Monday, September 19, 2011

Good zombie advice

The Huffington Post has a little story today called "Zombies a Concern During Medieval Times?" (link). It's all about how an excavation in Ireland uncovered corpses from the 700s with mouths stuffed with stones.

The story, from Discovery, explains that stuffing the mouth with a large stone did not apply to all bodies, but only those of really scary people, like murderers, or those who died strange deaths. Stuffing their mouth with a stone would ensure that they would not come back as scary zombies.

Naturally one is immediately reminded of #5 in the Testament of R. Yehuda ha-Chassid, which says

or, "When they bury a woman who had consumed children, if they see that her mouth is opened then she will definitely continue to do it during the first year after her death. So they should fill her mouth with dirt and this will be effective so that she will not cause further harm."

There is certainly no doubt that if you stuff a corpse's mouth they will not come back to haunt anyone.


  1. What is the source of stuffing a dead man's eyes with dirt? Is this a universal Jewish custom? I find it very strange and was not happy when someone told me it was done to a close family member of mine. (Apparently, that's what the chevra kadisha guy does when he jumps down into the hole after the casket is lowered into it.)


  3. Anonymous, dirt is placed on the eyelids and some other areas. There's no "stuffing" involved. Let me point out that the body's contact with dirt will be much, much greater.

    If you saw someone jump into the grave, they were probably breaking up the coffin. Judaism doesn't really believe in coffins, and they're usually not used in Israel. Outside of Israel, they're legally required, but some people break them up at the last minute.

  4. By the way, someone just reprinted the tzavaa. Saw it the other day at the 'infamous' ohr hachaim bookstore. Did a pretty nice job.

  5. Nachum,

    I'm well aware that the body will disintegrate and will touch plenty of dirt. My problem was opening someone's eyes and placing dirt beneath the eye lid. That's what I found disturbing. I'm happy that you write this is untrue and that the dirt is place on, not below, the eyelid.

  6. A good rule of thumb about Jewish death and mourning practices is that 99% of it is custom, and there's almost no such thing as a universal custom.

  7. Anon 4:52
    The custom is to sprinkle some dirt from Israel over the eyes (not under the eye lid). This custom, I believe, is nearly universal outside of Israel.
    BTW I'm a member of my local chevra kadisha.

  8. "Judaism doesn't really believe in coffins, and they're usually not used in Israel. Outside of Israel, they're legally required, but some people break them up at the last minute."

    Yep. saw it done myself in a chassidishe section of a massive cemetery in long island. They ask the hispanic workers to turn away for a few minutes, then the guy gets in the actual grave and removes the boards from underneath the box, so that the body is actually touching the ground and "returning to the earth". Intressante.

  9. Take a look in the printing of Sefer Chassidim from Mosad HaRav Kook with "Makor Chessed" from R' Reuvan Margolius. See what he cites over there on this sif in the tzvah (I didn't look in all the sources he quotes there yet, but mistama it's interesting stuff :).



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