Rites of Passage in Sweden by Ingela Martenius M.Phil. (ethnology) For Steven, who stands on guard Cover illustrations: • • • The Swedish Flag; all Nordic countries have flags with a cross – the oldest flag is the Danish one (Dannebrogen) and all the rest are copies. Blue and yellow are colours that have been associated with Sweden since mediaeval times. The Three Crowns; apart from the flag, this symbol is what most Swedes associate with Sweden. The original Royal th palace in Stockholm (burnt down in the late 17 century) was called Tre Kronor, originally a mediaeval symbol. The church is the Allerum parish church. The oldest parts of the church are mediaeval but very little remains after the extensive re-buildings in the 1760’s and the 1830’s. Allerum is located on the northwest coast of Sweden’s southernmost province, Skåne, just north of Helsingborg. Photo Ingela Martenius. Contents BIRTH, BAPTISM AND CHURCHING ........................................... 1 The Heathen Child ........................................................................................................... 1 Churching (kyrktagning).................................................................................................. 1 Godparents ....................................................................................................................... 2 Swaddling and Clothes..................................................................................................... 3 CONFIRMATION AND COMING OF AGE ..................................... 4 From Child to Adult......................................................................................................... 4 Requisite Knowledge........................................................................................................ 4 Confirmation and First Communion.............................................................................. 4 Confirmation Gifts ........................................................................................................... 5 Adult Life .......................................................................................................................... 5 Clothes............................................................................................................................... 5 BETROTHAL, BANNS AND WEDDING ........................................ 7 Choosing a Spouse............................................................................................................ 7 Betrothal (trolovning)....................................................................................................... 7 Banns (lysning) – Crutch Pomp (kryckeståt) or Reception (lysningsmottagning)........ 8 The Wedding – Ceremony and Celebration .................................................................. 8 The Next Day .................................................................................................................... 9 Divorce .............................................................................................................................. 9 Clothes............................................................................................................................. 10 DEATH AND BURIAL .................................................................. 11 Causes of Death .............................................................................................................. 11 Memento Mori – Think of Death .................................................................................. 12 The Death........................................................................................................................ 12 The Funeral .................................................................................................................... 13 Funeral Repast (gravöl) ................................................................................................. 14 Clothes............................................................................................................................. 14 SOURCES .................................................................................... 15 169:2 Allt fick sin vigning i kyrkans famn: Brudgummens löfte till bruden, Hemmet, de nyföddas kristna namn, Kämparnas färd till den sista hamn, Fanan och konungaskruden. J.A. Eklund Hymn 169 (verse 2), written by the Bishop of Karlstad, Johan Alfred Eklund (1863-1945), from the 1937 edition of the official Book of Hymns of the Swedish Church; the hymn was excluded in the 1986 edition as being “too nationalistic”. Translation: All was consecrated in the arms of the church: The bridegroom’s promise to the bride The home, the newborns’ Christian names The fighters’ voyage to their last harbour The flag and the kingly robes Birth, Baptism and Churching Our present notions about what occasions in life are worthy of special attention may differ a little from our ancestors’ – but that the beginning of a new life should be celebrated is something that we probably all can agree on. Today baptism has lost some of its status, even though about 70 % of all children born in Sweden are in fact still baptised within the Church of Sweden. In the old days baptism was perhaps the most important ceremony in your entire life since it meant that you were made part of the Christian congregation and were thus protected from the many dangers our ancestors were absolutely convinced threatened the newborn, not yet christened child, while we today often tend to see the baptism as more of a naming ceremony. The Heathen Child Today children in Sweden are often baptised when they are several months old, but in the old days baptism was something that had to be performed as quickly as was humanly possible. Until 1864 the law required a child to be baptised within eight days, but most children were baptised earlier. If it could be arranged the child was baptised the very day it was born, but most protection of the child different things were put in the cradle: it could be a small pouch of spices (e.g. caraway), a steel knife or a silver coin. For a very long time baptisms were carried out only in church, but in the end it became fashionable to have children baptised at home. In old churches it can also be observed that the baptismal font is not placed by the altar but at the entrance or even in the vestry. The reason was that the child was considered heathen before it was baptised, and a heathen should not be allowed into the church or at least as short a distance as possible. If the child was very weak, or if the weather made it impossible to bring the child to church, an emergency (private) baptism A baptism in Österåker (county of Södermanland) in (nöddop) had to be performed. the days of national dress. The dress was solemn – Every baptised member of the and the outer garments were kept on! Church of Sweden could, and commonly the baptism took place when still can, perform an emergency baptism. the child was two or three days old. A The baptism is quite valid, and needs child that was not christened was a only to be confirmed through a blessing, danger both to itself and to others; it was but the rural population generally did not e.g. believed that trolls were on the look- think that it “took” properly if it was not out for pretty little human babies – they done by a clergyman – so the vicar were thought capable of exchanging their simply had to repeat the baptism. own ugly, stupid and wayward brat for Accordingly “double” baptismal dates the cute little child. Changeling and as if can sometimes be observed in the church changed were not said jokingly or records. In some parishes it was so figuratively in those days! For the common that the children could not be baptised during the winter that you can tell which the first Sunday with clement weather was: then upwards of twenty children were baptised – for the second time – on the same Sunday. It is easy to imagine the level of noise in that church! Churching (kyrktagning) Two typical birth / baptismal spoons. They are a perfect size for feeding babies and later in life they are just as perfect for your breakfast marmalade. Photo Ingela Martenius One aspect we have difficulty comprehending today is that the mother was not present at her child’s baptism. After giving birth the woman had to stay indoors – preferably in the room where she had been delivered – until she was churched (kyrktagen). All her chores were done by neighbouring women; this was the only time in her life a woman could rest properly! Sometimes the women held a feast for the newly delivered mother, a “birthing beer” (barnsängsöl), with extra nourishing food made from fresh milk, or even cream, and eggs. 1 A mother not yet churched was according to popular belief thought ”unclean” and on par with a heathen, and both she and the farm with all who lived there, both human and animal, were in danger. Since churching originated within the Jewish faith and there was regarded as a purification – and the Virgin Mary was received and purified at the Temple 40 days after giving birth to Christ (celebrated as Candlemas (Kyndelsmäss) on Feb. 2nd) – less educated people (which meant at least 90% of the Swedish population) continued to regard churching as a purifying rite while the Swedish Lutheran Church, at least officially, emphasised that the ceremony was one of joy and gratitude that the newly delivered