; it was thought (explicitly by Catholics, more vaguely by Anglicans) that they went neither to Heaven nor Hell, but to Limbo, where they could never know God. Yet, being human, they deserved some respect; the professional oath required of midwives in 1649 instructed them:
   Item, if any childe bee dead borne, you your selfe shall see it buried in such secret place as neither Hogg nor Dogg, nor any other Beast may come unto it, and in such sort done, as it may not be found or perceived, as much as you may; and that you shall not suffer any such childe to be cast into the Jaques (privy) or any other inconvenient place. (Anon., The
   Book of Oaths (1649), 289)
   The lack of a proper *funeral was bitterly felt; in Gosforth (Lancashire) in the 1950s, a village craftsman said 'If tha didn't get kiddy baptised by t'parson, it would have to be put in a box and stuck in t'ground like some sort o' animal . . . It wouldn't be right like a proper babby, it would be just like burying a dog or a sheep' (Clark, 1982: 117).
   Various compromises were devised to soften the rule. The baby might be laid on the unpopular *north side of the churchyard, or just inside its wall, without ceremony or gravestone, or it might be secretly placed in the coffin of an adult, to share the latter's funeral and grave. In 1859, when an undertaker was caught doing this, the Daily Telegraph denounced him as ignorant and ghoulish (10 Oct. 1859), but the practice remained common throughout the 20th century, especially among the poor (Radford, Radford, and Hole, 1961: 346). As a hospital administrator explained in a letter to The Times (31 Mar. 1983) after a similar case, it was hard to get permission for burying stillbirths in consecrated ground, and 'tandem disposal' eased the parents' pain. Some Anglican clergy knew and approved the custom; one said it was 'in order that the little ghost may not torment its parents with reproachful lamentation' (Puckle, 1926).
   The opposite attitude was expressed by a Devonshire man in 1852: 'When I was a young man it was thought lucky to have a stillborn child put into any open grave, as it was considered a sure passport to heaven for the next person buried there' (N&Q 1s:5 (1852), 77). In the last quarter of the 20th century, social and religious attitudes have changed greatly; it is now normal for the bereaved parents, the medical staff, and the hospital chaplain to arrange a funeral (Walter, 1990: 271-80).
   In English folklore, ghosts of unbaptized babies appear in various forms; in Devon, they are said to become butterflies or moths; in Devon and Cornwall, *pixies; in Yorkshire, *nightjars; in many districts, *Will-o'-the-Wisps (Radford, Radford, and Hole, 1961: 346).
   It was sometimes thought they would rest if given a name; a monk in medieval Yorkshire recorded how a man met the ghost of his own infant son and named it in the name of the Trinity, at which it ran off joyfully (James, 1922: 421).
   Socially, an infant was not fully integrated into the community before *baptism; in some Yorkshire fishing villages, it was until recently 'unthinkable' to take it into any house but its parents' (Clark, 1982: 116, 124).

A Dictionary of English folklore. . 2014.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • baptism —    Also called christening, this is for most denominations an essential act; many theologians taught that infants dying *unbaptized could never enter Heaven a doctrine reflected in the unwillingness to give them proper burial. In popular belief… …   A Dictionary of English folklore

  • Criticism of Christian doctrine — usually follows criticism of Christianity as a whole. Contents 1 Incarnation 2 Hell and damnation 3 Limbo 4 Atonement …   Wikipedia

  • Criticism of Christianity — This article is about criticism of the doctrines and practices of Christianity. For negative attitudes towards Christians, see Anti Christian sentiment. For acts committed against Christians because of their faith, see Persecution of Christians.… …   Wikipedia

  • Labo, Camarines Norte — Infobox Philippine municipality infoboxtitle = Municipality of Labo region = Bicol (Region V) province = Camarines Norte districts = Tagalog Speaking founded = September 8, 1800 class = 1st class pop2000 = 81,388 popden2000 = 134 area = 648.84… …   Wikipedia

  • George Blaurock — Jörg vom Haus Jacob (Georg Cajacob, or George of the House of Jacob), commonly known as George Blaurock [The nickname Blaurock means blue coat . He was also nicknamed derstarkeJörg meaning Strong George .] (c. 1491 ndash; September 6 1529), with… …   Wikipedia

  • Peter Abelard — Infobox Philosopher region = Western Philosophers era = Medieval Philosophy color = #B0C4DE |thumb image caption = Abaelardus and Heloïse surprised by Master Fulbert , by Romanticist painter Jean Vignaud (1819) name = Pierre Abélard birth = 1079… …   Wikipedia

  • Limbo (Brathwaite poem) — Limbo is a poem by Edward Kamau Brathwaite.It describes the similarity between a limbo dance and the transportation of African slaves into the West Indies and America. There is a strong sense of position throughout the poem. The limbo stick is in …   Wikipedia

  • International Theological Commission — The International Theological Commission (ITC) is a dicastery of the Roman Curia consisting of 30 Catholic theologians from around the world. Its function is to advise the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) of the Roman Catholic… …   Wikipedia

  • Dante's Inferno: An Animated Epic — Directed by Shukou Murase Yasuomi Umetsu Mike Disa Victor Cook Jong Sik Nam …   Wikipedia

  • burial, irregular —    Traditionally, outcasts in life were outcasts in death. In early modern England, The infliction of damage upon the corpses of executed criminals the quartering of traitors, and the use of dissection upon murderers historically constituted a… …   A Dictionary of English folklore