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Corpse Routes and Corpse Candles

By Ashleylister @ashleylister
This summer I plan to walk the Old Corpse Road from Mardale (Haweswater) to Swindale and onto Shap Abbey. With this in mind I was interested to read an article not only about corpse routes, but also in the superstition of   'corpse candles' . This is a widely believed phenomena in many parts of rural  UK.
Corpse routes always took many twists and turns ...even though a more direct route could have been taken to the burial ground. Often crossing running water too. This meandering pathway was designed to prevent the spirit from coming back from whence it came. For you see spirits always travel in a straight line and cannot cross running water.
Hamlets and villages without a church and therefore no consecrated burial ground, had to carry their departed to the nearest graveyard. Hence the Old Corpse Road at Mardale, where a church was not built till the 18th century. So the dead were carried overland to Shap Abbey.
So, you are asking where do  'corpse candles ' come into things? The apparition of floating lights was often noted drifting across the moors, and usually traveling in a straight line. Nowadays we might reason this being 'will o' the wisp', or gases emanating from the bogs, but folks, back then, thought it was a light 'calling' upon a village, or a dwelling , as a portent of an impending tragedy and a sign of imminent death.
After a tragedy witnesses often came forward to relate that they knew it was going to happen as they'd seen the 'corpse candles' a day or more before.
Corpse Routes and Corpse Candles  After reading that fascinating article I sat and wrote this piece.....

   Corpse Candle
   Oh, Maggie dost thou see that light across the moor ?    I fear it comes for me. Oh, Maggie, bar the door.           We'll kneel and pray and hope it passes our home           And continues on its ghostly course to roam.
          Oh, Maggie dost thou see that light that floats near ?           Stay close to me my love and hold me dear.           Send for the priest and ask him what to do.           Perhaps it will pass our cottage as it's not due ?
          Oh, Maggie dost thou fear the flame that comes close ?           I fear for my life and dread the corpse candle most.           The Lord will watch over us, of that I'm sure.           Oh, Maggie I beg you again to bar the door !
          Oh, Maggie, di'st thou see the candle last night ?           For it's taken you by dawn's first light.           You've gone from me and I did not think           To guard your life that's gone in a blink....
Thanks for reading, Kath Email ThisBlogThis!Share to TwitterShare to Facebook

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