Execution viewed as wedding

Gerald Cohen gcohen at UMR.EDU
Fri Jul 19 18:38:56 UTC 2002

    For some time I've been interested in the way some people have
regarded an execution as a wedding. For example, French has "la
veuve" (= widow; guillotine)
and English at one time had "the widow" (= gallows).  The idea is
that the gallows or guillotine is regarded as marrying the condemned
prisoner at the time of execution; but since the prisoner promptly
dies, the gallows/guillotine becomes a widow.

     A NY Times article of about 15 years ago (I didn't save it)
mentioned that in the 19th century some prisoners went to their
hanging in a wedding suit.
Then there are the recent items pertaining to the Al Qaeda members,
who regard their act of martyrdom as a wedding (maybe the 72 virgins
play a role here).
An article in the German magazine _Spiegel_ a month or two after 9/11
discussed a suspected terrorist cell in Italy. And I was struck by
mention of a code word (presumably in Arabic) used by one alleged
terrorist in a phone conversation: "Wedding."

     Meanwhile, I was also struck by another Spiegel article (Sept.
17, 1984,pp.142-144; title: "Wir werden hingerichtet" = "We will be
executed"). The article is about Elizabeth (not her real name) who
had been held in the notorious Evin prison in Teheran by the Khomeini
regime. On page 143 she tells how she heard singing coming from a
nearby room and recognized it as the Persian wedding song; the men
singing had all been scheduled for execution. Here's a translation of
the German text:
        "...'Welcome to Hotel Evin,' said the (female) guard and walked on.
Over 40 of the women, after 'confessions' were beaten out of them,
had been condemned to death... Elizabeth heard some of the men in a
nearby upper room singing. At first she could not understand the
words, but then she realized that it was the Persian wedding song.

        'In this night out greatest wish will be fulfilled,' sang the
men.  A guard shouted at them to shut up. A voice answered; "Why
should we?  What else can you do to us.  We're going to be executed.'"

     If anyone familiar with other cultures has more examples of this
execution-as-wedding view, I'd be grateful to hear of them.

Gerald Cohen

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