Beauty Secrets of The Martyrs

Historian, Verity Holloway’s first novella Beauty Secrets of The Martyrs is about magic, makeup, crypts, and clownfish. But mostly, it’s about our obsession with keeping the dead around. Here Verity shares how this book began as a few notes and takes us back to her first encounter with the incorrupt body of Saint Spyridon in Corfu.…

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Monsters

“Be home when the street lights come on!” Was a common directive during many of our childhoods, as we anxiously ran out into the world to play. However, in my neighborhood and for many of us who lived out our childhoods on the East Side of Los Angeles that directive also came with a sinister…

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Deathly Maidens

Film maker Wesley Chambers shares his top five “Death and the Maiden” films with us. These are not only must see movies but also the masterpieces that influenced his latest film Ligatures. You can watch Wesley’s short film by following the link and find yourself on a seductively surreal journey with two deathly maidens.

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Is Taxidermy a “Girl Thing”?

I get called a lot of things by taxidermy enthusiasts, animal-rights activists, and the media. I’m apparently an instructor, an expert, a hipster, an animal hater, a sicko, a stuffer…but one of the most puzzling things I have been called recently is a “woman taxidermist” and I get asked the same question time and time…

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Doulas: Doing Death Differently

We are doulas of death. A birth doula provides support and guidance to the birthday mother and the brand new life. End of life doulas have forged an innovative approach to the care of the dying by putting emphasis on the importance of relationship and accompaniment. What we do is support. Practical and emotional support…

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Saying Goodbye the Alternative Way

Alternative funerals are unique to the deceased person and a tribute to the individual person rather than to a mass followed religion. Themed funerals, green and natural funerals, Gothic and Steampunk funerals, Rock ‘n’ Roll funerals, biker funerals and any other kinds of funerals which centre on the life of the person, and break with…

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Skeletons & Young Girls

Even today, Death and the Maiden, depicted together, have lost nothing of their morbid and unsettling charm. And they still speak to the most hidden part of our souls; on one hand reminding us of the fleeting nature of the body, but suggesting on the other hand that there’s a secret complicity between beauty and…

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Midwives, Layers-Out, and Lady Pole

Patricia Lundy explores the relationship between women and death by reflecting on two books. Smoke Gets In Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory, Caitlin Doughty’s memoir on her experience (past and current) in the death industry and Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, with specific focus on Lady Pole. In this post Patricia entertains the…

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Death Dialogue in the City

Founder of The Parlor, Emerita Colon is all about launching mortality awareness is Chicago. Her own positive experience of a funeral “gotten right” in 2005 begged the question, why aren’t all funerals like this?  Working in the world of death midwifery allows Emerita to contribute to a more community-direct, spiritual, hands and heart-oriented model of…

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Excavation & Emotion

I have been asking archaeologists how they go about their work as professionals and people as part of my PhD research in which I am exploring what impact emotion has on the practice of UK mortuary archaeology. I have interviewed and worked alongside field, forensic, academic, student and museum archaeologists, as well as osteologists and…

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Recording the Diseased & the Deceased: A Brief Look at the work of a Medical Photographer

Anni Skilton chose to pursue a career photographing the medically curious, the diseased and the deceased. Here she shares her experiences in various hospital departments, up close and personal capturing the incredible. An inevitable part of Anni’s job involves working with those at end-of-life as well as taking photographs postmortem.

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Fears, Hopes & Dreams

Grief and loss are a natural part of life, but we can never estimate the impact it will have on our day to day lives, it walks with us every day. When people truly disrupt our lives in both positive and negative ways they are never forgotten, they grow with us and shape us. I…

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Skeletons in My Life’s Closet

Jelena Bekvalac is a Curator of Human Osteology at the Centre for Human Bioarchaeology, Museum of London. As a life course becoming a museum curator and working with human skeletal remains was not one that she carefully planned. From exciting opportunities in London to excavations in Jordan and Prague Jelena takes us on a journey down her fascinating…

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The Winter of Our Lives

Death & the Maidens’ own Lucy Talbot talks with Dr Monica Williams-Murphy about her role as Emergency Medicine Physician, the experiences that led her to write the wonderful It’s OK to Die and travel across America educating and advocating for a better approach to death and dying. Explaining why we all need to prepare for the…

