Sunday, October 14, 2012

It is hard to believe another Halloween is nearly here, and I'm really behind on my "spookifying" my old Victorian. This afternoon, I strung my glittered black cat garland across the antique mirror in my dining room. An interesting sidenote—the mirror came with the house, though it is not original to it.

The effect of my cat garland is not nearly as spooky as the Victorian tradition of covering mirrors when a loved one died. As you know, Victorians were exceptionally superstitious. They believed that reflective surfaces such as mirrors were portals to the spiritual world and if you didn't cover them with black crepe, the spirit of the deceased would become trapped in the reflective glass. Clocks were also stopped at the time of death to allow the spirit to move on to its final resting place. As a grade schooler, I learned the touching song called "My Grandfather's Clock" written by Henry Clay Work in 1876. It tells the story of a longcase clock purchased on the morning of the narrator's grandfather's birth. When the grandfather died, it suddenly stopped, never to run again. Here is a stanza from the song. Very sad, don't you think?

My grandfather's clock was too large for the shelf,
So it stood ninety years on the floor;
It was taller by half than the old man himself,
Though it weighed not a pennyweight more.
It was bought on the morn of the day that he was born,
And was always his treasure and pride;
But it stopp'd short — never to go again —When the old man died.

I hope you don't find this post morbid, but death was such a way of life during the Victorian era with its poor housing conditions and sanitation, not to mention cholera and other diseases, that a child was quite lucky to see her or his first birthday. Perhaps this is why the Victorians were so fascinated with death and embraced such extensive mourning customs. I will try to touch on more customs in future posts this October. My husband and I have been invited to a Halloween party and as the host knows I love to give little talks on various subjects, she has asked me to assemble a little Halloween-related program on a topic of my choosing. I'm thinking about either Victorian mourning customs or something else. Will let you know!

And on a sidenote, I posted this quickly on the heels of my previous post about my friend Mary's exciting renovation project. So if you haven't read that one, please take a look while you are here. 


  1. I don't find Victorian mourning customs morbid in the least! The French Creoles of New Orleans observed the mourning customs you've described. It was also common to have mourning floral arrangements hung on the door of the home of the deceased. Black-edged announcements would be carried to friends, family and associates around town. During the month of October one of the historic homes in New Orleans focuses on Creole mourning customs throughout the home tour:

  2. This was very interesting and not morbid at all. Thanks for sharing a piece of history. I loved it. Hugs Mary

  3. I like your cat garland, that's cute. Thanks for sharing the Victorian's superstitious rituals. That's interesting, I had never heard that about the mirror or the clock before. I'll be looking forward to hearing more.


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