Is there a belief among you that if a dying man's bed contains iron his death throes will thereby be prolonged?

Is there a belief among you that when the soul departs it is forbidden to stand opposite the dying man's bed, because that is when the Angel of Death appears wielding a sword?

Z. Kisselgof, a member of Ansky's expedition,
records folk melodies in a Volhynia township, 1912-1913

Why [upon a person's death] must one spill out all the water from his house and all the surrounding houses?

Do you know any stories about a corpse that was left unattended and disappeared?

How does one ask forgiveness of the dead? Who is the first to ask forgiveness? What is one accustomed to say? Does one ask forgiveness of a dead child? Do strangers also come forward to ask forgiveness?

Is it your custom for the beadle of the Burial Society to precede the coffin and cry out: "Charity saves from death"?

Is there a belief among you that when the last shovel hits the earth the dead man forgets everything?

Do you believe that when you meet a dead man you should strike him a blow in an offhand manner in order to make him disappear?

Do you know any stories about a dead person being brought before a rabbinical court?[*]



These questions were published in Death in Jewish Folk Belief, published in 1929 in Yiddish. It was attributed to Ansky, but it was compiled in collaboration with L.I. Shternberg, a noted Russian-Jewish Anthropologist.

Translation reprinted from David G. Roskies, ed. The Dybbuk and Other Writings. Copyright © 1992 The Fund for the Translation of Jewish Literature (New York: Schocken Books), pp. xxiv-xxv

The Jewish Ethnographic Expedition l ANSKY Introduction




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