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The Irish Wake
Irish Wake was commonplace around Ireland up until about the 1970's.
This was the process of Laying out the body of a departed relative in
the house where they lived and /or died. All of the family and quite a
few of the deceased ones neighbors and friends would gather at the
house. The body was usually in a coffin in the parlor of the house or
living room. There would be lots of food and plenty of drink to be
consumed. People would come and socialize and remember the departed
person's life. This wasn't a time for tears to say the least; it was
more of a party than a funeral. It was the traditional Irish way of
celebrating one's life and ensuring that they had a good send off.
The Wake is the
period of time from death until the body is conveyed to the care of the
church which is generally the evening before the day of burial.
THE FOLLOWING ARE
THE STEPS IN THE PROCESS OF THE WAKE:
women experienced in laying out the body gather at the house of the
The body is
A habit is put
on the body.
A bed is
prepared for the body.
If the body is
of a man - he has to be clean shaven before the habit is put on.
A crucifix is
placed on the breast and rosary beads are put in the fingers.
Sheets are hung
over the bed and along two or three sides.
lighted in candlesticks near the remains.
(This process takes
about two hours)
'KEENING & CRYING'
The women who
prepared the body join the family.
family produces either muffled sobs or loud wailing related to the
depth of sorrow.
In the event
that the death was considered a “great loss” (a parent leaving a
large family or tragic or early death) Keening is most intense and
After a while of
Keening mourners are led away from the bedside by a few neighbors
and are consoled.
Word is sent out
to distant relatives and is spread with the help of a local shop or
then Keening does not wait for the arrival or others.
If the person
dies late in the evening the main Wake is not held until the
following night so as to give neighbors and distant relatives time
REQUIREMENTS FOR THE WAKE'.
Two men - a
relative and a neighbor take part.
The Coffin is
ordered (traditionally made by a local carpenter at the Wake house).
brought in - bread, meat, food of all kinds. Whisky, stout, wine,
pipes, tobacco, snuff. (Tobacco and snuff are extremely important as
'SET UP OF THE WAKE
A plate of snuff
is taken to all for a pinch. A clay pipe filled with tobacco is
given to all and all are provided with food and drink -
traditionally a meal.
Pipe full's of
tobacco are offered.
The place for
the corpse is determined by the house itself. A table, settle or bed
in the kitchen or one of the rooms is used. A loft may be used.
The clocks are
stopped as a mark of respect.
All mirrors are
turned toward the wall or covered.
'WATCHING THE BODY
AND RITUAL OF VISITING THE CORPSE'.
A corpse must
not be left unattended for the entire Wake.
generally a woman or more sits nearby.
On entrance, the
mourner makes their way to the side of the corpse, kneels down and
silently recites a few prayers for the departed soul.
Mourner is then
welcomed by the relatives and expresses sympathy. “I’m sorry
for your trouble”...then the mourner speaks kindly of the deceased
and then walks away.
The mourner is
offered food and drink for the hours spent at the Wake. If the
weather is good the men congregate outside - if not, they go to the
kitchen (this is very important and traditional). The corpse is
often in the parlor and there is a division between the room of the
corpse and celebration.
stays for a few hours. The old men and women come in the morning and
with the end of the working day others in the community stop in.
lasts until midnight.
The Rosary is
recited once or twice - at midnight and then towards morning. The
Rosary is lead by an important figure - teacher or leader who
recites the first decade then the relatives take part. A truly
traditional Wake will have a special rosary for the dead and
traditional prayers. The rosary is said around the corpse with those
around the house reciting the responses.
leave at midnight.
remain till morning. They drink tea, whisky or beer and talk about
general affairs. Anecdotes are told with quiet laughter but within a
solemn and decorous mood.
- There are
two funerals for the corpse; one in the evening and the second is
when the body is taken to the graveyard on the next day.