The Irish Keen (or caoine)

Margaret Anne Cusack
start of chapter | Chapter X

The Irish keen [caoine] may still be heard in Algeria and Upper Egypt, even as Herodotus heard it chanted by Lybian women. This wailing for the deceased is a most ancient custom; and if antiquity imparts dignity, it can hardly be termed barbarous. The Romans employed keeners at their funerals, an idea which they probably borrowed from the Etruscans,[7] with many others incomparably more valuable, but carefully self-appropriated. Our wakes also may have had an identity of origin with the funeral feasts of the Greeks, Etruscans, and Romans, whose customs were all probably derived from a common source.


[7] Etruscans.—See Cities and Cemeteries of Etruria, vol. i. p. 295, where the bas-reliefs are described which represent the praeficae, or hired mourners, wailing over the corpse.