Category: Traditii

Mourning- the tradition of wearing black after someone passes away and not only.

Today I will take you on a new trip to learn more about traditions; grab my hand, and let’s go. I will tell you how we got to wear black when someone died and a period after. I will tell you about some practices we and some other people have.
As you may imagine, this tradition is ancient and met in many populations. We Romanian have it, Greeks have it, Romans had it, and so on.
Besides the black color at the time, white was also used as the mourning color.
But let’s see why these colors?
First, maybe you will say that it is because, like that, you show your pain for your loss. And that is true.
We have rules about how long people should wear black or do other things after someone close dies. In my country, you should wear black for a year if one of your parents dies or your husband, 6 weeks for children that died and 3 days for the other relatives.
You can wear all black or just something added to your clothes, like a little piece of fabric stuck with a pin or a black headband as a woman.
Other things that might show that you are in mourning might depend on where you live, like not wearing something on your head, like a hat, even in winter ( we had this long ago in the Moldovian part)
Like in some places, people won’t wash clothes after someone dies to not bring the dirt on the dead soul. In some parts of the country, people won’t wash clothes for a year from when the relative dies. Or you can’t as a woman brush your hair, or you might get death.
Men shouldn’t cut their hair or beard or drink with locals.
Black is used for mourning, warning those alive that death is near. Wearing black is supposed to make you invisible to the dead. So the dead one won’t be able to see you and take you with him on a never-ending trip of death. Or won’t try to hurt or molest you (that if your relative starts to have evil thoughts after death and wants revenge on you). Some say that being protected from the dead is like a protection spell. The same applies to white, even if ordinarily white is seen as a bright color associated with life. It seems white was used for Romanians even back in the old times. Used to even prepare the dead one to travel to the other world.
White is the color that means both life and the beginning of the life journey when you are baptized and death, as I just said.
Over time, other colors were used for mourning time. Another that was used was yellow, which represented the decayed color. It was used by the Egyptians to show their pain. The same color was used by the locals from Central Africa and British widows. In Britain, it was used by widows by wearing a yellow or brown bonnet- the color of faded leaves.
Blue or violet was the black of Turkeys. Blue was also used in France and Belgium when a child died, representing the color of the blue sky and the color Mother of God wore on Golgota.
Violet represents the color that the Roman soldiers dressed Jesus as the king of the Jews and from then is the color that the Church adopted in the paintings and ornaments of the Catholic Church.
At the time, the mourning wasn’t expressed just by wearing a specific color. In ancient times in Romans, women were primarily hired to cry singly after the dead. Sometimes it was just a cry. Other times could be more crying and saying the brave deeds that the dead one did in his life. This kind of crying bore the name neniae from the Roman goddess Nenia who was always invoked after the sick one was heading on a deadly journey. This kind of cry starts first by whispering his name into the dead one ear to see if he is answering. If he was dead and not talking back, the women would say the words Conclamatum est. This kind of tradition is still held today in Catholic Church when the Pope is dying. After he is dead, they will call his baptized name 3 times, and then if he is not answering, they will say he is dead.
Another tradition that is still kept is putting some food for the deceased, more precisely, some flour and a cup of water. The gone soul should be on earth for the first 40 days and travel to all the places he liked and lived, and for that, he needs food, so people will put some flour and water. If the plate with flour appears to be little signs or a bit messed up and the water less than it was at first, then it means you have been visited by the dead one. Besides this, you should give food away for his soul to eat to people in need or people not related to you. The food will be given for the first 9 days every day. Later, food will be given for 9 days with coliva ( a sweet dessert made of boiled pearl barley with sugar and mixed with flavors), then at 3 weeks, 6 weeks, 3 months, 6 months, 1 year, 1 year, and a half, and then every 6 months until 7 years. At 1 year commemoration, the dead will also receive clothes besides food. The same will be on the significant commemoration of the 7th year when he or she will receive food and clothes again, and people will be brought for a small gathering with food.