These superstitions come from across the world and some are somewhat grotesque to our modern sensibilities, but not doubt were essential ways of thinking regarding to dealing with death at the time.
An old superstition for people accused of being witches was to bury the alleged witch face down in the coffin, it was thought that this would stop the witch breaking free and digging her way out to cause trouble again. Strangely this custom was also adopted for any families first born infant that passed away – it was also customary for the married couple to never have any more children as a curse would fall upon those children’s heads.
In one part of Northern Ireland there is a cemetery where only Men are buried, and only Men can visit. It is said if women dare to step foot in the graveyard, the spirits will rise and eject her from their burial grounds.
In France there is a cemetery where there are over 7000 Saints buried in a predominately Catholic religious area. Visitors must remove their shoes, as a sign of respect when entering this “Holy Place”, and those who don’t, often befall bizarre accidents within the grounds, and sometimes on their way home.
Another old custom is to leave a pipe and tobacco for the last person buried in the cemetery to have some comfort and something to do. It was often thought the last person buried had the duty of protecting the cemetery until the next person was buried (In some cases, that person could be a guard for eternity)
Another strange belief in some areas is that the last person buried in a cemetery in a year, would be the harbinger of death for the following year, going about the local village collecting the souls of the newly dead.
Have you ever wondered why some ancient cemeteries have wells located in them? Most people wouldn’t drink from that well as they would believe the bodies buried so close would taint the water, but in actual fact, the well was put there for the dead to drink from!
It was an ancient held belief that the dead were an extremely thirsty bunch. So cemeteries started installing wells, and leaving wooden bowls for the dead to take water back top purgatory, so everyone could satisfy their first in the afterlife!
The Irish started the custom of placing cemetery dirt upon the body of the dead before it was lowered into the cemetery grounds. It is seen as a blessing to the already buried souls in the cemetery, and thought to settle them from causing problems, not only for the newly interred, but also the local townsfolk. This custom was never undertaken for those who committed suicide.
Cemetery soils are blessed by Priests, usually a whole cemetery will be sanctified, although this may not be the case with current modern multi-religious cemeteries, which may choose to only bless the very area where someone is buried.
The ground is though to contain special powers because of the blessings, and for this reason, cemetery dirt is often used in witchcraft practices and Voodoo magic
Another old religious custom is to bury the dead with their heads pointing west. You may have noticed some older cemeteries the heads of the dead all point west and their feet east, this was because it has long been written that The Last Judgement will come from the East – so the dead should be facing Jesus when he arrives.