According to Scripture, Satan set up his throne on a mountain in the north (Isaiah 14: 13), and demonic attacks are to be expected from that quarter (Jeremiah 1: 14, 6: 1). The symbolism of church architecture reflects this; the medieval clerestory windows at Fairford (Gloucestershire) show evil tyrants with attendant demons on the north side, saints and angels on the south. The main entrance of old churches is rarely on the north, but many have a smaller door there which was opened only during baptism, for the fiend to escape by (Charlotte Burne, FolkLore 19 (1908), 458-9).
   For the same reason, many were unwilling to accept burial on the north side of a churchyard, this being regarded as unhallowed ground; the prejudice persisted from the 16th to the early 20th centuries. Gilbert White, writing of Selborne (Hampshire) in the 1780s, complained that: the churchyard is very scanty, especially as all wish to be buried in the south-side, which is become such a mass of mortality that no person can be there interred without disturbing or displacing the bones of his ancestors At the east end are a few graves, yet none, till very lately, on the north-side; but as two or three families of the best repute have begun to bury in that quarter, prejudice may wear out by degrees, and their example be followed by the rest of the neighbourhood. (The Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne (1788), 322)

A Dictionary of English folklore. . 2014.


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