Special Pathways for the Dead
Corpse roads are supposed to ensure safe transportation of corpses from distant places to the cemeteries, churches or chapels where they will be interred. These roads are also known as funeral pathways, burial roads, coffin roads, lych ways and corpse ways. Originating in medieval times, these roads specifically connected the churches to the burials sites owned by the churches. Over time, due to the rise in non-church burial grounds, many corpse roads disappeared. In some cases there are still existing funeral pathways but they are largely ignored.
Corpse Road Spirits
Here is one of the superstitions concerning these traveling paths:
It is believed that the spirits of the deceased always move along special routes over various landscapes to reach the cemetery. They prefer straight paths. Non-linear roads (that zig-zag like a maze or labyrinth) can hinder the movement of spirits. This can help to deter them from going to the graveyard.
On the other hand, it was also believed that because a straight path that connected two places (free of walls, buildings and structures) was ideal for the movement of spirits. The straighter the corpse road the more easily the spirits would find the graveyard. This was to ensure that spirits did not come back to haunt the family members of the deceased. In many cases the route back to the Church would be different from the one taken to transport the person to the grave for that same reason.
It’s also interesting to note that the corpse roads in many cases did not cover farm land as it was thought that the spirits could hinder good crop yields. And yet, in other places the funeral pathways were bridges or stepping stones over water that reflected the idea that spirits could not travel across water.