The mourners, women who charge for crying

Mourners is one of the strangest funerary professions. This is how the tradition of crying for money came about.

The mourners, women who charge for crying. Photo: Pinterest
The mourners, women who charge for crying. Photo: Pinterest

Death plays a role in Mexican culture, in which its reality is affirmed with diverse manifestations. As a consequence, death has generated different occupations that revolve around death. Perhaps one of the strangest funeral services is that of the mourners, women who are paid to cry at funerals.

Mourners in the ancient world

The office of mourners appeared in ancient Egypt, as there was a taboo that forbade showing sadness for the death of a deceased. Because of this, women were hired to do this work.

In that culture, the mourners were called yerit, who transmitted the trade from mother to daughter. Yerit attended funerals with blue dresses, loose hair and arms held high as a sign of suffering.

The use of mourners was also part of Greek culture, they are even mentioned in the Coeforas of Aeschylus. In this tragedy, they are described as women with black veils.

The custom of the mourners was maintained in Roman civilization, who refined their use. In this culture, mourners were called praeficas and their use, the greater the number, in a funeral was a sign of social status. In addition, they implemented the use of tear gas, glasses in which tears were collected to bury them next to the dead.

Crying in Pre-Hispanic Mexico

In the Nahuatl culture, crying had complex psychology, which is why it is probably the main factor for the appearance of Mexican mourners. According to the testimony of Diego Durán, during the funeral of Governor Ahuízotl, a "great weeping" was used. Such rites could extend for up to four days, however, there were events in which people cried for up to 80 continuous days.

In these cases, crying was believed to accompany the deceased on their journey to Mictlán, so it can be considered a means of communication. In addition, the Mexica culture understood crying with a positive value, since it was the means to overcome political situations, maintain ties after separation, and strengthen the spirit.

Lamentations in the Semitic World

Meanwhile, in the Christian world, the use of lamenters has been censored since the Middle Ages. The main reason was that mourning for the dead represented an opposition to the Christian dogma of resurrection and eternal life.

However, both Jewish and Christian religion share elements of ritual weeping. Even the biblical book of Jeremiah mentions the use of tears as a means of intercession between Yahweh and Israel.

For its part, the New Testament shows the image of women in intense mourning after the death of Jesus, mainly in the figure of the Magdalene.

As for Islam, during Muslim Spain was used the use of mourners as a status symbol. However, the mourners themselves were associated with madness and the office was stigmatized.

Mexican Mourners

Until recently the use of mourners was a tradition in different regions of Mexico. At the same time, Mexican mourners gathered different elements from their predecessors.

In most cases, the use of mourners was intended to strengthen the reputation of the deceased. However, some of them also served as prayers and companions to the bereaved.

Mourners used to attend funerals dressed in black clothes and veils. Unlike other cultures, the mourners of Mexico tried to make the mourners go deeper into the pain, so they sought to make the mourning sincere.

Currently, the custom of hiring mourners is in decline, however, the tradition has evolved in events such as the National Mourners Contest in San Juan del Río, Querétaro. This event is held annually in the context of the Day of the Dead and the participation of weeping women is increasing.

By Mexicanist Source: Mexico Desconocido

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