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North Doors?


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megalith6
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Hi,

Curious legend about north doors in (old) churches, as door for banishing 'Devil'. Since so many parish churches contain this doorway - many bricked up today - does anyone know if the early Church was actually following a laid down 'rubric' for setting up a church with a ritual north door please?

Thanks,

Ric

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Ian Topham
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Re: North Doors?

I seem to remember coiming across a suggestion that the doors were used by pagans/new converts to enter the church. 

megalith6
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Re: North Doors?

thanks Ian,

wonder also if the original church consecrations required a north door to expel unwanted spirits, especially if the church was built on previously pagan ground?

Ric

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indiagold
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Re: North Doors?

hello
there is some interesting information on the following site:

http://norfolkcoast.co.uk/churches/churchterminology02.htm
just scroll down to North Doors.
Also the black dog of bungay-(famous story) left marks on the north door of either st mary's in bungay or blythburgh church some miles away. Black dogs as you probably know are associated with the "devil", old religion, whatever, or even landscape "spirits"
 

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megalith6
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Re: North Doors?

Thanks.

Seems to be a sporadic and widespread thing.

I am guessing that a lot of old 'north door churches' occupy  previously pagan ground, old churches whose main door is in the south of the building that is.

OldTimeRadio
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Re: North Doors?

 Remember, dead witches and heretics tended to be interred on the NORTH sides of British churchyards. For a fictional but historically accurate example see the Rev. M. R. James' classic horror story "The Ash Tree."

     And as for Christian churchyards being former pagan worship sites, hasn't the very idea of Christian liturgies over the past 14 or 15 centuries been to turn such areas INTO consecrated Christian soil?

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megalith6
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Re: North Doors?
OldTimeRadio wrote:

 Remember, dead witches and heretics tended to be interred on the NORTH sides of British churchyards. For a fictional but historically accurate example see the Rev. M. R. James' classic horror story "The Ash Tree."

Is that ash tree directly associated with a church though, i thought it stood by a mansion or something?

I have spent many years wandering around old churches; I have never been that aware of graves north of a church, unless they were the natural result of the church yard filling up everywhere else; witches: i read of a real witch in Wiltshire circa 1920, she was a Roman Catholic, i very much doubt if she was buried away from the rest of the congregation, she was spoken of with some (prehaps grudging) respect by a local parish priest - source of report.

Quote:

     And as for Christian churchyards being former pagan worship sites, hasn't the very idea of Christian liturgies over the past 14 or 15 centuries been to turn such areas INTO consecrated Christian soil?

letter from Pope Gregory I to Bishop Mellitus, 601 CE:

Quote:

''...the shrines of idols amongst that people should be destroyed as little as possible, but that the idols themselves that are inside them should be destroyed. Let blessed water be made and sprinkled in these shrines, let altars be constructed and relics placed there: since if the shrines are well built it is necessary that they should be converted from the worship of demons to the service of the true God, so that as long as that people do not see their very shrines being destroyed they may put out error from their hearts and in knowledge and adoration of the true God they may gather at their accustomed places more readily.''

I very much doubt these pagan shrines were formal buildings; I know of at least one church which stands on top of fallen (or more likely pushed over) megaliths, I imagine it was pagan locations which were consecrated then dominated by ecclesiastical edifices; but evidence is lacking, perhaps literally buried?

what complicates matters is that the North Door is regional and sporadic, there is no church canon on the subject and some churches never did have north doors anyway; some churches' front doors are actually north doors!

but i am fairly conviced in my own mind that where a north door exists as a 'North Door', i.e. ritual portals, then these churches were erected on sites of particularly active paganism at the time of the Conversion.

my 3d worth ...

didn't realize M R James was a reverend - great story smith!

:)

megalith6
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ps: North Doors?

got the north lore here / thanks :)

Quote:

p.45, l.16-17: The traditional burial of witches and suicides on the unhallowed north side of the church is only one example of the association of that direction with evil and the Devil. Notice also that Mrs Mothersole was hanged outside the Northgate at Bury.

http://www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~pardos/ArchiveAshtree.html

OldTimeRadio
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Re: ps: North Doors?

     The point I was attempting to make in referencing the James tale is that after the (fictional) witch Mrs. Mothersole was executed, her corpse was interred on the North side of the local churchyard. But her bones seem to have gone walkabout after that, eventually turning up in the roots of the ash tree at the manor house.

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Ian Topham
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Re: North Doors?

There is a Church in Dyfed at Ysbyty Cynfyn that may have been built in a stone circle.  There are witches that were buried in churchyards, or maybe the tales of their witchy antics grew up after their deaths.  Such as:

http://www.mysteriousbritain.co.uk/england/lancashire/occult/meg-shelton-the-fylde-witch.html

http://www.mysteriousbritain.co.uk/england/staffordshire/occult/molly-leigh.html

http://www.mysteriousbritain.co.uk/england/kent/occult/hoo-st-werburgh-witch-buried.html

In th ecase of Molly Leigh above she was buried at a right angl eto th eother graves and Meg Shelton was buried vertically.

I am unsure whether anyone actually executed under the Witchcraft Acts were buried on consecrated ground at the time of their deaths.....I am not saying they were not......just that I really do not know.  It may also be interesting to note unbaptised children could not be buried in a churchyard.

http://www.mysteriousbritain.co.uk/england/unbaptized-children.html

megalith6
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Re: ps: North Doors?
OldTimeRadio wrote:

     The point I was attempting to make in referencing the James tale is that after the (fictional) witch Mrs. Mothersole was executed, her corpse was interred on the North side of the local churchyard. But her bones seem to have gone walkabout after that, eventually turning up in the roots of the ash tree at the manor house.

I see. How odd then. Wonder what was in James' mind - witches' nefarious 'familiars' in the form of arachnidae and the eccentric tree climbing lady bounding away in the form of a hare? This is all dreadful nonsense of course, the truth to witchcraft shapeshifting is in the real 'medicine' men and women of the prehistoric period, kept alive in folk memory and I think stirred by the Church into hysteria ... or maybe sedentary folk are just prone to hysterics anyway, to wit the UFO craze of the 1950's and succeeding decades?

;)



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