Tutenfru! On Superstition and Death Tutenfru! On Superstition and Death
Tutenfru! On Superstition and Death
© Museum für Sepulkralkultur, Kassel, Bildarchiv
Photo: Milen Krastev


27. October 2018 – 17. March 2019

About superstition and death

"Toodle-oo, Toodle-oo!" This warning of the soon-to-be-coming death woman ("Totenfrau") was believed to be heard in earlier times in the call of the wood pigeon. It's cry sound like the word "Tutenfru" in german language. The so called Tutenfru was a woman who came to mourn the deceased, so her announcement always meant a death in the house. As soon as the cry was heard, it caused great fear. It was no different with the brown owl, whose cry – "Kuwitt, Kuwitt!" - was translated as "Come along, come along!" ("Komm mit, Komm mit" in german) and was understood as an invitation to follow him in order to be handed over to death. These are only two of countless examples from the world of superstition, most of which have long since been forgotten. At the same time they suggest that many of the views discredited as superstitious are related to dying and death. This is precisely the connection that the exhibition took up. It revealed that there are numerous ideas and ways of acting that cannot be reconciled either with Christian religious views or with rational or scientific knowledge – some of them still determine the thinking of many people today. The exhibition led the visitors into a world of damage, protection and healing magic, which could also include various utensils for the dead, such as shrouds, burial boards and rosaries. Depending on the intention and the way they were handled, they were able to develop healing or damaging effects.

But "Tutenfru" also took a look at the present. Thus, people who are confronted with death on a professional or voluntary basis were given the opportunity to speak, and in film portraits provided insights into their experiences with superstition. In addition, a "world map of superstition" provided information about supernatural and magical beliefs that still exist today, as well as the patterns of action linked to them in various countries and cultures. Numerous lectures, further education offers, readings as well as theme and midnight tours on the subject of superstition filled a varied and interesting accompanying programme to the exhibition.


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Arbeitsgemeinschaft Friedhof und Denkmal e.V.

Zentralinstitut für Sepulkralkultur

Museum für Sepulkralkultur

Weinbergstraße 25–27
D-34117 Kassel | Germany
Tel. +49 (0)561 918 93-0

Die Beauftragte der Bundesregierung für Kultur und Medien
Hessisches Ministerium für Wissenschaft und Kunst
Kassel Documenta Stadt
Deutsche Bischofskonferenz