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The Passing Diaries

With a tearful embrace and our sobs of grief echoing throughout the arrival terminal, I fully realized the profound nature of our visit. Thirty minutes later we were at my mothers bedside.. her frail body illuminated by a single bulb above her head. The room was so quiet, the air still in anticipation of some…

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Transformative Powers through Making

How exactly did Yuli Somme go from making colourful hand-made felt tea cosies, felted seamless jackets and hats, and the occasional wall hanging to soft coffins? In this beautiful account of how creative direction can change rather unexpectedly we learn that the physical act of creation can release emotion, that from sorrow something truly life affirming can…

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Lost Souls

This week features one of Death & the Maiden’s favourite shops. Samantha Lyn owner of Funereal Ephemera collects postmortem photographs, memorial cards, funeral photographs and cemetery photographs. They’re forgotten, only to be revealed generations later, to modern eyes with a modern sense of death and mourning. A piece of history lost and found again. Samantha sees those…

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Perfume of the Dead

S. Elizabeth discusses the scent of death. Perfumes, oils, and other fragrances played a key role in the process of mummifying a body for burial, as well as denoting what status the person held in life. Scents of loss, grief, passage, and remembrance -perfumers and artistic noses have certainly attempted to create  fragrances based around these timeless…

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Murder She Crafted

Dolly Stolze introduces Frances Glessner Lee, a pop culture inspiration who many believe was the inspiration for Jessica Fletcher, the crime-solving mystery novel author in Murder She Wrote. Lee’s Nutshell Studies also inspired an episode of CSI where miniature crime scenes were left behind by a serial killer as clues. Lee is known as the…

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Tears Become Ideas

In some places, the ability to sing or recite ritual laments became part of a feminine portfolio of skills, along with cooking, spinning, mending and cleaning. Here, author Sarah Murray shares an adaptation from her wonderful book Making an Exit: From the Magnificent to the Macabre, How We Dignify the Dead to give us insight…

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A Family Connection

Social Historian, Sarah Hayes is the Collections and Exhibitions Manager at Newman Brothers Coffin Works in Birmingham. Discovering she had an ancestor working in the funeral trade in Birmingham over 150 years ago, and then of her daughter living on Fleet Street, just ten doors down from what was to become Newman Brothers Coffin Works is almost…

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The Final Girl

The last girl standing has been debated by horror fans and academics alike. We can track her evolution through the main stream of horror but her story existed long before the 1970s. For every final girl we find a fallen woman. Looking back at Victorian fiction we find that sex equaled death long before masked serial killers stalked and brutally murdered teenagers.

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The Corpse Brides

If death is most often anthropomorphised into a foreboding, grinning male does it not make sense that his companion is female? The current ‘trend’ for women in the death industry is not a trend, then, but merely an influx of women taking their rightful place back at death’s side and, once again, becoming the guardians of the dead.

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Death Under Glass

The presence of a microscope in the morgue or the office of a forensic scientist seems to be a symbol to impress upon audiences the seriousness of the science being performed in that episode. But viewers are never shown “the pathologist’s view of the world”, so to speak – exactly what does the doctor see in that eyepiece and what does it mean for the case? One of the most intriguing aspects of forensic histology is the fundamental tension between the lovely images created from post-mortem specimens and the shock resulting from the realization of their source. However, the beauty of human tissue is undeniable, creating a complex interplay of light and cellular morphology in brilliant Technicolor.

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Death, Sex, Religion and the Erotic Women

Dr Christina Welch explains that Europe has had a long history with Sex and Death, one intimately tied to religion. This post explores a genre of art produced during this time period that melds these themes. It examines ‘Death and the Maiden’ artworks by Germanic proto-and early-Reformist artists who highlighted the folly, futility and transience of earthly vanities, through the use of erotic death imagery that juxtaposed an eroticized woman, who stood as a symbol of life and fecundity, with a male/masculine representation of death.

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Women in the Mourning

Author of The Undertaker's Daughter, Kate Mayfield is here to take us back in time. A time when women were not public figures in the funeral industry but played important roles 'behind the scenes' at her father's funeral home, Kate's childhood home.

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Death has a voice

S Elizabeth has created this beautiful playlist of women  who have constructed and composed aural memento mori exclusively for Death & the Maiden. As humans, we occupy a unique place in the saga of mortality, and these women in particular offer illuminating perspectives on the subject as it relates to the afterlife, funerals & wakes, ancestral memories, etc.

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