Crossroads always jumps into my mind when sighting an X. Following that I’m flooded with wonderful memories of “foraging” through the “backblocks” of Corofin, County Clare, Ireland in 1995 and asking the locals if they have any family memories of my Great Great Grandmother, Susan Kelleher, who immigrated to South Australia in 1855.
In this post to the Gould “Family History Through the Alphabet” Challenge I’ll be sharing the delight of my first experience in receiving directions when it is landmarks, and not street names, one needs to follow. Added to that is my fascination with the history, and folkelore, of Crossroads which began with my love of historical fiction. Maybe you’d like to join me in this trip down “memory lane” and onwards…
Documentary evidence clearly shows that my GGGrandmother’s father is Patrick Kelleher, from the Parish of Ennistymon in County Clare, Ireland and so it was the countryside between Corofin and Ennistymon that Sean suggested I “forage”. As an aside, “fossick” is the word I’d use to describe this behaviour, which was an added fascination.
So, I learned that you need to look out for Crossroads coming up, which often happens quite quickly, in those narrow country lanes. Fortunately the warning is usually signposted.
With the first Crossroad looming ahead, I’m trying to remember whether I turn right… or left? Don’t panic, Catherine. Phew!!! the memory came back just in time. Now I need to watch out for the BIG tree on the right and then turn right at the next Crossroad, after passing that tree.
OK… doing good. Just keep going, and when you can’t go any further turn right again and look out for the “Tall White House”. They might be able to tell you about your Kellehers.
As it turned out, was a bit of a “wild goose chase” but lots of fun anyway… so no worries.
Can’t remember when I first discovered that “bad people” were buried at Crossroads. What I do remember is that when, many moons ago, a member of my birth family advised that our “Crout” name meant “Dweller at the Cross” I just about laughed my head off with the thought that my Ancestors gained their “moniker” by living where the reprobates of society were interred. Have to say that I’m a bit disappointed at not being able to find any evidence that this is where my family name originated.
Guess that shows my sense of humour and lack of concern about any “nasties” likely to turn up when researching Ancestry. More importantly it has encouraged me to investigate this matter of burials, hangings and superstitions in regard to Crossroads and have to say that I’m enthralled.
HANGINGS AT CROSSROADS
Research has shown that the hanging of criminals happened in public places. Sometimes these hangings occurred in the middle of town, sometimes on the main road leading in and also at Crossroads. The bodies were left to rot and remained on public display to act as a deterrent.
BURIAL AT CROSSROADS
Historically, burial at Crossroads was the way of disposing of executed criminals and those who suicided, as well as witches. Suicides were, at one time, considered to be “self murder”, a criminal act, and was punishable by witholding normal burial rites.
Burying the undesirable elements of society at Crossroads to act as a deterrent is but one example. Others view this practice as simply being the next best burying-places to consecrated ground. Some suggest that, because the ancient Teutonic/ German groups often built their altars at Crossroads and since human sacrifices (especially of criminals) formed part of the ritual, these spots then became regarded as execution grounds.
CROSSROADS AND THE SUPERNATURAL
It seems that superstition may also have played a part in choosing Crossroads for the burying of suicides. Folk belief often held that these people could rise, at some time, and return to wreak havoc on their living relations and associates. Burying them at Crossroads was believed to reduce the likelihood of this happening.
Added to this is the multitude of Folklore which describes a human meeting with a “faerie” at a Crossroad and needing to make a decision. A situation every single one of us face at various times in our lives… do we turn right, left, move on ahead???
Before finishing, I do need to share the folkelore surrounding the death of Kitty Jay, believed to have suicided in Dartmoor, Devon in the South West of England in the late 18C.
The site of Kitty’s Crossroad burial has become a well-known landmark and is best described in this beautiful Folk Song by Keith Munday. Just click on the link below.
Enough from me … If you want to delve deeper into these issues just check out the info below.
RESOURCES/ FURTHER READING:
Copyright © 2012. C.A.Crout-Habel.