mother could return to the congregation healthy and with regained strength. Churching was supposed to take place 40 days after the delivery – to conform to the precedent set by the Virgin Mary – but in practice it early on often took place on the fourth Sunday (i.e. 22-27 days) after the delivery. In 1866 churching was also officially moved to four weeks after the birth. Churching was originally performed at the church door. This was however changed during Protestant times, among other things because it was not thought to be good for the newly delivered mother to stand around outside if it was cold, windy or wet (which it so often is in Sweden). Having the churching outside the church would of course also have strengthened the superstitious idea 2 Above: Baptism in an upper middle class setting in the mid 1950’s. The mother wears a “nice” dress, but in a dark colour. Right: A typical baptism from rural Skåne; the child in a red, decorated “bag”. From the dress show at Ystad, 2005. Photos Ingela Martenius the Lutheran church wished to get rid off, namely that it was a purification rite. The churching ritual was very simple: before the regular church service began, the woman about to be churched kneeled before the altar and the vicar read a short prayer expressing thankfulness. The woman rose and the vicar shook her hand, at the same time saying “The Lord guide you in His truth and fear, now and unto eternity. Amen.” The woman then returned to her pew. Unmarried mothers were originally not churched but had to publicly confess and apologise for their transgression in front of the entire congregation, but later the confession was made in private before the vicar. A modified form of churching then took place: a slightly different prayer was said, and the vicar did not shake hands with the unwed mother. Usually she was also made to kneel on the bare floor - or at least on an uncovered stool - while the married woman kneeled on a very plush and finely decorated stool. Since baptism from 1864 was permitted to take place within six weeks of the birth and churching was officially moved to within four weeks of the birth in 1866, this meant that churching and baptism could take place at the same time – which also very quickly became the norm. In Sweden churching was still in the Book of Prayers until 1986 (with the name changed to “a mother’s thanksgiving”), but was seldom performed after World War II - and then mainly on request from the mother. The province preserving churching the longest was of course Bohuslän (the province on the coast just north of Göteborg), still the most conservative province when it comes to church matters. Godparents The most important persons at a baptism – except for the child – were instead the godparents. They were usually four: a married and an unmarried man, a married and an unmarried woman. In our church records they were most often called testes, i.e. ”witnesses” in Latin, and are not seldom more carefully inscribed than the parents! It was the business of the entire extended family to provide as influential godparents as possible for the newborn child and many genealogists are today amazed that “common crofter kids” could have e.g. the richest farmer in the parish as a godfather. Godparents did not – as many believe today – have any sort of obligation to care for the child, if the parents were unable to do so, but they had a moral duty to further the child’s interest, e.g. by giving recommendations when it later applied for a position or to be accepted by a guild or a school, and also to give gifts. A smart way of acquiring nice godparents was to ask the wife of one of the most important parishioners to carry the baby; this was a very great honour, irrespective of the woman’s and the child’s social positions, and such a request could hardly be turned down. Since the mother was not present, the primary godmother in a very real sense represented the mother. Godparents – and the entire extended family – were expected to give valuable christening gifts. The silver spoon, often engraved, still today given in connection with birth or baptism is a remnant of the old rural society where all the money that could be saved was quickly invested in silver, preferably a spoon, which had the double advantage of being of lasting value and also could be shown to neighbours, family and friends. Today such a gift of a silver spoon would correspond to e.g. opening a savings account in the child’s name – but it is difficult to abandon old traditions completely, so most of us continue to give a baptismal spoon while we at the same time make a deposit in that savings account! The christening gifts were given at the feast held in connection with the baptism, the “child beer” (barnsöl). Swaddling and Clothes Most people are aware that children used to be swaddled. Two different swaddling techniques were used: crossswaddling, which was done rather loosely with a narrow swaddling-band so that the child could not kick off its clothes, and circular swaddling, which was done tightly with a broad band so that the child’s limb would become straight. The child was usually nursed only twice in 24 hours, morning and evening, and spent the rest of the time swaddled in its own dirt! From the 17th century some doctors, philosophers and pedagogues (e.g. John Locke [1632- 1704], Jean-Jacques Rousseau [1712- colours with pink for girls and (light) 78]) did speak out against swaddling, blue for boys started only quite late in saying that children should be able to the latter half of the 19th century and was move freely. There were however some purely a city fashion. advantages to swaddling: since the child For its baptism the child was dressed could not move it could easily be minded as finely as could be achieved. Special by a gouty old granny or a sibling – or baptismal gowns were common also even be left alone; the child was also among the rural population. In e.g. kept warm in the draughty cottages of Hälsingland and Skåne are mentioned in the time and could not kick off its particular red baptismal gowns, in silk blankets etc. Until it was three or four with embroideries and decorated with months old the child was completely silk ribbons, pearls and lace. The swaddled from head to toe, but after that baptismal gown was most often in the “only” from the breast down. From about shape of a “bag”, which was necessary if the age of 10 months – when the child the child was completely swaddled. The would begin to learn to walk – there was baptismal dresses common today have no swaddling during the daytime. sleeves which demanded that the child Swaddling was abandoned first by the was swaddled no higher than the chest; English aristocracy (already at the such baptismal dresses – in white – beginning of the 18th century) and from became the fashion from the end of the there the new custom spread both 18th century and became the general geographically and socially. From the norm during the 19th century. Particularly beginning of the 20th century babies were fancy caps, e.g. in silk, were worn before swaddled hardly anywhere in Sweden, and after the baptismal act. but there is plenty of evidence that it was still done in Eastern Europe until well into the 1960’s and 1970’s! Except for the swaddling bands – which for long remained, transformed into a belly band – baby clothing has not changed all that much, other than that babies today seldom wear a cap indoors. In the old days you could tell from the very first day if it was a boy or a girl from the cut of the baby’s cap: the girl’s cap was cut with two sidepieces and a central piece from forehead to neck while the boy’s cap was made from “wedges” – both were however tied under the chin. Among the rural population no distinction was made as to the colours worn by boys and girls, and there was no concept of dressing children in colours different from those used by adults. The Hanna’s baptism – in national dress from the mid 1970’s. Photo Ulla Centergran tradition of pale pastel Using Your Swedish National Dress for a Baptism Today If there are no specific local instructions you should dress as if for a grand occasion; however not quite as fancy and festive as for a wedding – a baptism is somewhat more “serious”. Presumably no one would today even for a moment consider swaddling a baby even temporarily, but a “bag” does work also without swaddling. However, a white baptismal gown was used also when people dressed in national dresses “for real”, and works well. A somewhat more old-fashioned style is achieved if a cap, particularly one cut after the old patterns, is used with the baptismal dress. 