Sunday, November 23, 2008

Southern Macabre

I'm from the South, have lived here all my life in the buckle of the Bible belt. Southerners are naturally macabre, it's in our blood, or heritage so to speak. When you refer to someone that has no redeeming qualities as 'needing killing', you are probably south of the Mason/Dixon line.
I love the southern custom of Decoration Day, the first or second Sunday in May. Most country churches still adamantly practice this. The day before, you go to the graveyard and clean it up then Sunday after service, you go to the graveyard, decorate the graves with flowers and have dinner in the cemetery (on the ground as it is sometimes called) and sometimes if you're lucky, a hymn singing.

Then there's sitting up with the dead. This is still practiced in some rural communities, however is fading fast due to funeral homes and state regulation. If someone died, you didn't have a funeral home to handle all the arrangements, you did it yourself. The body and the casket would be in your home for viewing and people would bring food (the food thing still goes on, you always bring food to the bereaved so they don't have to cook)and someone stays with the body until they are buried. I have Googled it and historically it could be from keeping rodents from eating the body (gag!)to the days when the person may have not really have been dead and shouldn't have been buried...yet at least. I haven't personally witnessed this but my mother has.

Southerners are for the most part macabre. Polite but macabre. My grandfather was a railroad foreman and an independent travelling Baptist preacher. You didn't screw around with him, he kept a 357 magnum Trooper pistol with him usually at all times. He and my grandmother, (I was her favorite) treated ghosts as casually as one might talk about a recipe; they were a fact of life. I heard about death lights; balls of light over a location that foretold an immenent death, how to address a ghost/haint (ask it what it wants, it will usually leave), just loads of stuff that would scare you if you weren't used to it. They supposedly saw ghosts, and heard them. If you don't have at least one haint at your house, then it just isn't a home.

And yes, we have had haints, both at my folks' house and the one I live in right now, with pictures, but that's a post for a different day.

So why do I like Hallowe'en, isn't it obvious, I don't have a choice! I'm a Southerner and proud of it.

Do Northerners have any macabre customs? Does anyone know of any others that would make a person not used to Southern customs cringe in terror? I love folklore and customs.

And remember this, when we say "Bless their heart", that's Southernese for "What an idiot!". We are polite folk after all...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

just got blog back up and running. i posted a few pics from Halloween night. check it out when you get some time
stay true~