collapse

* Member Info

 
 
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
Did you miss your activation email?

* Like Us on Facebook

* Support Weenie!

Shop on Amazon using these search boxes and Weenie earns a small commission:
USA
Search Now:
In Association with Amazon

United Kingdom
Search Now:
In Association with Amazon

Canada
Search Now:
In Association with Amazon

* Weenie's CD!

After years of consideration I've come to the conclusion that, within limits, gear is more important as a topic of conversation than as a way of making music. It's just not that important - Chris Smither

Author Topic: Dress in red for a funeral?  (Read 14018 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline Bald Melon Jefferson

  • Member
  • Posts: 179
Re: Dress in red for a funeral?
« Reply #30 on: October 27, 2009, 02:08:30 PM »
Not uncommon. For what it's worth... while visiting Mali earlier this year, a discussion with a local woman regarding dress, textiles, fabrics etc. yealded the following: White is the traditional color of dress for weddings; black and/or red for funerals. 
Granted, there are hundreds of cultures all with their own rich histories meriting much study within this one West African country alone..... Regardless, that's what it has generaly distilled down to today. 

Gary
The last funeral I went to everyone was in Hawaiian shirts. Now that was creepy, black being my favorite wardrobe color.
Support the Music Maker Relief Foundation

Offline uncle bud

  • Administrator
  • Member
  • Posts: 8322
  • Rank amateur
Re: Dress in red for a funeral?
« Reply #31 on: October 28, 2009, 11:35:51 AM »
Not uncommon. For what it's worth... while visiting Mali earlier this year, a discussion with a local woman regarding dress, textiles, fabrics etc. yealded the following: White is the traditional color of dress for weddings; black and/or red for funerals.  
Granted, there are hundreds of cultures all with their own rich histories meriting much study within this one West African country alone..... Regardless, that's what it has generaly distilled down to today.

Not uncommon in Mali, or in African-American culture in the U.S.? I'm still not finding anything in African-American customs. Curiosity has me digging further into this though. Here's some more food for thought:

The book Folk Beliefs of the Southern Negro by Newbell Niles Puckett was published in 1926 (based on his dissertation) and includes very detailed discussion of the burial and funeral customs of African Americans during the period we're concerned with, including a section on clothing. The book in its entirety looks quite remarkable and worth poking through for the historically curious.

The .txt version (with character errors) is viewable here: http://www.archive.org/stream/folkbeliefsofsou00puck/folkbeliefsofsou00puck_djvu.txt

690 page PDF version here: http://ia341012.us.archive.org/0/items/folkbeliefsofsou00puck/folkbeliefsofsou00puck_bw.pdf
 
Here are a couple excerpts from the sections dealing with clothing customs, where black definitely seems to be the funeral color. I've bolded certain passages:

FOLK BELIEFS OF THE SOUTHERN NEGRO

Puckett, Newbell Niles
The University of North Carolina Press 1926

Chapter II. Burial Customs, Ghosts, and Witches

The Concept of Death. European Acculturation. Dying in Ease.
Prophylactic Measures. Dying Whispers. Preparation for Burial.
Stygian Sign-posts. Wakes. The Funeral Procession. Negro Mourn-
ing Customs. Significance in Africa. Clothes and Crepe. Multiple
Funerals.

[snip]

Clothes and Crepe. The Southern Negroes consider
it proper for the relatives always to wear black to the
funeral ó the material to be borrowed if possible in-
stead of being bought. Although an Arkansas in-
formant says that black worn after the funeral will
cause some one else to die, the common Mississippi
custom is for the widow to stay in mourning for about
six months, wearing either black or white (generally
the former), and then changing to "second mourning"
which consists of lavender trimmed with black.  
In
some cases the original primitive idea of mourning
being a sort of disguise used for the purpose of avoiding
the ghost, is quite evident. One informant directly
says, "de wearin' uv black is 'tended ter keep de ghos'
frum boddering you."  Crepe is generally placed
upon the door, but in certain Georgia communities
where there are an unusual number of deaths in the
family a piece of black ribbon is tied to every living
thing that comes in the house after the body has been
taken out ó even to dogs and chickens.  This is
interesting in that it seems to be an attempt to pacify
an avenging spirit which was the cause of the deaths.
Somewhat similar to this is the belief that one of your
family will die if you wear anything new (especially
new shoes) * to a funeral.  Here the danger would
seem to be that of exciting the envy of the dead man ó
somewhat analagous to one of the reasons for wearing
sack-cloth and ashes in former times. Others say the
new clothes will wear out quickly if worn for the first
time to a funeral.