3 Confirmation and Coming of Age In most societies the transition from childhood to adulthood is celebrated with some sort of ceremony and festivity, often preceded by or consisting of some form of training and/or test. Today this role has been taken by leaving high school with attendant celebrations, but in the old agrarian society the confirmation was considered as the rite of passage for adulthood. From Child to Adult The confirmation was of course really a church rite, a confirmation of the baptism. Since the Swedish church – like the Catholic Church and the majority of Protestant churches – practices child baptism it is important that the baptism is confirmed when the child is old enough to comprehend its meaning. Confirmation can therefore not take place until the child is “adult” which we in Sweden traditionally think occurs at the age of 15. Before modern readers start protesting you should consider the fact that we today generally think that coming of age is at 18 – but it is in actual fact a process that starts at just precisely 15 and is not concluded until 10 years later. At 15 you are legally responsible for any criminal acts committed, you are allowed to drive a moped, have sex and watch NC-17-rated movies. All of it remains of “the old Sweden”! So confirmation took place earliest at the age of 15, but it could also be postponed if the parish vicar thought that the confirmand-to-be was not mature enough or did not have the requisite knowledge. In some parishes there were special ledgers listing the year’s confirmands, and in case of missing birth records these ledgers may be used to indicate at least a probable year of birth since it is certain that the confirmand always was at least 15 years old at confirmation. Before confirmation the child was not counted as a person in his/her own right, but was always referred to in relation to its father; e.g. a death record would read “farmer Nils Andersson of Norgården’s son Peter, 13 years old” (“åbon Nils Anderssons i Norgården son Peter, 13 år”). Requisite Knowledge Before 1986 the Swedish church required you to be confirmed to be allowed to participate in Holy Communion. The Church Law of 1686 demanded that a parishioner before attending his/her first communion was examined as to knowledge of Christianity (as interpreted by the state church of course), which led to public hearings. During the latter part of the 18th century this grew into a special church service which was given a firm ritual in the church manual of 1811; however, only in the 1917 manual is the ritual termed “confirmation”. Confirmation started with “reading for the vicar” (”läsa för prästen”). Today many misinterpret this as meaning that this was when the rural population learnt to read. In fact the ability to read from a book was, together with a basic understanding of Christianity, a prerequisite for being allowed to attend the confirmation lessons. All children learnt to read sometime between the age of seven and ten. In some parishes the sacristan (klockaren) taught the children, sometimes reading was taught at home and in some parishes there was actually a special schoolmaster. These schoolmasters were not seldom discharged soldiers, since their training included a thorough instruction in the arts of writing and arithmetic (soldiers were supposed to be able to read already). Sometimes it would happen that a farmer’s son who had been given the chance of studying for the clergy did not quite make it – or he ran out of money – and instead ended up a schoolmaster. Proper schools for the rural population, with separate schoolhouses, were established from the middle of the 18th century all over Sweden. The Basic School Reform (Folkskolereformen) of 1842 did not bring about any significant changes; it must also be emphasized that while the new law required the parishes to arrange schools it did not require the children to attend them. But already before 1842 there were some 1800 schools in about half of Sweden’s 2300 parishes; ten years later nothing much had changed. The great change was instead that in the new basic school (folkskolan) the children also had compulsory lessons in writing. So what did the confirmation lessons comprise? Well, there was reading of various texts in the Bible, but above all learning by heart Luther’s Small Catechism – mostly the Ten Commandments, the Confession and the Lord’s Prayer – including the difficult explanations. You were however not expected to know all of the explanations by heart: in the church records there are sometimes notes that someone knows “all of the explanation” (”kan hela Svebilii förklaring utantill”), which was so remarkable that it had to be recorded. Confirmation and First Communion Confirmation at Ljung’s church (county of Bohuslän) concludes a confirmation camp, summer of 1970. All the girls wear white, “grown-up” dresses in the latest (very short) fashion; the boys wear ties but no jackets due to the unusually warm summer. Photo Ingela Martenius 4 The confirmation lessons ended with the much-feared examination in church, before the entire congregation. This examination was thus really the first household examination, because once you were confirmed you were examined together with all the (confirmed) people living at your farm once a year by the Confirmation at Rättvik’s church (Dalarna province) in 1994. In several parishes around Lake Siljan the tradition remained that girls should wear national dress to their confirmation while the boys started wearing “civilian” suits at the end of the th 19 century. In connection with the revival of the national dress in the 1970’s boys began wearing national dress again. Photo Maria Björkroth vicar, on exactly the same subjects as at confirmation. Today in Sweden we think of confirmation as an examination – which today often takes the form of a seminar – immediately followed by communion. However, in the old days the examination, often referred to as “standing on [sic] the aisle” (“stå på gången”) since the confirmands answered the questions lined up in the aisle, took place on the Saturday and the communion followed the next day, the Sunday. According to SwedishAmericans belonging to the American Lutheran Church they still adhere to this old tradition. Confirmation Gifts It is often rumoured that today many confirmands are confirmed only for the presents. These presents are also a souvenir from the time when confirmation meant stepping into the adult world. The confirmands would often receive quite expensive gifts that completed the change in clothing marking their new status: for the girls it could be a pin or a clasp in silver or perhaps a silk scarf, for the boys cufflinks in silver or (from the middle of the 19th century) perhaps even a watch! The gifts were of course mainly from the parents, or perhaps an older sibling – but not least the godparents were A typical confirmand from Bohuslän (Kville) about 1910. now expected to make a The girl is dressed completely in black, but is evidently contribution. There are letters still using a white shift under her dress since it shows at and other records preserved her throat and wrists. She is also holding her nice new – black – gloves in her right hand. where godparents complain that Photo Anna-Carin Betzén they now live in “abject poverty” from giving the expensive gifts expected soon as they were confirmed. But if the parents had the least opportunity of from one of higher social status. keeping them at home for another year or two, they did so. Many places the Adult Life How did life change after majority did not leave home until they confirmation? Well, for a majority were 17-19 years old, which is to say nothing much changed for a couple of much the same age as when you quit years. Indeed they were responsible for high school today. their crimes, could hold a job, and poll tax had to be paid, but the notion we have today that this meant that most of the rural youths had to leave home to fend for themselves is a fact that has to be taken with a – large – pinch of salt. Some children did have to leave their poverty-stricken homes before they were 15; they worked for food and lodging and, if they were lucky enough to have a kind-hearted mistress, some second-hand clothing. In church records they are entered as “gossen” (the boy) or “flickan” (the girl). When the 15-yearolds had been confirmed they were free to go to work “for real” (and be noted as “dräng” [male farmhand] or “piga” [female farmhand]) and they had to be given wages according to law. Some 15year-olds did indeed go into service as Clothes The transition to adult status was marked by clothes. Before they were confirmed children wore children’s clothing. From when they could walk until they were about 5 – 7 years this meant a smock-frock (kolt), a sort of ”dress” that went down to the middle of the calf, differently cut for boys and girls and often made from yellow (simplest colour to dye) wool or linsey-woolsey and worn over a linen shift/shirt. On top of the smock-frock an apron was worn, a bib apron for boys and a waist apron for girls. The children were of course wearing a cap at all times: made from “wedges” for boys and made from two sidepieces and a central piece from forehead to neck for girls. 