for the Death of a Young Man
in 19th century Kurdistan
copyright Catherine Cartwright-Jones c 2003
Kent State University
If an unmarried young Jewish man died in19th century and early 20th century Amadiya, Kurdistan, women adorned and hennaed him, so he could enter the afterlife as joyous and handsome as on his wedding day.
Women hennaed this young man immediately after his death, exactly as he would have been for his night of the henna, dressed him in his best clothes, and laid roses around him. As they did this, they sang the same songs as they would for his wedding, though they would frequently stop for intervals of weeping. If the young man was betrothed, women brought his bride-to-be to him, and she exchanged wedding rings with him.
The boy's family set up a black cloth huppa, and often left it hanging for years in his memory.
If a young unmarried man died in Sinne, Kurdistan, women brought in his wedding clothes and prepared henna for him as if he were about to be married, but they did not henna his body as they wept over him.
Mothers, betrothed, and other family women mourning for a young man wore no henna for a year after their loved one's death. They laid aside their jewellery, wore dark clothing, and limited themselves to 2 or 3 braids in their hair rather than the usual seven to 10 braids.
Additional material on Kurdish Jewish traditions for death and mourning are in "The Jews of Kurdistan" by Eric Brauer.
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