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Kennedy, Liam
Year of Publication: 
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QUCEH Working Paper Series 2019-02
Children growing up in the Ireland of the 1950s will have a clear remembrance of a metaphysical space or place known as Limbo. For Catholics, though not Irish Protestants, this formed part of a spiritual cosmos which viewed Heaven and Hell as opposite poles, with Purgatory and Limbo occupying rather vaguely defined intermediate positions. Fast forward to the present day and hardly any of those born in the new millennium will have the slightest notion of what Limbo was (or is). Yet for generations of families, going back to the dawn of Christianity, there was the fear that failing to baptise an infant before death meant that the infant was condemned either to Hell or to a shadowy existence in a place labelled Limbo. Thus the belief, and associated practices such as the prohibition on burying unbaptised bodies in consecrated ground, is one that is replete with emotional, social, theological and gender implications. This study looks at how Irish mothers look back on these beliefs and their own experiences of Limbo, baptism, churching and the disposal of unbaptised babies. It wonders how and why a deep tradition within the Christian world, and Irish society more particularly, should disappear so quickly and so completely.
social history
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Working Paper
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