5 Around the age of 5 – 7 years, varying from parish to parish, the children were dressed in simpler versions of adult clothing. It was only now they managed to dress themselves, a requirement for the “upgrade” – there was no time to dress two or three children in every family! ”No obvious tears or holes, and (passably) clean” was the sum of ambition for the children’s clothes until they were confirmed; very little time or effort was spent on clothes the children would wear out or grow out of. It was common practice to turn worn-out adult clothing into children’s clothes as well as could be managed. Confirmation meant that you now had the right to wear fully adult clothing. What this entailed exactly varied, but there were some general rules. So e.g. girls living in areas where adult women used bindmössa (which is to say not in e.g. Skåne) always had their first bindmössa (a silk cap or bonnet, usually embroidered) at their confirmation. It is unfortunately nowadays a common misconception that unmarried females did not wear bindmössa – indeed they did. Some parishes had very strict rules, but generally speaking light colours were worn by young girls (light blue was e.g. popular for confirmands) and darker colours, even black, were used by older, married women. A typical bindmössa (Bohuslän). Photo Ingela Martenius In the towns children also wore smock-frocks during their first years. Before confirmation the boys then wore short trousers (above the knee) and the girls’ skirts reached just below the knee. Afterwards the boys wore long trousers and the girls’ skirts became floor-length and they were allowed to put their hair up. In urban middle class society there was however a tendency to try to preserve girls as “innocent children” for as long as possible, and so it was not unusual that girls, particularly if they still attended school, wore shorter skirts for everyday use with their hair put up as 6 First communion 1967 in Göteborg. The Catholic Church has never required any special knowledge to be able to participate in Holy Communion. The first communion is thus celebrated with great festivity already at age 8, without confirmation. The girls used to be dressed up like little brides! Photo Isabelle Falsen simply as possible, e.g. by just winding the “little girl plaits” around the head. At first everyone in the rural population was of course confirmed in national dress – that was after all the clothes available, and they were worn with pride since they showed that you were no longer a child. The clothes were proper clothes for attending church, but not the most expensive ones. Indeed, this was the start of collecting clothes: farmhands, both male and female, were partly paid in fabrics and other articles of clothing, and the cash part of their wages could be used for buying the more luxurious items, like e.g. silk scarves. When the national dresses started disappearing towards the middle of the 19th century they were at confirmation replaced by heavy woollen suits with long trousers for the boys and fashionable dresses for the girls (though of course very modest versions, with long sleeves and made high to the neck). Since urban middle-class adult women wore black – or at least dark – clothing for church, the confirmands’ dresses were in the beginning black. However, towards the end of the 19th century urban middle-class society did not regard black as a suitable colour for young girls – it made them too grown-up – so, in the cities (not in Göteborg though!) they started to dress girls in white for confirmation. This practice spread to smaller market towns and in the end also to rural parishes. The change from black to white sometimes had odd consequences: so e.g. two dresses could be necessary – one in white for the actual confirmation and one in black for the communion the next day. The most conservative province proved not unexpectedly to be Bohuslän; the Schartauan clergy and/or congregations made sure that the girls in some parishes wore black well into the 1950’s! However, the vicar in one parish in Bohuslän thought the parish girls should wear black, but when he privately tutored confirmands who had their lessons during the summer and lived at the vicarage these girls were allowed to be confirmed in white – the colour was thus partly also a question of social class. Using Your Swedish National Dress for a Confirmation Today The confirmand should of course be dressed like the other confirmands. It is of course very nice if they all wish to wear national dress! If there are no specific local customs the confirmands should dress in completely adult versions, suitable for attending a church service. Where a ”bindmössa” is part of the dress the girls must wear them, preferably – if there are no specific traditions to the contrary – in a light colour; light blue used to be a very popular colour for a confirmand’s bonnet. Family, relatives and friends dress as for a normal church service, perhaps with a particularly nice scarf or a brand-new shirt, but not as for a major holiday. Just like today marriage did not begin with a wedding. First you had to decide whom to marry. In all classes of society it was originally rather self-evident that you did what your family – above all your parents – decided and married the one they had selected. Marriage was not romance, it was the start-up of a family business. Was there no way you could decide for yourself? Oh yes, in quite a number of cases the parties could choose, as long as they kept to “suitable” candidates: none of the estates approved of marriages where there was too great a difference between the parties. A rich girl, whether she was of the nobility or from a farming family, should marry a man that was well off – unless the man could offer something else; it was not uncommon for a rich merchant’s daughter to climb the social ladder by marrying a poor nobleman. Also other circumstances could prove decisive: a young man would sometimes have to start his career by “preserving the widow” (konservera änkan) – clergymen who wanted a good living married their predecessor’s widow, and a journeyman craftsman who wanted to take over his deceased master’s position was in a similar situation. Mostly you married someone of roughly your own age, but among the clergy and the more affluent city families it was not unusual for a man to have to wait until he was 35 or 40 years old before he had an income that would enable him to support a wife in a “proper” manner. And of course he then chose a pretty young girl of 18 or 20. People in comfortable circumstances of all social classes generally married when they were about 20-22 years – but most people had to wait much longer. Among farmers the general practice was that you went into service when you were around 18, and then remained in service upwards of ten years before you had made enough to have a nest egg to start married life on. In all classes of society people became acquainted at various social events, but among the farmers this first acquaintance could be followed by something that Not all churches possessed crowns, but then the bridal dresser often had one like this, in less precious materials. The crown was really just a frame that was dressed and decorated to such a degree that it was hardly visible. Photo Isabelle Falsen This is how the crown could appear when properly decorated. The flowers must be of paper since this was “finer” than real flowers. The small corkscrew locks also belonged to the decorations, i.e. they were not the bride’s own hair! Photo Ingela Martenius Betrothal, Banns and Wedding The most important day in a woman’s life used to be her wedding day. An unmarried woman had no status and a married woman was most careful to acquire all the attributes – e.g. a special sort of headgear – she was entitled to. But the wedding itself was the occasion when a woman was not only allowed to but expected to outshine everybody else, she was truly ”queen for a day”. Choosing a Spouse certainly did not occur in the other estates: a “night proposal” (nattfrieri). The “night proposals” did not occur quite everywhere, but have not been uncommon in most parts of Sweden. “Night proposals” meant that gangs of young men would at night go from village to village and also to the remote pastures (fäbodvallarna) to see “their” girls. When they arrived at the right place a fight could break out if it was a popular girl many boys were after. The victor climbed in through the window to the girl and laid down (fully dressed) on top of the counterpane – the girl was under the counterpane, usually dressed not only in her chemise but also in an extra blouse and at least one petticoat or skirt. The boys watched each other and the visit was deemed a success if the girl didn’t turn her back on her visitor. Surprisingly few children were conceived under these circumstances, but the clergy (perhaps not so surprisingly) disliked this tradition. After a period of acquaintance – and possibly some “night proposals” – it was time to talk about a betrothal. An intermediary (here, böneman) was sent by the man to the woman’s family, and eventually an agreement that everybody could accept was reached. Betrothal (trolovning) Up until 1734 the betrothal was the most important stage of the wedding process; this was when a contract was entered upon between the families – and from this day the couple was regarded as husband and wife and could share a bed. The ceremony in church was only a blessing with no legal consequences (compare with e.g. France or Germany today where the civil ceremony is the legally binding one and the church wedding a private blessing). But since Ansgar set foot in Birka in the 9th century the church had fought to have the church wedding recognized as the only valid form – and with the law of 1734 the church finally had its way. The farmers’ estate made voluble protests; the farmers did not at all wish for church weddings – they were afraid that this would mean that their children to a greater degree wanted to decide for themselves whom to marry – and so, in a typical Swedish compromise, the legal consequences of a betrothal were not rescinded: a child conceived and born while the parents were betrothed was regarded as legitimate, a “betrothal child” 7 In the towns there were not so much (trolovningsbarn), and if you wanted to man intended to marry; the purpose of break off a betrothal it was