Black at funerals: a two millennia-old trend, re-popularized by stuffy British women

By: Justin Nobel | Date: Sat, January 2nd, 2010

“Wear Black in sunlight and you will roast as the Heat VIBRATIONS absorb easily. Hence Black is the most absurd colour for funerals & Hospitals: It attracts all sorts of Dark moods and energies and influences just when you need extra protection…In certain contrasts Black garments act as a Vacuum cleaner for Bad vibrations…MANY WOMEN WEAR BLACK HEAD TO TOE, THIS IS VERY DANGEROUS.”

Catherine de' Medici at a funeral in the 1560s. The Romans first wore black at funerals and for some reason, the Western World has followed ever since. Some cultures wear purple or yellow.

Catherine de’ Medici at a funeral in the 1560s. The Romans first wore black at funerals and for some reason the Western World has followed ever since. Some cultures wear purple or yellow.

These words come from Samuel Sagan, who pasted the lines in an email he dropped Funeralwise earlier this week. Sagan, author of books such as Bleeding Sun, Entity Possession and the Atlantean Secrets tetralogy, comes at it from an odd angle but raises a good question: why wear black at funerals?

Like much we do without knowing why, it began with the Romans. As all booze-guzzling college students know, their garb of choice was the toga, but some Roman togas were much more ornate than Jim Belushi’s plain white bed sheet in Animal House. The toga picta was crimson, embroidered with gold and worn by victorious generals and emperors. The toga candida was rubbed with chalk to give it a glossy look and worn by candidates running for public office and the toga pulla was made of brown, dark grey or black wool and worn at funerals. The black stuck.

Some medieval queens broke the mold and wore white while mourning but the rigid social rules of Victorian England, when wearing as much black for as long as possible became a maniacal fad, helped define black as the mourning color of choice for the Western World.

Victorian women cloaked themselves in simple heavy dresses called widows weeds. Embroidery and lace were not allowed. Attached to the dress was a black veil made of stiff, dull gauze. Black bonnets were worn atop. Around their wrists women wore jewelry made of coal, known as jet, which was of course, black. In a locket or brooch strung from a necklace of black stones was often a lock of hair clipped from the deceased. Everything about the funeral itself was tinged in black; stationary, envelopes, notepaper, visiting cards, serving utensils, infants, handkerchiefs. Bibles were bound with black Moroccan leather and servants wore black armbands.

Following a funeral, a sibling was to be mourned for six months, a child for as long as the parents deemed proper and a husband for two and a half years. During the first year a mourning widow wore only her widows weeds and was not supposed to go out with friends, which meant no balls or sallies. During the second year widows could remove their veils and wear more comfortable fabrics, like velvet and silk. Trimming, lace, fringe and ribbon were also now allowed. The final six months were called half mourning. Colors such as white, purple, violet, pansy, mauve and heliotrope could be worn. Bows, belts, buttons and streamers were okay too. But some widows chose never to exit the first stage of mourning, including Queen Victoria herself, who following Prince Albert’s death in 1861 wore her widows weeds for four decades, until her own death.

World War I ended the stultifying tradition of widows weeds and 30 month-long mourning sessions—there was simply too many dead—but much to the lament of Samuel Sagan, black remained the most popular clothing color for funerals.

“The continued wearing of black throughout the period of mourning only makes matters worse and also prolongs the state of depression,” says Sagan in Awakening the Third Eye, a manual of sorts on how to attain clairvoyance. He continues with a warning: “The negative vibrations of black continue to retard the progress of ancestors and aid the activity of ghosts. The subtle bodies of the deceased ancestors, who cannot move forward in their journey in the subtle realm, stay in their family’s homes. They can cause problems for the surviving members of their family.”

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