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Purgatory Hammers

by Bernadette Weyde

It was formerly believed in the Isle of Man that Roman Catholics were buried with a loaf of bread and a hammer. The latter was to be used in knocking at the gates of Purgatory. A Manx clergyman, who told me of the incident, was talking to a priest in Ramsey in the 1880s. The latter was going to a house where one of his flock lay dead and the Protestant clergyman, quite innocently, said that he supposed the relatives were waiting for him to put the hammer in the coffin. The priest was angry at it being supposed that such a thing was ever done, but he later came back still more angry because the relatives had asked him to do it.

(source: By C I Paton from Folklore Vol. 52, No.4 (1941); artwork ‘A Village Funeral in Brittany by Charles Sprague Pearce)

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