the same the banns was to give people the fun and games, instead there were quite opportunity to raise any impediment formal receptions (”banns receptions”, thing as a divorce. lysningsmottagning) at the home For the betrothal – and of the bride the two first later the wedding – to be Sundays. At these receptions tea valid the parties had to have and sandwiches as well as reached the correct age: sherry and cake were offered. according to the law of 1734 Both at the “crutch pomp” it was 21 for men and 15 for and the reception the visitors women; women’s marriage gave presents that were age was in 1892 raised to 17 displayed for all to admire. and in 1916 to 18 (the men’s Usually this was also an marriage age was lowered to opportunity for inspecting that 18 in 1969). Furthermore part of the bride’s trousseau that the woman had to have her consisted of table cloths, bed marriage guardian’s sheets, tapestries and other (giftoman – usually her things for the future home; father or brother) sometimes also more personal permission. Unmarried items like furs and silk clothing. women over 25 could from 1858 petition the court to attain majority and in 1863 The Wedding – Ceremony these women automatically and Celebration came of age – but until 1872 In Sweden a church wedding (1882 for women of the was for long the only possible nobility!) they still had to way of marrying. By the end of have their marriage the 18th century Jews were guardian’s permission to permitted to settle in Sweden marry. As an aside can be and they were given their own noted that married women A bridal couple from Skåne under a bridal canopy. In Skåne the bride right to marry (in a synagogue). were minors until 1921 seldom wore a crown since this had not been the custom in Denmark; In the middle of the 19th century (even if they were over 25 the bride instead wore a special bonnet (piglock) with plenty of ribbons a Jewish man and a woman (la). Photo Isabelle Falsen when they married). belonging to the Church of Widows have however always against the marriage – objecting at the Sweden wished to marry; the only automatically attained majority and wedding ceremony itself was too late. possible solution was to introduce a form needed no marriage guardian. The banns were read from the lectern, of civil marriage, which however was A betrothal (trolovning) must be and the saying was that “the names fell limited to cases where the parties had separated from an engagement down from the lectern”. And if you fall different faiths. Only in 1908 did a civil (förlovning). A betrothal was public, down from such a high place, well, then marriage ceremony become an before witnesses, and was a confirmation you break your legs. And if you break alternative for anyone who wished for it. of the validity of the contract entered your legs you need crutches. And so A marriage could of course take place upon by the families. An engagement “crutch pomp” (kryckeståt, also called anytime (except during Lent), but among was private, only between the parties kryckegänge or björkdrage) was farmers it was common to marry concerned, and had no legal celebrated. between Christmas and the New Year; consequences. When the church One of the Sundays the banns were Boxing Day was e.g. one of the most ceremony began to be generally accepted read (which one varied from place to popular days. The reason was as the only valid way to marry, the terms place) a tree – most commonly a birch or economical and practical: Christmas was were mixed up and the differences a fir tree (i.e. a “cheap”, prolific tree) – the most festive of all holidays, with between betrothal and engagement was dragged to the bride’s, or plenty of food and many social events – disappeared. Only in 1973 were all legal occasionally to the bridegroom’s, home a wedding thus cost very little extra, and consequences of a betrothal/engagement in a facetious procession, often led by the the entire family was already assembled. abolished. young people, the bridal couple’s A real farmer’s wedding went on for an contemporaries, in the parish. There entire week, with new frolics and were many local traditions as to how the jollifications every day, but many Banns (lysning) – Crutch Pomp tree was supposed to look (e.g. some clergymen tried to make their (kryckeståt) or Reception places it should have two tops), if it parishioners limit themselves to three (lysningsmottagning) After the betrothal it was time to set should be decorated, pruned etc. In the days. The wedding ceremony took place in the date for the wedding. Before the house to where the tree had been dragged wedding, banns had to be read three there would be a feast with revelries and the bride’s parish church. In Swedish the Sundays in a row in the woman’s parish the tree was often “planted” and left so word for wedding – bröllop – actually church. The banns were an that all could see that at this farm they means “bridal race” (brudlopp), and a very long time ago the bride and announcement that this woman and this were preparing for a wedding. 8 bridegroom rode (raced) on horseback to their new home, and later to church (a custom that for long lived on in e.g. Värend in Småland); even later the bridegroom used a carriage to fetch his Norwegian bride with bridal crown, about 1900. Norwegian crowns were somewhat differently made so that the brides could wear their hair down; Swedish brides generally had to put their hair up in order to make the crown stay put. Photo Wikipedia A proper bride from Skåne was supposed to be covered with silver. Most of it was only made from thin sheets of silver, but few families had “enough” silver; you simply borrowed from your entire extended family to make the bride shine. Photo Ingela Martenius bride from her home and drive her to church. In church the bride and bridegroom traditionally walked together down the aisle, often under a bridal canopy (brudpäll). Readers used to Anglo-Saxon traditions may be surprised to hear that there is no giving away of the bride – but remember, the giving away and all other legal formalities had already been taken care of at the betrothal and at the reading of the banns. To all intents and purposes the church wedding remained what it was before 1734: a private blessing. There were quite a few old superstitions surrounding the wedding ceremony, it was e.g. usual for the bride to have a silver coin in her shoe to make sure the newlyweds would have a prosperous home. Bridal bouquets are however a late invention; in the old days the bride usually carried a Book of Prayers (psalmbok – often a betrothal gift), commonly wrapped in some fine cloth, in her hand. And as part of the campaign to introduce and later confirm church weddings as the only valid way to marry, many churches invested in a bridal crown, traditionally made in gilded sterling silver. The bridal crown – going back to the old Catholic image of the Virgin Mary as the Queen of Heaven – was lent to brides who had not shared a bed with their husband during the betrothal period. Most places in Sweden it was rather quickly accepted that it was a special honour to be a “crown bride” (kronbrud). In some parishes it was even noted in the marriage record if a woman had worn the crown or a bonnet – and the note “bonnet” (mössa) was acceptable only if the bride was a widow. If it later turned out that the woman had lied about her virginity, she had to pay a fine – traditionally to “re-gild” the crown in order to “cleanse” it. After the wedding ceremony the bridegroom drove his bride to the wedding house (bröllopsgården), where the celebrations started with an enormous meal and continued with frolics and dancing. It culminated with putting the bridal couple to bed (sängledning): the bride was brought into the bridal chamber by the women, who also undressed her (though she was of course allowed to keep her chemise) and put her to bed. It was common for the bride’s hair to be let down (it was for once newly washed) and the bride should preferably wear the bridal crown, which however was difficult to accomplish with her hair let down. Then the men led in the bridegroom and he was also put to bed, while plenty of quite coarse jokes were made. The bridal couple was usually given a few good-size drams, to enable them to “make it through the night”. After that the oldest and most eminent women in the company saw to it that everybody left the bridal chamber and the bridal couple was finally left alone. Outside the farmers estate the customs were not that different, except that the bridal couples after the mid 1700’s did not have to endure the ceremony of being put to bed and the very coarsest of the jokes. The Next Day The day after the wedding ceremony was the time for several important events that would confirm the ceremony. The new wife now had to don such articles of clothing that were locally reserved for wives: it often meant some special headgear, but also other details in her clothing could change. From this morning the woman was not allowed to show as much a single hair to anybody but her husband. To really emphasize this it was some places customary for the woman’s hair to be cut off on this her first morning as a wife. Another important event was that the size of the morning gift (morgongåvan) was now made public. Most often it was agreed upon in advance, as part of the marriage contract, but in popular belief the size of the morning gift depended on how