The Magic of the Time of Death
In the traditional rural community, the time of passing away was always marked by magical and/or religious forms of behaviour and rituals, often accompanied by special accessories and objects. Such practices survived well into the post-World-War-II period and even into the 1990s. Pursued by the village dwellers, they were meant to allow the dying person to depart in dignity, as prescribed by the religious and social norms, and then to protect the soul of the deceased from eternal damnation. Other forms of behaviour were intended to protect the living relatives from the possible return of the dead, resulting from the failure to perform an appropriate ritual. It thus appears that the measures undertaken were of a preventive and/or protective character. The beliefs underlying such forms of behaviour, which determined the special ways of handling the dying person and then the corpse, give rise to the elaborate concept of the time of death. It goes beyond the purely biological definition based on the bodily functions coming to a stop and can be, generally speaking, divided into four stages.