vendredi 6 mars 2009


I used to always do this with coins when I was bored. One day when I was about 12, I was waiting at the tram stop with my friend and showed her this habit of mine. She was 22, and thus very wise and critical of my peculiarities. She told me with great austerity that in China, they used to bury the dead with two coins on their eyes for luck and fortune in the after life. I've never tried to confirm this ritual, but some how it spooked me out immensely, and an end was put to that habit. 

A few days ago I saw a Chinese friend of mine wearing a very old coin around her neck as a pendant. I held the rusty old coin between my fingers and asked her about where she got it. 

Oh...actually, it was dug out from my great great grandfather's grave.

I didn't know what to say. I didn't know if it would be appropriate to ask if the coin had been placed on his eyes when he was buried, so instead I asked Have you washed it? There was a moment of facepalm experienced by both of us. Then an awkwardly long pause, in which time expressions of horror subtly emerged onto our faces as she couldn't come up with a definite answer. We concluded that someone must have cleaned it in one way or another before it was passed down to her. Must've.

But for a long time all I could think about was the coin slowly sinking into the decomposing flesh of the eye sockets until it dropped into the hollow of the skull. And now it hung on a string around my friend's neck, and I had touched it with my bare fingers. 

I think when I was eight, I wrote a story about a coin's life for English class. Consider this a revised edition with extra panache.

PS: While I was writing this post, there was an earthquake in my city! 

5 commentaires:

Yarshk a dit…

YARGH! - you looked awfully like a pirate there.

Coins on the eye's of the dead. Sounds very greek to me. To pay the ferryman to cross the river i believe.

Revilo a dit…

Mmm, Eric's right, there was a tradition of putting coins on the eyes of the dead to pay Charon, the ferryman to bear the souls of the dead across the river Styx.

That's how it ostensibly began, anyway, but I have a feeling it was continued afterwards either because it was in some senses reassuring to see that those left behind had done something for the dead (or perhaps endowed their death with some sort of wealth, with value), or maybe because it covered the eyes, which were sometimes known to open during rigor mortis. Stops everyone being shit scared by the corpse opening its eyes.

I like the fact that the video ends with you having a rather smug look on your face,after performing your trick.
...but what about the coins you stick in your eyes? Where have they been?

nonpareil a dit…

oliver: i had always thought she told me that story to deter me from getting conjunctivitis or something worse from the germs on those coins. i guess i don't know where those coins have been...

coins are cool.

Yarshk a dit…

I like sucking on coins. They taste funny.

nonpareil a dit…

sucking on coins - that can NOT be good for you. this explains everything.