In folk culture in our area, death was imagined as the figure of a woman dressed in a white robe, with a scythe. If death occurred prematurely (affecting a child or young person) it was called a blind death. Older people, on the other hand, were traditionally required to prepare for death – preparing clothes and shoes, choosing a burial place and informing relatives. At the moment of agony, the dying person was to be relieved and his soul was to be eased on its way to the afterlife. For this reason, the person was laid on straw (closer to the ground), windows, doors and chests were opened (so that the human body could magically “open” and let the soul out) and a candle was placed in the hands of the dying person (so that he or she could light the way after death). Prayers were then said for the person, but in a separate room. It was also forbidden to cry or lament in front of the dying person, so as not to impede the moment of death.

After death, however, lamentation followed – people began to mourn loudly for the deceased and sing songs of lamentation, which had a wide-ranging significance. Firstly, it helped the members of the household to express their emotions and cope with the loss, while on the other hand, this activity was informative for the whole village, about an event in the house. From a magical angle, laments were meant to facilitate the posthumous journey of the soul of the deceased, and to protect the household members from the return of the soul and the oppression of the living. This is a characteristic form, found only in eastern Poland, due to its adoption from the Rusyn culture. According to the informant (Anna Łania, b. 1935), “now there are no more lamentations, because now everyone cries culturally. It used to be a lament. A squeal. A scream. (…) They were crying out. Well, the immediate family, because strangers didn’t lament. In the cemetery, at home.” The lament, although it followed a strictly defined pattern, and contained repetitive, fixed phrases, had a unique form each time, and “any attempt to get the informant to repeat the lament in the same form is always unreliable”.

The death of a family member was followed by preparations for the funeral – both of the deceased and of family members and the home. In the house, clocks had to be stopped (because time had stopped for the deceased) and mirrors (and, in later times, the television) had to be covered so that they would not reflect the death and cause another death. The household members wore mourning – that is, dark clothes. The deceased person was washed (the water after this washing had to be poured “in a place where no one goes”), and dressed, depending on their age. Older people are dressed darkly, in clothes prepared beforehand. Young people are dressed as for a wedding: bachelors in suits and girls in wedding dresses. Children are dressed in bright, newly bought clothes. Sacred objects are placed in the coffin – a rosary, a holy picture, a prayer book. Herbs consecrated on Corpus Christi or the Feast of Our Lady of the Herbs were also once placed. The deceased stayed in the house for about three days, laid in the most important room (never in the kitchen) and visited by family, friends and neighbours. The vigil at the coffin lasted all the time, including at night.

Before the funeral, carrying the coffin out of the house is always done “feet forward” (so that the deceased would not return). The coffin was tapped three times on the threshold as a farewell to the deceased with the house. At the time the coffin was carried out, the doors of the farm buildings were also opened so that the animals could say goodbye to their keeper. This is followed by the passage to the church (or cemetery chapel) and then the funeral. All this time is filled with singing. Instrumental music (with the exception of the organ in the church) only appeared at funerals of musicians, where familiar musicians would play for their deceased colleague. After the funeral, a wake is prepared – a meal organised by the family where the deceased is remembered. The atmosphere at the wake is usually cheerful. Mourning was defined by length, depending on the degree of relationship. Tradition dictates that a family member’s grave should be cared for, and that a mass should be ordered for their intention (e.g. on their birthday or name day).