Ornatam mundo funerei thalami. Ethnographic perspectives on Apuleius, Metamorphoses 33-34

Nicola Perencin


The association between marriage and funeral in the episode of Psyche’s “funeral wedding” (Apuleius, Metamorphoses 4.33-34) has generally been traced back to earlier literary models. However, some linguistic peculiarities of the text continue to raise questions. This paper points out that the episode has significant parallels with a widespread ethnographic theme, also known as “funeral wedding” or “wedding of the dead”, not unknown in the Greek and Roman worlds and also linked to the context of untimely death. The folkloric record of south-eastern Europe is crucial in this respect because it preserves with extraordinary integrity both the ritual of the funeral wedding and its mythical-poetic echoes. Despite the great chronological, geographical, and cultural gap between the sources, bringing together the ancient and folkloric documentation within the same anthropological horizon may offer insights into the possible ritual implications of this Apuleian episode.

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