Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Death in the Victorian Era: part 2: ‘Widow’s Waeds’

Death in the Victorian Era part 2: ‘Widow’s Waeds’

 Victorian period clothing worn by women “Women’s Waed’s” (Waed’s being the Old English term for Garment), were generally black in colour, symbolising the lack of light and life in death.
 Usually the clothing featured a bonnet made of crape with a veil over the face (the spelling of crape, with an “a” signifies mourning)
 A widow would mourn for two and half years.
  Widow’s would wear her ‘weeds’, coloured black for a year and a day to signify her loss, after this sections of her crape garment would be removed and sometimes replaced with lace or silk, and trimmings of ribbons might be added to their clothing.

In the final six months of mourning, a widow would then begin to wear subdued colours other than black, blues and greys being the most common. These changes would happen very gradually, but signify her end of mourning come soon.
 Eventually, right near the end of mourning, the widow may stop wearing black entirely, but still wear subdued colours, which small trims of colours could be added too via ornamentation of her clothing through ribbons, bows, rosettes and buttons. These ‘ornamental’ aspects of her clothing could include much richer colours than the blacks and subdued colours from previous months, including purples and creams.
 A widower on the other hand would mourn for a year. A widowers clothing including a black suit, black gloves and necktie, some gentlemen would also include black cuff links, black silk lined hats, scarfs and kerchiefs.
  The Gentleman’s Weeds ornamentation's vary depending on the relationship of the male to the person who has died. He will only wear his ‘weeds’ as long as the females of his household wear them.
 A child in mourning also wears black clothing, in the vein of the parents.
 The importance of mourning weeds grew to become monumental after the death of Prince Albert in 1861. Loyal subjects of the royal Family took their inspiration from Queen Victoria who wore her Widows Weeds until her own death in 1901, which in turn began the Edwardian Era.
It was World War One that changed the Victorian Era standard for mourning a death, with so many people dying, it become the norm for almost everyone to be wearing their ‘weeds’.  World War two only amplified the change to traditions.
 The influence of the Victorian Era, however, is still felt today. It is the social standard in the current age to wear black or dark clothing to a funeral, or to wear the clothing that the deceased loved one admired, such as band shirts etc. It is seen as more important today though, to attend a funeral than to wear the formalities of suits and widows weeds of the past.

Next Week: Death in the Victorian Era part 3: Funeral Customs and Superstitions

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Death in the Victorian Era (Part 1)

Death in the Victorian Era (Part 1)

 I am fascinated by the rituals associated with death, coupled with an interest in history I thought I might do something a little different with The Haunts of Adelaide blog and take a look at Victorian Era beliefs and rituals associated with death.
 The Victorian Era relates to the British rule of Monarch, Queen Victoria’s reign from the 10th of June until her death on the 22nd of January 1901 (which ushered in the Edwardian Era).
 While the death rituals, beliefs, superstitions and fashion I will be presenting are of English origin, we here in Australia, being part of the Commonwealth, followed very closely, for the most part, the traditions of the Mother Land, and much of what was done there, was copied, or adapted to our own climate and availability of materials.
  Where do I start in broaching such a sensitive topic?
 There is Widow’s Weeds, stationary, decorum, fabrics, jewellery and superstitions, burial ritual, burial rites, mute mourners and so much more.I think for this post, we’ll start with the simplest of the Victorian requirements associated with death, and that is “stationary”.
Victorian Era Mourning Stationary
 All Victorian death rituals are about decency, being ‘proper’ and acting with decorum. Prayer books and Bibles had to be bound in black Morocco leather, with black page markers, and often tied with a black ribbon.
Stationary had to be edged with black, usually lace or black ribbons, envelopes, note-papers, cards and tribute, or condolence books at funeral would be treated in the same manner. The black conveyed the feeling of sadness and loss associated with death.
 This theme carried on through many things, including tying black or purple ribbons around chairs, pews, vases or even on the clothing of infants.
  The people of the Victorian Era had high social values, and with this, it was perceived that one would obey social conventions to the letter, rather than be scorned or thought less of by their family or peers.
 A person in mourning, because of these conventions, could not be socially active; they must not receive or pay visits socially to friends or relatives. Theatre was a total no go, with the exception of musicals after the first six months of mourning. 
All of the above portrayed your deep sorrowful loss for your significant loved one who had passed on to the other side. Unfortunately, the strict isolation (other than for daily needs like food etc) drove some people into deep depressions, and even suicide.
Next week:  Death in the Victorian Era part 2: “Widows Weeds”

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Muzyk Murder

Muzyk Murder

A horrific case of mob mentality led to a brutal torture-murder of an 18 year old girl in Adelaide. The strength of the attack, not only viscous and merciless, shocked South Australia’s public, even more so when it was revealed some the attackers, were younger than their victim.
 It was December 1996 when a gang of six held down Tracy Muzyk.

 Her attackers:
Matthew Austin – aged 22
Ian McKenzie – aged 19
Tara Kehoe – aged 19
Lyle Bascombe – aged 17
Amanda Pemberton – aged 17

And another 17 year old teenager, whose identity was supressed.
 The group of killers claimed that Ms Muzyk owed $70 to Amanda Pemberton, a teenager, Ms Muzyk has recently befriended. They began to beat and humiliate Ms Muzyk, holding her down they put out cigarettes on her skin. They strangled her to near death, then beat her again, the sparyed her face with mace.
 Ms Muzyk was then forced to shower in scalding water before having her hair cut off.
 Next she was forced to walk out to a tree in paddock, where she was tied to the tree and beaten severely again, before being strangled, then beaten with a large steal pole and bashed with a rock.
 Ms Muzyk’s badly beaten body would sit in the paddock near Westlakes High School, tied to the tree and covered with lawn clippings for another 4 days before being found by passers-by.

 Detectives working on the case didn’t take long to piece together what had happened and track down the aforementioned killers.
 They were eventually rounded up and put to trial, but, being 1996, their sentences seem a little light compared to notorious teenage killers today – the sentences given by Justice Kevin Duggan of the Adelaide Supreme Court were as follows:

Matthew Craig Austin – sentenced to life with a non-parole period of 22 years
Ian Bruce McKenzie – sentenced to life with a non-parole period of 22 years
Tara Maree Kehoe – sentenced to life with a non-parole period of 18 years
Amanda Pemberton – sentenced to life
Lyle Brankik Bascombe – sentenced to life.

Another offender was given a 15 month suspended sentence for her part in the attack.
In 2000 an appeal lead to  Tara Kehoe's non-parole period being reduced to 15 1/2 years and Pemberton's minimum term to 14 years, causing outrage in the general public and from the family of Ms Muzyk

The Age, Melbourne Victoria, Friday May 29th, 1998