Bury Them at a Crossroads

Janiva Magness - Bury Him at the Crossroads | Graphic design firms ...

Great Britain has long been considered a civilized place. But there are some literal skeletons rattling in the closet of old England that seem more like drama in a vampire novel than a practice in a modern nation.

In 1823, Britain passed the Burial of Suicide Act. That piece of legislation meant that suicides no longer had to be buried at a crossroads in the dark of night.

The last person in England to be buried at a crossroads was Abel Griffiths in 1823, who killed himself after he had murdered his father. Mental illness was not well understood then. Legally, a suicide was self-murder, a crime. Only God could create life, and taking your own life was considered a major sin. 

The roots of burial at a crossroads seem to lie in ancient folk beliefs that a person who had died violently might rise from the grave to see revenge. Burial at a crossroads was thought to confuse the spirit, who would not know where to go to seek revenge. Sometimes a stake was driven through the heart to anchor the spirit to earth, as was done with suspected vampires elsewhere in Europe.

So far as is known, this old English tradition did not cross the Atlantic with the immigrants from Britain.

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