Halloween is celebrated each year on October 31st and originated from the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, one of the four Druid ‘Bonfire’ festivals. The Celts were highly superstitious, believing that at the end of summer, the barrier between our world and the world of ghosts and spirits became very thin and thus the townsfolk would light huge bonfires and wear costumes in an effort to ward them away.
In the past when poor diet and sanitation meant that few survived past the age of forty, a fascination with death and the afterlife prevailed. From at least the sixteenth-century, a tradition arose whereby jewels and other trinkets were commissioned in memory of a deceased family member which were known by the Latin phrase Memento Mori, translating as ‘remember that you must die’. These beautifully crafted pieces reflect a different time when death was very much a way of life. These trinkets typically featured skulls and other symbols of death, these jewels were frequently enamelled in black and white, and inscribed with the names and dates of the deceased. In many instances, hair and occasionally skin from the deceased was incorporated in to these designs.
Continuing into the eighteenth century, these styles remained common. Popular motifs included weeping willow trees, harps and urns. Skulls were always a popular design in memento mori jewellery, along with coffins and in some cases a complete skeleton.
Fascinated by the old traditions from yesteryear? Available at Berganza this All Hallow’s Eve is a fascinating range of memorial and memento mori jewellery from the early 16th century to late 19th century.