And a little further down in the text:

At times the Negro will be buried the day after he dies and the
funeral preached several months afterwards, no doubt
a result of part-time pastorates where a minister was
not always available immediately after a death. In
other cases there appears to be one funeral at the
cemetery to which flowers are taken but no mourning
worn, and another held some time later at the church
at which the female relatives wear black.
This
second service is called "stirring up the dead."


Puckett's work frequently cites the Southern Workman journal of the Hampton Institute, now Hampton University. One article taken from Southern Workman 26, published in January 1897, is reprinted in From My People: 400 Years of African American Folklore and titled there "Beliefs and Customs Connected with Death and Burial". (Whether that is the original title or not I don't know as the compiler of the anthology seems to give many entries descriptive titles of her own.)

Here is how the funeral dress is described in the Southern Workman in 1897:

"Black was the color worn by the women and white by the children. The men wore crape on one sleeve and around their hats. The male relatives of the deceased wore their hats through the service. Usually before hearses were used the body was taken to the church in a wagon with a white sheet thrown over the coffin, and the people sang mournful 'leading praises' all the way to the church. In the church the coffin was placed in front of the pulpit, which had been previously draped with a black cover with white and black rosettes."

You can see a bit of this article here:
http://books.google.ca/books?id=KKhSvDCDzOsC&lpg=PP1&ots=-he5MxOrDX&dq=from%20my%20people&pg=PA614#v=onepage&q=&f=false

Where the page cuts off, I added the text from my copy of the book.

There is the book Passed On: African American Mourning Stories by Duke University professor Karla F.C. Holloway which may have information, but nothing about dress to be found in the previewable bits on Google, though black and white dress is featured in the cover art:


http://books.google.ca/books?id=FwoQkOrLvHYC&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_v2_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q=&f=true


Here is some more colour rhyming. Dead/red again.

From http://www.gutenberg.org/files/27195/27195-h/27195-h.htm
Book of Negro Folk Rhymes by Thomas W. Talley, 1922

PRETTY LITTLE GIRL
Who's been here since I'se been gone?
A pretty liddle gal wid a blue dress on.
Who'll stay here when I goes 'way?
A pretty liddle gal, all dressed in gray.
Who'll wait on Mistess day an' night?
A pretty liddle gal, all dressed in white.
Who'll be here when I'se been dead?
A pretty liddle gal, all dressed in red.

« Last Edit: October 28, 2009, 11:55:11 AM by uncle bud »

Offline dj

  • Global Moderator
  • Member
  • Posts: 2615
  • Howdy!
Re: Dress in red for a funeral?
« Reply #32 on: October 28, 2009, 12:36:20 PM »
Uncle Bud,

Thanks for your diligence in researching the topic of wearing red at a funeral.  Your findings are very interesting.  The regents of Weenie University should should award you graduate course credit for this.  (So go ahead and put it on your resume.)         

Offline uncle bud

  • Administrator
  • Member
  • Posts: 8322
  • Rank amateur
Re: Dress in red for a funeral?
« Reply #33 on: October 29, 2009, 05:52:27 AM »
dj - thanks. Perhaps Weenie should start offering matchbox courses...

Offline Mr.OMuck

  • Member
  • Posts: 2570
    • MuckOVision
Re: Dress in red for a funeral?
« Reply #34 on: October 29, 2009, 08:07:46 AM »
Good idea.

