A recent excavation at Kilteasheen, near Loch Key, unearthed a macabre pair of 8th-century Irish skeletons with stones clenched in their grinning jaws. According to local custom and superstition, rocks were often wedged in the mouths of the dead during burial to prevent dangerous corpses from returning from the Land of the Dead.
This was done as a precaution to prevent evil entities from entering the body, the mouth being the primary door to enable the supernatural transformation.
Take that, shambling deadheads!
Apparently it was effective, at least for these two Irish lads, since they obviously never left their cold graves.
Chris Read, project leader and chief archaeologist from the Institute of Technology at Sligo, Ireland, confirmed the bizarre ritual in an interview with Discovery News.
"It was viewed as the main portal for the soul to leave the body upon death. Sometimes, the soul could come back to the body and re-animate it or else an evil spirit could enter the body through the mouth and bring it back to life," Read said.
One of the men was estimated at between 40 and 60 years of age, and his partner, a younger man, was somewhere around 25 years old. They were revealed as part of a larger excavation project that unearthed 120 separate artifacts, each with black, apple-sized rocks held between their teeth. Scientists first believed they discovered a Black Death plague site due to the odd style of Celtic interment.
It was hypothesized that the stones were to keep the demonic spirits IN the corpses, not necessarily to stop them from intruding, since the dead twins could have been brutal rapists or murderers. (Cue the theremin.) Whatever the cautionary measure, rampant peasant fear in ancient Ireland paired with folklore attuned to the afterlife made sure their Festival of Samhain remained a brainfeeder-free affair.
Oh zombie boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling ...
(via Huffington Post)