Creepy Victorian Death Lore, ‘Sin Eating’ Cookies Wearing Black for Years



In Victorian times, there were some strange deadly traditions, leading some to say that people were “obsessed” with death even then.

Victorian widows often wore black mourning clothes for two years or more

After the death of her husband, Prince Albert, it is safe to say that Queen Victoria really set the tone with mourning for the Victorians.

In fact, it was quite rare to see a photo of her without mourning attire, which is just one of the rules families had to follow in order to express their grief.

The Victorians were very open about death, they even tried to save money early in life to make sure they had a proper burial. They also had some pretty strange traditions.

Photographing the dead

The Victorians loved to commemorate the dead by having photographs with the deceased, which is a pretty scary concept.

When the families posed with the dead, they looked either asleep or slightly slumped, and the detail in the photograph would be surprisingly strong.

In the mid-1800s there was the rise of the “memento mori photographic portrait”, which basically means “remember you must die”.

Small, highly detailed images on polished silver were a luxury, but not as much as a painted portrait.

Hair jewelry

Having the hair of a deceased person in your jewelry was actually quite common in Victorian times.

The props were a way of keeping the deceased relative close in a certain way and were known as “memento mori”.

Memento mori was essentially a jewel or art of mourning, with medallions or crowns including hair or death teeth.

As photography became a bit more accessible, the tradition eventually died out.

Death cookies

Another bizarre death tradition that was quite normal at the time was death cookies.

Victorian funerals often featured biscuits or biscuits in reference to an old immigrant tradition of “sin eaters” in order to absorb their spirits.

Bakeries started making these cookies over time and wrapped them in mourning poems and death notices, quite sweet really.

Wearing black for years

Mourning clothes were a family’s outward display of their grief



Forget about wearing black clothes just for the funeral, Victorian widows had to wear their black clothes for two years.

Full mourning usually lasted a year with clothes made of dull fabrics without adornment or jewelry.

Women were also required to wear a veil to cover their faces when leaving the house and ignore what can only be described as “frivolous events” during the period of mourning.

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Stop the clocks

A particularly strange superstition about death was that when someone died, they had to stop the clocks at the time of death.

It was to avoid any bad luck. The curtains had to be drawn too, apparently.

It certainly gives new meaning to WH Auden’s famous poem.

Cover mirrors

This is another superstition that you sometimes see in horror movies, it involves Victorians covering all the mirrors in the house.

The reason was “to prevent the deceased spirit from getting trapped behind the glass.”

Graveyard bars

Rest in peace? Not exactly. Some graves had to be surrounded by strong metal bars to stop grave robbers.

They stole everything from rings and necklaces to the bodies themselves, so the families of the dead felt the need to protect the grave.

Metal coffins and iron fences were to stop any mischief and keep the corpse safe.

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