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Mater Matters: White Mourning

Video (00:04:43)

After I lost my parents in 2014, I experienced how our society is not prepared to handle the process of mourning. The mourner faces burocracy on the first place. Then society, even close family is expecting that the mourning period is over as soon as possible, and life goes further as nothing happened.

In Hungary the folk tradition was very different. Every territory had its own tradition to deal with death.

One of these traditions is the white mourning. The women all dressed up in a multi-layered white mourning dress, and the whole village was mourning together, keeping company for the mourner. Vigil was part of the tradition, women were singing vigil songs, men were playing vigil games, dancing vigil dances a week long.

As these traditions all slowly disappeared from society, there is nothing to take their place.

After a long research I was able to find one original white mourning dress in a small village in Hungary. The last one in the country. To experience minimum partially the old tradition, the care of the community, I asked the owner of the dress to let me wear her mourning dress.

Although the dressing was only one small part of the mourning process, as "Bözsi néni" (Illés MIhályné) was adjusting every piece of the dress on me, smooth every fold and crease, her careful attention still bears the original attitude of the comunity.

The song that we can hear during the video is a vigil song, performed by Mária Petrás.



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