Google+ Badge

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Crossroads Burials

For this my first post of 2016 (my goodness has it really been more than 3 months since I was last here?) I will tell of two know examples of  burials at the crossroads in the county.

The practice of burying suicide’s at the crossroads was a common custom, not only in Britain but in ancient Greece, India and Eastern Europe.  In superstitious times it was believed that those who had committed the crime of “Felo de se” suicide, would return as evil spirits to wonder the earth. However, the spirit would be trapped at the crossroads in keeping with the belief that “Whenever there is a four-lane ends or place where two roads cross each other, a ghost is to be seen.” In Britain it was customary to make doubly sure that the evil spirit could not wonder by hammering a wooden stake through the heart of the suicide. The origin of this grisly custom is lost, and was outlawed by legal decree as recently as 1823.

An example of the practice was discovered at Yaddlethorpe Hill, Bottesford, near Scunthorpe, in 1854. When lowering the hill, workmen unearthed a human skeleton buried at the south side of the highway with an oak stake driven through its heart. The bones were later re buried in Bottesford churchyard.

Another example is the wide crossroads at Sturton-by-Scawby, known locally as Lidgett`s Gap. Named after Captain Liddget, a Cromwellian solider killed in a skirmish during the English Civil War and his body was buried under a tree at the crossroads. According to some the captain was buried with a large amount of money and popular belief had it, that his ghost guarded the treasure and made nocturnal appearances at the crossroads. Substance was given to the story early last century, when workmen widening the road unearthed a coffin containing a human skeleton, along with a number of old coins.

However, the truth is in the 19th century the foundations of a Roman bath house and traces of a Roman villa were found near the location. The coins, still occasionally found in the area today are Roman in origin. The word Lidgett is a corruption of  lych , liches, old English for corpse This refers to the lych-gate, a roofed porch type structure used for funerary purposes that once stood at or near the spot. Add to the mix the discovery of a suicide at the crossroads and you have all the ingredients for a cracking good yarn. 

This skeleton, discovered at the site of the ancient Thracian temple of Perperikon, southeast of the Bulgarian capital, Soffia, has an iron rod through its chest where its heart should be. An example of a possible suicide staked to prevent it becoming a vampire after death.