I can't help but think that the Red theme is celebratory and is related to the same ideas and impulses that produced the New Orleans funeral marches. The connection to Red Ochre use by neolithic peoples, while not impossible, seems like a stretch.
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977)

http://www.youtube.com/user/MuckOVision

Offline lindy

  • Global Moderator
  • Member
  • Posts: 954
  • I'm a llama!
Re: Dress in red for a funeral?
« Reply #35 on: October 29, 2009, 10:26:55 AM »
To restate what's already been noted in this thread, different cultures ascribe different meanings to different colors. I was teaching in China the year of the Tiananmen Square massacre, and some students in the city where I lived were arrested for wearing white armbands--the color of mourning in that country. Some Thai protesters who hit the streets following the latest military takeover of that country's government wore purple--their sign of mourning. Lately I've been doing a lot of reading about southeast Africa, and I've seen red mentioned as the color of mourning in parts of Zambia, Tanzania, and South Africa.

What I don't know is the color(s) worn in specific parts of West Africa--in and within Senegal, Ivory Coast, Ghana, down to Congo/Zaire--where a large percentage of African Americans have ancestors. Blind Melon gave a nice eyewitness report, but based on my observation that vibrant colors are such an important part of indigenous fashion in that part of our planet, I suspect that black isn't a universal color of mourning across the entire region.

We also have to consider the mitigating factor of customs that colonial powers and slave masters gave to/forced upon Africans over the decades. The description from Southern Workman may reflect a new custom picked up in 19th century North America that enslaved people had to follow, or that they decided to follow in order to get along with the master.

From what I've seen of New Orleans second lines, when they're organized as simple celebrations for a social aid club and visits to shut-ins in the neighborhood, the colors of the main dancers' suits and umbrellas are electric -- limes and oranges and purples, from head to toe. When the second line is truly intended to give a respected member of the community a proper good-bye, then the dress code is much more somber and conservative. But the music and the dancing on the way back from the cemetery is still a joyous reminder to the rest of us that you've got to dance and enjoy the time you've got left.

Lindy
« Last Edit: October 29, 2009, 11:49:39 AM by lindy »

Offline Johnm

  • Global Moderator
  • Member
  • Posts: 9545
    • johnmillerguitar.com
Re: Dress in red for a funeral?
« Reply #36 on: October 29, 2009, 01:46:03 PM »
Uncle bud,
I would like to echo dj's thanks for your recent contributions to this thread and the Lyric Archetypes thread.  It makes a huge difference, your accessing of source material from the period out of which many of these lyrics arose.  At least with regard to dressing in red for a funeral as it comes up in song lyrics, it really does look like the primary motivation was going for the rhyme, based on the analogous blue, black and white rhyming verses sometimes found in songs using the red verse.
All best,
Johnm   

Offline FrontPage

  • Global Moderator
  • Member
  • Posts: 548
  • Not dead yet!
Re: Dress in red for a funeral?
« Reply #37 on: October 29, 2009, 02:43:07 PM »
I'm trying to remember whether this (or at least closely related) topic cropped up on Prewar Blues as few years back, or perhaps on one of the precursors to WC.com. The role of colthing colours was discussed, as was the custom (in some parts of the South) of burial with the feet toward the East - presumably so that on Judgement Day, the dead would rise facing the rising sun. But I'll be darned if I can find this thread anywhere in my archives.

And I second (or third) the kudos to Uncle Bud for his scholarly behaviour, raising the bar for us plebes. 
Cheers,
FrontPage

Offline Bunker Hill

  • Member
  • Posts: 2831
Re: Dress in red for a funeral?
« Reply #38 on: October 30, 2009, 06:39:39 AM »
I'm trying to remember whether this (or at least closely related) topic cropped up on Prewar Blues as few years back, or perhaps on one of the precursors to WC.com.
Iím fairly sure it was on the PWBG with Cat Yronwode being the main source of information in the discussion. I'll perform a search.

