Saturday, June 16, 2012

Cilin - Unbaptised Infants Burial Grounds

Well with my trip to a couple of cemeteries yesterday and in another hour I will be out to the Freeney-Hearn cemetery working on cleaning it up I think I will write about a lesser known cemetery lore.  I recently read an article that is reprinted below about cemeteries for unbaptised infants - Cilin. The word is supposed to be derived from the Latin "cella"  and means Church or Graveyard.


A UNIQUE plaque has been installed by Cappamore Historical Society in remembrance of unbaptised infants in the parish.
It was blessed by Fr Liam Ryan following Mass last Sunday morning.
The initiative by Cappamore Historical Society has been planned for the last eight months.
Chairman of the historical society, Oliver Dillon, said the granite stone plaque was placed at the rear of the church where the original baptism font was located.
The wording reads: “In remembrance of unbaptised infants and others of the Cappamore area who are buried in cillineacha and elsewhere in unofficial ground.”
A cilin is unconsecrated ground where it was the practice to bury unbaptised babies in the past. The burials were secretive in nature and mostly undertaken in hours of darkness.
In some areas a spoon was buried with the infant and this appears to be a pre-Christian custom.
Mr Dillon says there are three cillineacha in the parish of Cappamore that they know of, but there is probably more as some don’t appear on maps. Cillineacha were often found beside graveyards.
The second part of the inscription on the plaque sums up the initiative by the Cappamore Historical Society, said Mr Dillon.
The quote from Ecclesiasticus 44.9 is: “Others there are who have left no memorial, who have disappeared as if they never existed and are now as though they never were”.
“It is a mark of respect and in remembrance for those that have gone before us,” said Mr Dillon. Fr Ryan said the blessing after Mass on Pentecost Sunday in front of members of the Cappamore Historical Society and their families.
He also thanked Fr Browne for his support.

These cemeteries were mainly for infants who died shortly after childbirth and possibly adult suicide cases.  Since they had not been baptized or they had committed an act violating a rule of the church they could not be buried in church consecrated ground.  I understand there was not a grave marker placed on the grave.  This of course leads the scenario of a mother dieing in childbirth and her child dies also and one is buried in a church graveyard and the other is buried outside in unconsecrated grounds. I tend to associate them with the Roman Catholic Church and the Irish but I am sure that is not the only groups who did this or still does this practice. 

It is an old practice and such was the power of the Church that according to the Book of Oaths dated 1649, a midwife had to swear that ‘if any childe bee dead borne, you your selfe shall see it buried in such secret place as neither Hogg nor Dogg, nor any other Beast may come unto it, and in such sort done, as it may not be found or perceived, as much as you may; and that you shall not suffer any such childe to be cast into the Jaques (privy) or any other inconvenient place.’


I honestly do not know of any of these unbaptised burial grounds for infants in our area, but since they are unmarked the only way you would know is by word of mouth. .  Obviously with the current burial practice of being buried in a commercial graveyard it makes no different if they are baptised or not.  Perhaps a reader will know of one in the area and let us know.

1 comment:

Mattie Lennon said...

I too would welcome any information on Cilins.
Mattie Lennon.
info@mattielennon.com