Ireland is often viewed as a deeply Catholic country by outsiders. In fact though, the Irish can prove to be very disobedient to the orders of the Church when dealing with their traditional customs. One of the best known examples is probably that of the 'merry wake'. The Church has tried for hundreds of years to forbid this very special kind of funeral vigil, or at least some of the practices associated with it. However the tradition is so deeply rooted in people's lives, that all these attempts have been unsuccessful.
[...] Wake traditions in Ireland and Church opposition to wake and associated practices Foreigners often see Ireland as a deeply Catholic country. Yet when dealing with their traditional customs, the Irish can prove to be very disobedient to the orders of the Church. One of the best examples is probably that of the 'merry wake': the Church tried for hundreds of years to forbid this very special kind of funeral vigil or at least some of the practices associated with it, but all these attempts were unsuccessful, so deeply established was the habit in people's lives. [...]
[...] After the prayers, shaking hands and rosary, the mna caointe keened that is to say, they sang a lament in praise of the dead. Then the merry-making actually started. It consisted mainly in playing games of each and every sort (Seán Ó Súilleabháin collected one hundred and thirty different wake games), story-telling, eating and drinking, playing music, singing and dancing. Many of these games and songs were at least irreverent, if not obscene. They very often mocked civil and religious authorities, under the control of the borekeen, an old man 'well known in each district as an organiser and director of the pranks and games of the wake assembly.' The amount of drinking, especially of poitín and thus of drunkenness was often amazing at wakes, so that an old joke says, 'What's the difference between an Irish wedding and an Irish wake? [...]
[...] so that it can be hoisted into an upright position in the middle of night.') Games and music were prohibited as well. Seán Ó Súilleabháin relates that 'the Synod [of Armagh (1614)] declared that the pious feelings of devout people were outraged by the singing of lewd songs and the playing of obscene games by silly fellows, conduct which would not be permissible even on occasions of merrymaking.' More than one century later, in the Archdiocese of Dublin, 'those who sang smutty songs or played unchristian games [at wakes . [...]
[...] 26-29. N. Witoszek and P. Sheeran, Talking to the Dead: A Study of Irish Funerary Traditions, Amsterdam: Rodopi p G. Ó Crualaoich, "The 'Merry Wake'". Irish Popular Culture 1650-1850. Eds. J. S. Donnelly Jr., Kerby A. [...]
[...] J. S. Donnelly Jr., Kerby A. Miller. Dublin: Irish Academic Press Ó Súilleabháin, Seán. Irish Wake Amusements. Dublin: The Mercier Press (Irish) (English translation by the author). Witoszek, Nina and Pat Sheeran. Talking to the Dead: A Study of Irish Funerary Traditions. Amsterdam: Rodopi pp. [...]
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