corpse marriages

Corpse/ghost marriages are not something you will be familiar with unless it is a part of your immediate culture/tradition. It’s pretty much self explanatory in that it is a marriage ceremony however the twist here is one half of the couple is dead. Sometimes both individuals are deceased but there are different variations depending on each situation.

 A corpse marriage will usually happen if the deceased was young, single or unmarried when they were alive. The marriage is conducted for the purpose of making sure the deceased relative does not travel to the afterlife alone. Which is extremely wholesome. This also ensures the family have done their job in taking care of their dear relative by getting them hitched in their next life, knowing they are at peace and wont haunt them is a plus too. A lot of families would scramble to have their dead relative married off because they believed the person’s spirit would haunt them. 

The tradition is also a way for the family to receive blessings and good luck because they have taken care of the deceased. This usually means blessings falling upon their businesses, personal affairs and so on. So it’s supposed to be great for everyone involved.

This tradition is practised in different places around the world but China may be one of the longest upholders of the tradition, in Chinese culture it is specifically considered extremely unlucky for a young Chinese man to die unmarried. If he dies unmarried and the family do nothing this could unleash a wave of bad luck to all the relatives of the man including future generations being put at risk. The deceased will cause mayhem until the family gets them married. 

A family in China paid over £10,500 to have their son wed in a ghost marriage so he will not have to spend his afterlife alone.

According to the old Chinese tradition, the deceased man must be married to an equally dead bride. The weddings are very much like the weddings of the living, there are food, drinks, music and celebrations. The groom’s family would even give gifts to the bride’s family. A majority of the celebrations are done at the burial site if they are buried (a large majority of people in China are cremated due to limited land). 

Unfortunately they didn’t stop there, once a ghost bride would be found for the ghost groom, the bride’s grave would then be dug up and she would be reburied next to a man she never even met or spoke to a day in her life. 

In 1949 the Chinese government got involved and tried to ban ghost marriages altogether as they wanted the nation to leave behind these ‘old’ traditions. The government wanted to move away from that and reshape the face of China. This caused many people to still practise the tradition but in secret, this law also led to many corpse brides being sold on the black market. More on that in a bit. 

A ghost marriage ceremony where a Chinese man is being wed to his deceased bride

As an alternative to a corpse bride some create a “flour bride” made for the recently departed bachelor as seen in the image above. Wheat flour is made into a paste and moulded into the shape of a woman. Traditional wedding makeup is usually applied.

Not all corpse marriages are celebrated or even carried out with consent, some families in China have to face the shocking reality that the corpse of their loved one could be stolen.

Grave robbers steal body of girl, 18, to take part in ‘ghost marriage’ leaving family distraught

This long lasting tradition has been somewhat tainted as for many years, gangs of grave robbers dig up the graves of women and girls to ‘sell’ to families at a cheaper rate. This cuts out the process of meeting another family and paying them more money. This is also an extremely insidious way of going around the law. Often when these graverobbers dig up corpses and steal them, there is an entire family who are left in complete shock and despair seeing the grave of their loved one dug up and empty. 

On a lighter note during the first world war, a similar practice took place in France.

No, not the grave robbing.

Many women lost their fiancés in the war but they still wanted to be tied to them in some way. They were permitted by the French government to marry their deceased fiancés and this became known as a posthumous marriage. After an incident in which one woman begged to be married to her recently deceased fiancé which she lost in a tragic accident, this practice became a permissible and legal act in France and is even protected under the country’s marriage laws.

French woman photographed with picture of deceased fiancé she is marrying in ceremony

The Nuer tribe in Sudan also observe a different variation of this practise with a very interesting twist.

Nuer dancers in village

Within the Nuiru tribe if a man dies, a ghost marriage is arranged for him with a living bride. The twist is that the brother of the groom must be a stand in for him during the wedding. The groom’s brother now has the job of being his dead brother’s place holder, having a full blown marriage for his brother. Even if he were to have kids with the bride those kids would be considered his deceased brother’s children and not actually his. I can imagine that may cause some issues.

What do you think of corpse marriages, is love beyond the grave romantic or just creepy?

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