Folk who havenít already checked out Cat's web site are encouraged to do so. She also has an interesting wiki entry http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catherine_Yronwode
 
« Last Edit: October 30, 2009, 06:40:42 AM by Bunker Hill »

Offline Mr.OMuck

  • Member
  • Posts: 2570
    • MuckOVision
Re: Dress in red for a funeral?
« Reply #39 on: October 30, 2009, 09:25:26 AM »
A fairly typical entry.
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977)

http://www.youtube.com/user/MuckOVision

Offline uncle bud

  • Administrator
  • Member
  • Posts: 8322
  • Rank amateur
Re: Dress in red for a funeral?
« Reply #40 on: October 31, 2009, 10:21:27 AM »
The "dressed in red/white/black/blue" verses can be found in various spirituals and religious songs, such as Wade in the Water and Go Tell It On the Mountain, and I suspect that it is these songs that are the source of the "dressed in red" formula that we're now used to in blues lyrics. These floating verses are not linked to funeral or mourning practices. I'd already mentioned the verse from "I Heard the Angels Singin'":

Who is that yonder all dressed in red?
I heard the angels singin'
It look like the children Moses led
I heard the angels singin'

Here are some examples from "Songs and Rhymes from the South" -  E.C. Perrow, published 1912-1915
http://www.csufresno.edu/folklore/drinkingsongs/html/books-and-manuscripts/1910s/1912-15-songs-from-the-south/part-1/index.htm
(also part 2 and 3 available there)

Perrow collected similar lines in a couple other religious songs. Parenthetical notes with sources/dates etc. are his.

29. MY LORD, HE DIED ON DE CROSS
(From North Carolina; negroes; MS. of W. O. Scroggs; 1908)

    Yonder come chillun dressed in white;
    Look lak de chillun ob de Israelite.

    Refrain
    My Lord, he died on de cross.

    Yonder come chillun dressed in red;
    Look lak chillun what Moses led.

    Yonder come chillun dressed in black;
    Look lak de hypercrits turnin' back.

30. PHARAOH'S ARMY GOT DROWNDED
(From East Tennessee; negroes; from memory; 1905)

    Who's dat comin', all dressed in red?
    One uh dem people dat Pharaoh led.

    Pharaoh's army got drownded,
    O Mary! don't yuh weep.


The formula is found in both black and white music as well. From a version of John Henry also found in Perrow (From Kentucky; mountain whites; MS. of E. N. Caldwell; 1912):

John Henry had a lovin' little wife,
Sometimes she was dressed in red;
She went walkin' down the track, and she never looked back;
She said, "I'm goin' where my honey fell dead."

John Henry had a lovin' little wife,
Sometimes she was dressed in blue;
Went to the graveyard where his dead body lies;
"John Henry, I've always been true to you."

Then from OLD BRADY
(From Mississippi; country whites; MS. of R. J. Slay, student; 1908)

They sent for the doctor in a mighty haste.
" Oh, yonder comes the surgeon in a racking pace!"
He raised his hand, and his hand was red,
" Oh, my goodness gracious! old Brady is dead!"
When the news got out that old Brady was dead,
Out come the ladies all dressed in red.

John Lomax also has a version of John Henry with an "all dressed in red" verse.

John Henry -  From American Ballads and Folk Songs, Lomax

John Henry's lil mother,
She was all dressed in red,
She jumped in bed, covered up her head,
Said she didn' know her son was dead,
Lawd, Lawd, didn' know her son was dead.

Then there are several verses from "John Hardy" in Cox, Folk-Songs of the South
1924, this one collected by Prof. J.H. Combs in Knott County, Kentucky

John Hardy had a pretty little wife,
She always went dressed in green;
And coming down on the hanging ground,
Says, "Johnny, you were always too mean."

John Hardy had a true little boy,
He was all dressed in black;
As coming down on the hanging ground,
Says, "Papa, I wish that you were back."

John Hardy had a true little girl,
She always dressed in red;
As coming down on the hanging ground,
Says, "Papa, I would rather be dead."

Lastly, a couple verses from "Elkhorn Ridge", which is supposedly traditional but I only have it in a great recorded version by Oscar Wright.

Yonder comes that girl of mine
She's all dressed in red
Looking down at her pretty little feet
And I wished my wife was dead

[snip]
Yonder comes that gal of mine
She's all dressed in brown
She is the darling of my heart
I'll see her for the sun goes down