Thanatológiai Szemle

elektronikus folyóirat


IX. évfolyam



Dear Reader,

Writings in the present issue of Kharón are about bereavement work, the excruciating way of those losing a loved one which is a great burden for everyone who has ever lost anybody. However, it is especially hard to cope with the fact that our loved one died by his/her own hand and the pain of parents mourning their child is also the most bitter of self-lacerating, hardly proceedable mental processes. Our articles are dealing with these issues from practical advices worded by the outside aspect of the mental helper to lyric self-confessions revealing inner fights.

This issue starts with the plaintive song of László Deák who is also known as fine artist and earns more significant prizes (Attila József prize 1996; Book of the year prize 2004; Milán Füst prize 2004) as a poet too, than we give our Readers the translation of a noteworthy source. Research aimed to prevent suicide is an important task for the WHO and as a result a study was published in 2000 in order to help those undertaking the work to organize and coordinate bereavement groups. In 2003 our journal has published the excellent work of János Pilling (Structutal techniques in bereavent groups) that pointed out how great support these groups provide and advocated their propagation in Hungary. The present study draws attention on the peculiarities of groups consisting of mourners who have lost a loved one by suicide and points out the problems which are especially difficult to overcome. The authors don’t only wish to give support in terms of instructions depicting tasks of group organization and guidelines but more. They consider these self-help groups an important demonstration form of the fight against the spreading of suicide.

Searching for whys, reasons and mistakes is also an important part of berevaement work in case of women losing their babies. Studies dealing with the so-called perinatal bereavement are therefore make a separate field of the relating literature. Writings in which mothers confess of their self-lacerating thoughts and inner roads filled with self-reproach that often last for years are especially staggering. Magdolna Singer is again present at the confession of five women as an appreciative, listening helper and we get introduced into five different fates, inner paths and - if it can be said - solutions.

Attitude towards child death is a special issue in terms of historical thanatology as well which is pointed out by researchers of the various eras’ death concepts. A milestone in this aspect was the writing of Philippe Ariés, a French representative of the Annales school (Child, Family, Death; Budapest, Gondolat, 1987) in which he examines the changes of the attitude towards child death in the process of age re-evaluation. Via ’Kindertotenlieders’ an archetypically appearing literature genre, the thorough study of literary historian Éva Petrőczi examines how this issue appear in Anglo-Saxon and Hungarian puritan literature and if it carries any individual or in the contrary, stereotyped mandatory features. Of the study we may see that elements appearing in literary works are actually the answers of a given era and cultural milieu to the problem, and are consoling tools of bereavement procession.

After a not at all easy readings we roam to an other field in the journal’s Sources column. The writings of Plinius Sr. are essential sources in terms of knowledge of antique nature sciences but the Hungarian translation of his known work is still not complete. László András Magyar wished to relieve this lack when translating and writing explanations to the chapters of History of Nature consisting of 37 volumes which are about the famous antique auctor’s thoughts about death. Plinius was a critical and thorough genious but also had an anecdoting talent and often diluted the drouth of hard topics in humor. The excellent translation gives an opportunity to enjoy the author’s style and to observe his enlighted spirit and thoughts.

We hope our Readers will find thumbing these pages a useful time.

Ildikó Horányi
senior editor




To my many deads


Preventing Suicide

This document is one of a series of resources addressed to specific social and professional groups particularly relevant to the prevention of suicide. It has been prepared as part of SUPRE, the WHO worldwide initiative for the prevention of suicide.

Mental and Behavioural Disorders
Department of Mental Health
WHO, Geneva, 2000.


Babies crying in women’s dreams. Interviews with parents losing their fetus or child.

We present five stories of the interview book intending on the topic of perinatal bereavement. The first interview (Our son, Robi) tells about a dramatic procured abortion and introduces the path which is walked by a women who is forced to have her fetus aborted from unconscious drift and desperate willingness to get free to realization and getting conscious. The second story (Babies crying in women’s dreams) is about a way of a woman who suffered especially much and wanted to find out how her fellow sufferers t through generations coped with the tragedies of abortions and still-births. The peculiarity of the interview ’Funeral with guitar and dance’ is that it shows a creative solution for worthy saying goodbye to the fetus left in the hospital that could compensate the omitted funeral and farewell ceremony. The fourth story (In the crossfire of pelting questions) accompanies the hard bereavement work of a mother losing her few weeks old son. The last interview (Our joint life-work with my son) is a confession of a woman whose walk of life is fatally determined by serially losing her children to be born and her only son was born with multiple disorders. This extraordinarily strong woman proves that it is possible to stay standing under the pressure of setbacks and to sublimate painful experience into palatial creation.


Kindertotenlieder - Depiction of child-death in puritan literature.

The first version of this study of mine was lectured in the Institute of Literature Science of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences then it became a chapter of my study book titled ’Half-saints and half-poets’ discussing Hungarian and Anglo-Saxon puritan literary works. This first version was recently completed by a womanly ’child-bereavement-song’, a writing of dramatic strength by Alice Thornton. My original intent was only to give a thorough analysis on a previously not processed lament verse of Mihály K. Vári, praeceptor of Debrecen that was written in 1679 on his student, Mihály Köleséri an offspring of an illustrious family of Áron who lived 9 years. By favour of the Dutch Academy of Sciences in spring 2000 I had the occassion to place my message in international context by the studying and at least rough analysis of numerous English and New-England puritan diaries, personal letters and many medical historical, family historical and sociological works. A very important part and real overture of this review is the bereavement verse of Martin Luther on his daughter called Magdalene and the lament of the illustrious Polish poet Jan Kochanowski on the death of his small Orsolya. These documents earlier than the puritan writings are in fact of archetyped character, contain all that will be repeated very often: the emphasis on the virtues, patience and developed intellectual gift of the deceased child. The typically puritan bereavement work and its peculiar literature genre ’ars bene moriendi’ as a noble and respectful answer to be followed in some aspects even today to child death which is very hard to accept even with a religious spirit became a central part in both versions of my work. In these answers, in these death depictions and leave-takings I found more comfort and hope than in the nice sham of Rückert: ’They left only for a walk...’




(History of Nature, Book 7., installment
Naturalis Historia 7.51-56.)
(Translated, introduced and footnoted by: László András Magyar)