- Traditionally felt to be uncanny places, likely to be haunted; this may be due to their ambiguous nature (belonging to two or more roads at once), and is certainly reinforced by their association with death and punishment.Until 1823, English law required that suicides be buried in the highway; crossroads were generally chosen, and the corpse was often staked - a ritual of public disgrace, to deter others. According to local stories, some witches were similarly treated, while crossroads burials of executed criminals are known from Anglo-Saxon times. Those chosen were usually outside the town boundaries, probably symbolizing expulsion of the wrongdoer. Some have speculated that they might also confuse the ghost of the deceased, who could not then return home to haunt.Crossroads also feature in magical cures. In Shropshire, grains of wheat rubbed against *warts were left there in the hope that some passer-by would pick them up; in Suffolk, the remedy for ague was:You must go by night alone to a cross-road, and just as the clock strikes the midnight hour you must turn yourself about thrice and drive a tenpenny nail up to the head in the ground. Then walk away backwards from the spot before the clock is done striking twelve, and you will miss the ague; but the next person who goes over the nail will catch the malady in your stead. (Gurdon, 1893: 14).
A Dictionary of English folklore. Jacqueline Simpson & Steve Roud. 2014.
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