happy the woman had made the man during the wedding night. The morning gift was in reality a sort of will: spouses did not inherit each other, and if the husband died – and there were no common children – all his property went back to his family and the widow could be left completely without means to support herself. The minimum size of the morning gift was ordered by law, and in the church records you can often see a note which says just that: “morning gift according to law” (morgongåva enligt lag). Morning gifts as means of supporting the widow were not abolished until 1920 when new inheritance laws were enacted. Divorce Divorce is not, as many believe, a totally modern invention. For the nobility it was not that uncommon – and as for royalty, most people remember Henry VIII and his divorces in the 16th century 9 – but also farmers and common townspeople divorced. Divorce was until the late 19th century not handled by the common courts but by the diocesan chapters. The men were of course given custody of the children since the women were minors and, in most cases, could not provide for them. It is to be noted that if you wished to break off a betrothal – even if you had not shared a bed with your betrothed – this was handled exactly like a divorce, also after 1734. The bride must look good from behind too; this is after all what is visible during the church ceremony. The Skåne bride (right) took pride in her two-coloured skirt and lots of ribbons while the Dalarna bride had a collar with beads and flowers that was equally big front and back. Photo Ingela Martenius Clothes The very finest clothes you could lay your hands on have always been used for weddings. From the middle of the 18th century people began wearing special wedding clothes, but well into the 19th century it was even in the highest possible social circles not uncommon that bridal clothes– however special – were not meant to be worn only once but were used again later for other celebrations. What we today think of as the traditional white wedding dress stems from the first decades of the 19th century when white was the fashion and was thought to be particularly well suited to young, innocent girls – it was not thought quite “fitting” for young girls to wear dresses in too bright colours. The farmers wanted nothing to do with the white dresses. In some parts of the country the brides wore “just” their very finest national dress, but in other parts they started using special, often black, dresses. In areas where the national dress was no longer worn it was most often the bride’s own best dress, in national dress areas – where the bride had no further use for such a dress – it was rented from the bridal dresser (brudpåkläderskan). Black may seem like a sad and unlikely colour for a wedding, but it did not matter much – the dress was nearly completely covered by all the accessories and embellishments hung on the bride. It was e.g. the custom most places that all the silk scarves a bride owned was to be fastened to the bridal belt – a rich bride could have upwards of ten (or more) colourful scarves hanging over her skirt and the bride’s bodice was often covered by a very wide collar with glass beads. When urbanization took off in the 1870’s the tradition of decorating the bride decreased and eventually ceased – what remained was a black “best dress”. Traditionally it was the black dress the girls were given at their confirmation when they were 15 and which they wore for the rest of their lives, for all festivities, and were ultimately buried in. By the end of the 19th century white A bridal couple from Dyrön in Bohuslän, around the turn of the century 1900. The bride wears a black dress but a white veil – note the bridegroom’s thin white gloves, considered to be extra “fancy”. Photo Lina Pettersson confirmation dresses started to be worn, and following this example white wedding dresses were introduced in a general way. However, as late as the 1950’s many women could simply not afford a special dress and instead just used, exactly according to tradition, a “best dress”. Today wedding dresses have developed into something of a fashion of their own, although you can of course trace the ”normal” fashion in the wedding dresses. And the bridegroom – what became of him? Well, as everybody knows the bridegroom is just an accessory at weddings, there only to serve as a foil for the bride. A bridegroom has always simply worn his very finest clothes according to local fashion, regardless of whether we are talking full evening dress or national dress. Sometimes he is lent some extra clothes – but one thing is for sure: he may never be so handsomely attired that anyone as much as gives him a second glance. All attention on the bride! Using Your Swedish National Dress for a Wedding Today A modern wedding: both bride and groom very much dressed up. Breaking with all traditions the bride wears a low-cut gown with no sleeves. Photo Gunilla Andersson 10 If your national dress is from an area where special wedding traditions as to how the bridal couple should dress are preserved, they should of course be adhered to. In other areas you wear the most festive variation of dress you have, and the bride also embellishes her dress by e.g. fastening silk scarves at her waist and wearing extra national dress jewellery (“dress silver”, dräktsilver). The bride can by all means wear a crown, but preferably not a veil. The guests quite simply wear the very finest articles of national dress clothing they possess; this is the greatest celebration there is. Death and Burial Today we have distanced ourselves from death by institutionalising it: today most people die in a hospital or a hospice, and death is often perceived as unfair and a failure of medical science. Not so long ago death was something that always had to be taken into account, something that was close to everybody – everyone had experienced losing a loved one, and so sometimes we may think that people in the old days did not grieve as deeply as we do. But there are plenty of testimonials in letters and diaries of people in the past being at least as distraught as we are over e.g. the loss of a child – something we seldom have to experience today but which was so common in the past. Causes of Death Various reports tell us that Sweden today has one of the highest average life expectancies in the world, and to become 80-90 years of age is what we more or less expect. We know of course that this was not at all the case in the past. Talking about average life expectancy in the past will however be warped if you do not discount infant mortality, which at times in some places could exceed 50 % (in Sweden today less than about 0,4 %). If you survived childhood you stood a very good chance of reaching 60, and maybe 70. There were of course people who became older than that also in the past, but it was very rare for anyone to become more than about 85 years of age. Today it is what is usually termed lifestyle illnesses, like cardiovascular diseases and certain forms of cancer, that kill us off. In the past it was above all epidemics of diseases today extinct or not existing in the developed world due to improved living conditions, which killed people: smallpox, typhus (called nervfeber), cholera, dysentery (called rödsot), syphilis and the childhood illnesses like scarlet fever, diphtheria and measles. Also pneumonia was often – even mostly – lethal. The truly big cause of death was however from the 19th century tuberculosis, “the white death”; a real cure for TB did not exist until after the Second World War. Even if access to professional medical care can hardly be said to be available throughout the country until the 19th century it did exist before that. District medical officers (provinsialläkare), doctors working in the country and paid by the state, were introduced in the 17th century; as late as 1773 there were however in the whole country only 43 district medical officers, with as many assistants. A vocational school for midwives was established in Stockholm already in 1682; in 1808 the training was six months. But it was only in 1777 that When the vicar was sent for to attend the dying (sockenbud), he always brought this little travelling kit with a chalice and wafer tray to be able to give a last Holy Communion. Photo Ingela Martenius. a national ordinance obliged all parishes to have at least one trained midwife. How well the law was adhered to was however very different in different parts of the country – on average there was in 1860 nationally one midwife for 1300 women; however, in Älvsborg county there was only one midwife for 7700 women while in Stockholm, Uppsala county and Skåne province there was one midwife for 500 women. Proper hospitals were also established from the 18th century: in 1765 and 1776 royal commands were issued that county hospitals should be established all over the country, which was also done. So a degree of access to professional medical care did in fact exist; the greater problem Epitaph picture from 1772 at the Släp parish church, south of Göteborg, of the Reverend Hjortberg with family. The vicar and his wife had all told 15 children, but only eight were alive when the picture was painted – the seven dead children are however present in the background or in their cradles. In the same spirit it became popular to photograph the deceased in his coffin after photography was invented. Photo Ingela Martenius. 11 was perhaps instead that since medical science was not very scientific the doctors in many cases really did not know much more than the “wise women” the country folks most often turned to. Memento Mori – Think of Death Today few of us plan our own funeral, even though undertakers try to convince us to do it. In the past many gave minute instructions on how they wanted their funeral; it was immensely important to have ”an honest funeral”, where nothing was spared so the family could be proud of it and look back on it as a nice tribute to the deceased. Consequently you put something by for the funeral, perhaps mainly money. The guilds had e.g. their own medical and funeral benefit societies where members paid a fee and then received a contribution towards – sometimes even full payment for – their funeral; also surviving widows could be covered by the societies. People short of money strangely enough – for us today – put the burial insurance first, not the medical insurance. Benefit societies abounded in the 19th century and were still around as late as the 1930’s. But money was not the only thing to be saved. In the 1950’s a teenage girl helped her grandmother sort through a few boxes in the attic and came across some fabric that would be perfect for the then so popular voluminous, starched petticoats – but no, she was told quite calmly by her grandmother, she could not have that length of fabric, it was put aside for the grandmother’s funeral. A century earlier it was common for farmers to save particularly good and sturdy planks when cutting timber for their own – and their families’ – coffin. Some even made their own coffin, and tested the fit carefully by lying down in it. But not only the funeral was carefully planned; you also carefully prepared to die. Every serious illness could potentially end in death. You most definitely did not give up at once, but tried everything both medical science and popular belief could offer. Also religion was used: prayers of intercession (förbön) were said in church for the ill. Such prayers were considered particularly potent if said in three churches. But when it finally became clear that nothing would help both the ill person and his family resigned; now it was time to prepare for a good, dignified death. A good death was a prepared death; a bad death was a hasty death (which in those days did not necessarily have anything to do with murder). The vicar was summoned so that the dying person could have a few words of comfort, ease his conscience and receive God’s forgiveness and Holy Communion. A clergyman was not allowed to avoid such visits, even if it concerned the most contagious diseases; according to the Church Law of 1686 a clergyman who failed to come was fined half his annual stipend the first and second time it happened – if it happened a third time he was defrocked. Certain measures could also be taken to ease death: the dying person could be given a candle to hold and the clock could be stopped. Also, the sick-room must be quiet, nobody should cry or A funeral in Kville in Bohuslän province in 1933. The men wear white tie; the women in black, but very elegant. The coffin is black – with sturdy handles – and bears a wreath of white callas (bog arums). Photo Anna-Carin Betzén. 12 loudly lament. In the ceiling above the dying person you could remove a plank so that his soul could more easily leave his body. The Death Today we are used to people dying in hospitals with an undertaker arranging everything so that the family has only to attend the funeral. In the past people died at home and all funeral arrangements were made by family, friends and neighbours. As soon as someone had died a string of activities began. First the deceased had to be carefully washed; there were often older women in the parish that did this – not seldom the same person who dressed the brides. Then the deceased was dressed, as nicely as could be managed. Many had saved their bridegroom shirt/bride chemise for this purpose. The deceased should also wear fine, white stockings, preferably knitted in expensive cotton. In the coffin – often black for adults and white, yellow or blue for children and young people – was first placed wood shavings and on top of that a sheet; a pillow was often made from the sheet the deceased had died on. The deceased was then placed in the coffin and a sheet, often the bridal sheet, was wound around him. Some, most often men, left at once after the death to tell friends and neighbours. If the vicar was not present he had to be told immediately – and not least, the sexton must be informed of the death. The sexton had to toll the bell for the passing of a soul, preferably the very day the death occurred. If the message arrived A modern, light funeral with a white coffin and plenty of beautifully arranged flowers but no wreaths. Photo Ingela Martenius. too late the bell tolling had to wait until the next day since it was carefully regulated when and how the bells should be tolled for different persons. It is often said that we are all equal before death – but when it came to bell tolling, funerals and tombs there was no equality. The hour of tolling the bell was decided by the social status of the deceased: the higher the status, the later the bell was tolled. For poor people the bells could toll as early as 8.30 in the morning while they were tolled at noon for the nobility – others in between. The deceased’s age decided how long the bells were tolled; for a child only a few minutes, for old people an hour or more. If the parish had several bells, the smaller bell was used for women and the larger for men. For Royals all bells in the country could toll for an hour every day for an entire year, but there was no tolling at all for stillborn babies or suicides. In popular belief the bells’ tolling helped a soul out of purgatory and into eternity, but the clergy was not always kindly disposed towards tolling bells for the passing of a soul since this belief originated in Catholic times. So in some places fees were introduced for bell-tolling, also it would take place only at certain times. In a house of mourning white sheets were put up before all windows; often the furniture was covered as well. It was particularly important to cover all mirrors, since the house could otherwise be haunted. Secular ornaments and pictures were put away – and even potted plants had white paper wrapped around them. In the room where the dead person was laid out until the funeral (it could be a shed or a granary if there was no suitable room available indoors) the walls were covered by white sheets, sometimes decorated with garlands of black wool, on the floor chopped juniper twigs (hackat enris) were usually strewn and a picture with the deceased’s name, years of birth and death, and a suitable hymn was often hung. When the deceased in his coffin had been placed in the room it was time for people to come and “view the body” (skåda liket). Everybody in the village, including small children, attended as a matter of course, but people would come also from other villages. The custom was to touch the deceased, for according to popular belief he would then never bother you again. The night before the funeral a wake was held. Wakes were really prohibited in the Church Law of 1686, but it was so firmly rooted among Examples of mourning dress from the provinces of Bohuslän (Isabelle Falsen, left) and Småland (Stina Olsson, right.). Note the broad hems of the aprons; the closer related you were to the deceased, the broader the hem. Photo Ingela Martenius. the rural population that it was impossible to stop – a wake was something to look forward to with company, food and drink. The Funeral In the past funerals took place on Sundays, before the service. The funeral party assembled early in the house of mourning for the deceased’s exit (likets utfärd). In earlier times the vicar held an “exit devotion” (utfärdsandakt), but since morning service then risked being delayed this was prohibited by the Church Law of 1686. Instead it was some well-respected local person who led a short devotion with prayers and hymns; often concluded by a so-called remembrance cup (minnesdrickning), i.e. glasses were raised in memory of the deceased. Remembrance cups could occur as late as the 1970’s on the west coast. After the devotion funeral sweets (begravningskonfekt), wrapped in black and white paper and sometimes decorated with e.g. angels, could be distributed; funeral sweets were saved and some could boast of veritable collections on the mantelpiece. The coffin was then nailed shut and the body was carried out of the house; it must be done feet first since the dead could otherwise catch sight of the door and return. The parish was divided into bier teams who took turns carrying; close relatives should not carry the bier. The bier the coffin was carried on was lent by the church, as was the pall. Long ago the bier was carried by hand all the way, but 13 grave was however located inside the church. For a fee the church could in fact be used by anyone, and when churches later were heated they came into more general use at inclement weather. Funerals were in the past carried out with as much pomp and circumstance as could be managed; that was a thoroughly In the middle of life there was always death. Here a reminder from a “honest funeral” thoroughfare in central Göteborg: a gate leading in to the old so-called cholera cemetery with a plaque saying “Think of Death”. (hederlig Photo Ingela Martenius. begravning). To be buried “quietly” (i stillhet) meant that the deceased was buried in hallowed ground by grace, e.g. if someone had committed suicide which was to say a “dishonest” (ohederlig) funeral. When eventually even the working classes – e.g. by diligent saving in the funeral benefit society – could afford funerals with more pomp, the upper classes started a fashion of quiet burials! Funeral Repast (gravöl) Rural people’s graves were until the late 18th century marked only by simple wooden crosses, but it was only after about 1860 that a fine stone tomb became the norm for all but the poorest. Here an upper middle class city tomb from 1937. Photo Ingela Martenius. if it was very far it would be dragged by horses. A funeral procession made a deep and solemn impression; the longer the procession was, the better it was thought to be. In the cities the funeral party followed the hearse in a procession of horse-drawn carriages; sometimes empty carriages were added to the procession to make more of a show. In the past it was unusual to have the funeral in the church. The coffin was instead brought directly to the grave and the burial took place there; if the deceased was high-ranking enough the 14 After the burial the funeral party went back to the house of mourning where a repast (gravöl – literally “grave beer”) was served. The repast was a meal with many courses. However, it was not as expensive as might be expected since the guests, according to set local customs, brought food (förning). The repast was at first a serious affair but after a while the food – and above all the alcohol – could turn it into quite a gay event. To conclude the meal a cake garnished in black and white was often served. The guests were not allowed to depart empty-handed; in the country they should have part of their food back, and in the towns they were sent home with e.g. a gigantic kringla (a sort of bagel). Clothes Already during antiquity black clothes were used for mourning. In Scandinavia there are some indications that black mourning dress was used as early as the 10th century. However, black was not the universal mourning colour until fashion dress became black, patterned on the renaissance so-called Spanish dress. From this black fashion dress stemmed Court mourning dress; for women black with a big white collar and a white apron. Conservative people still practice this: black is worn to all funerals but black and white is worn for the very closest relatives – men wear a white tie, women a white collar with their black dress. This dress also exactly matches the national dress “general” mourning clothes. However, in some parts of the country mourning clothes looked somewhat different: in e.g. Dalarna there are yellow and yellow-and-black striped aprons for mourning, and particularly in Skåne the female custom was for long to wear a skirt on top of the head (looking much like an Afghan burqa). Men’s mourning clothes have always been simpler; it could e.g. be enough to wear a black crape hatband. In certain countries a Royal lady may wear white for mourning instead of black; the British state visit to France in 1937 took place when HM Queen Elizabeth (later “The Queen Mother”) was in mourning for her mother and the Queen’s wardrobe was all white. Mourning dress was not put away straight after the funeral. Rural widows wore mourning for at least a year – which tallied with the prohibition on remarrying until a year had passed since the husband’s death (men needed to wait only six months). In towns a widow ought to wear weeds for three years; after the first year she could shorten her floor-length veil to the shoulders. Using Your Swedish Natinal Dress for a Funeral Today If your national dress is from an area where specific traditions as to how mourners should dress are preserved, they should of course be adhered to. In other areas you wear the darkest variation of dress you have, also with the least patterns. Women wear a plain white apron with a very broad hem (half the apron or higher) fastened in the back with the apron strings down to the skirt hem, a plain white shawl and, if no mourning bindmössa is available, a white scarf on top of the usual bindmössa; no jewellery (silver). Men wear a white or black tie, grey or black garters. Everyone, if possible, wears a jacket/coat, preferably not open. Sources Unfortunately all literature is in Swedish; only one or two books may – as far as I know – be translated into English. ARNÖ BERG, INGA & HAZELIUS BERG, GUNNEL; Folkdräkter och bygdedräkter från hela Sverige. ICA bokförlag, Västerås 1975 BERG, GÖSTA; Svensk bondekultur, Bonnier, Stockholm 1971 BJURMAN, EVA LIS; Catrines intressanta blekhet: unga kvinnors möten med de nya kärlekskraven 1750-1830, B. Östlings bokförlag Symposion, Eslöv 1998 BONDESSON, LARS; Seder och bruk vid livets slut, Verbum, Stockholm 1987 BRINGÉUS, NILS-ARVID; Livets högtidsdagar, Carlsson, Stockholm 2007 CENTERGRAN, ULLA; Bygdedräkter, bruk och brukare, Etnologiska föreningen i Västsverige, Göteborg 1996 GUSTAVSSON, ANDERS; Minnesdrickning vid begravning, Uppsala universitet, Uppsala 1980 HELLSPONG, MATS & LÖFGREN, ORVAR; Land och stad: svenska samhällen och livsformer från medeltid till nutid, Gleerup, Malmö 1994 IGHE, ANN; I faderns ställe, department of Economic History at Göteborg University, Göteborg 2007 KNUTS, EVA; Något gammalt, något nytt: skapandet av bröllopsföreställningar: [en avhandling om klänningar, ringar, smink, frisyrer, foton & mycket mer], Mara, Göteborg 2006 LIBY, HÅKAN; Kläderna gör upplänningen. Folkligt mode – tradition och trender. Uppland museum, Uppsala 1997 LILJEWALL, BRITT; Bondevardag och samhällsförändring: studier i och kring västsvenska bondedagböcker från 1800-talet, Department of History at Göteborg University, Göteborg 1995 LUNDQVIST, PIA; Marknad på väg: den västgötska gårdfarihandeln 1790-1864, Department of History at Göteborg University, Göteborg 2008 LÖFGREN, ANDERS PERSSON; A Few Stories from the Life of Anders Persson Löfgren, manuscript deposited at Utah State Historical Society (Salt Lake City, Utah, USA), reference number MSS A 5148, department of ”Manuscripts” MORRIS, CHRISTINE; En mångsidig präst och hans äreminne, i Populär historia nr 1/1994. NYLÉN, ANNA-MAJA, Folkdräkter ur Nordiska museets samlingar, Nordiska museet, Stockholm 1976 NYLÉN, ANNA-MAJA, Som man är klädd blir man hädd, Institute of Ethnology at Nordiska museet and Stockholm University, Stockholm 1978 PETTERSSON, LARS; Läs- och skrivkunnighet och jordbruksomvandling: om skånska bönder under skiftenas tid, Department of Economic History at Lund University, Lund 1996 SVENSSON, SIGFRID, Bygd och yttervärld: studier över förhållandet mellan nyheter och tradition, Nordiska museet, Stockholm 1979 SVENSSON, SIGFRID; Folkligt dräktsilver: ur Kulturens samlingar, ICA bokförlag, Västerås 1978 SVENSSON, SIGFRID; Folklig dräkt, Liber Läromedel, Lund 1974 SÖDERPALM, KRISTINA; Dödens riter, Carlssons, Stockholm 1994 WISTRAND, PER GUSTAF; Svenska folkdräkter: kulturhistoriska studier, Nordiska museet, Stockholm 1907 CHURCH RECORDS (births & baptisms, banns & weddings, death & burial, household examinations, migration) from above all the counties of Älvsborg, Malmöhus, Kristianstad, Värmland, Göteborgs & Bohus, Skaraborg, Jönköping and Kalmar. SVENSKA AKADEMIENS ORDBOK (SAOB): the historic dictionary of the Swedish language NATIONALENCYKLOPEDIN: the Swedish National Encyclopaedia 15 Rites of Passage in Sweden Rites of Passage in Sweden describes the four greatest events in a person’s life, what is usually termed rites of passage, with an emphasis on the period of 1686 – 1914. In 1686 came the Church Law that had such an influence on our ancestors’ lives and in 1914 the First World War effectively ended a world that had been on its way out since the 1870’s when Sweden was industrialised. Rites of Passage comprises birth and baptism, confirmation and becoming an adult, betrothal and wedding, and death and burial. _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ About the author: Ingela Martenius was born in 1956 in Göteborg, Sweden’s second biggest city and largest port, situated on the Swedish west coast, where she grew up. She studied law at Lund University but abandoned her studies two semesters short of her bar exam since she found it to be more fun to work for SAS (Scandinavian Airlines). The airline thought Ingela would make an excellent programmer / systems analyst and sent her to college and eventually to Stockholm University to study computers. In 1997 she was made responsible for all computer operations for all Swedish airports outside of Stockholm (the capital) but quit SAS in 2003 to pursue studies in ethnology at Göteborg University, graduating with a Master of Philosophy (M Phil) degree in the spring of 2008. Two of Ingela’s favourite pastimes are genealogy and making Swedish national dresses. A typical 18th century farm in northern Sweden; from Jamtli in Östersund (Jämtland province). Photo Isabelle Falsen. The picture shows Ingela wearing a national dress from Bohuslän at the May 17th celebrations (Norway’s National Day) in 2007in Oslo. An 18th century village on the west coast; Äskhult in Fjäre district (Halland province). From left. Lena in a national dress from Fjäre, Ingela and Isabelle from Bohuslän province. Photo Isabelle Falsen.