A Merciful Killer: The Mysterious Female Accabbadora 0 Comments

A Merciful Killer: The Mysterious Female Accabbadora

Within 50 minutes drive from Golfo Aranci, you can easily reach Lura's tiny village, where you may visit the impressive Museo Galluras, a 3-storey building of an original local home, where more than 4000 findings can be seen, a testimony of Sardinian culture between the end of the seventeenth century and the first half of the twentieth century. Inside the Museum, the only piece ever found of an original and ghastly hammer is preserved, a tool of death used in the past by a singular female figure ascribed to put an end to the anguishes of terminal sufferers.

A noir but intriguing note, between reality and legend: the Accabbadora, or Aggabbadora, the lady who puts an end, from the Spanish acabar, which means terminate. As Fate cutting the thread of life, she resolves the suffering of those who are ill without remedy, she gives the good death to those in deep, unresolved pain... It was, in fact, a kind of archaic euthanasia that these mysterious women practised, when doctors and medicine had failed, helping thus the patient with the "relief" of the end.

The role of the Accabbadora accompanying in the afterlife the terminal sufferer was a natural role, like the function of the midwife who helped to come to the world. It seems that often it was the same woman who did both; she wore the black dress if she brought death and the white one if she brought life...

A ceremonial was to be followed before the patient's family decided to call the Accabbadora. At first, a small wooden yoke was placed under the pillow of the sick person for three days and three nights to encourage the dying to "return to life" of the work in the fields. If this didn’t work, the amentu was tried by reminding the sufferer of all his sins committed in life so that if the spiritual weight of the sins was too heavy to continue living, he passed over or, he would recover for the fear of going to hell. Otherwise, he underwent a bath in frozen water to lower the fever, often obtaining to kill him with fulminant bronchopneumonia. Failing all the possible tries, the family would decide to call the female Accabbadora, who would arrive by night with the announcing phrase "God be Here", holding a hammer of aged olive wood, about forty centimetres long and twenty in width, she would use to give the deadly blow to the sufferer’s occiput. Shown into the dying sufferer's room, she would dismiss the family with the sign of the cross, closing herself in the room with the victim, where her "duty" was accomplished. 

 I longly imagined of the dreams of the Accabbadora. Was she at peace with her soul? Were her dreams visited by the sick people she had "helped"? Did the faces that exhaled the last tiring breath come back to her and she chased them away with the memory of a newborn baby’s joyous trill?

Little is spoken about the Accabbadora in Sardinia and she is only to be found in books. It was a necessary job in a context where families would work hard to sustain themselves and a very sick person would sadly bring great discomfort and suffering to the community. It was an arrangement to be separated from the dear person, looking forward to a happy reunion in the life after death. A strange bond with Death, almost "a family member" who helped to conclude with a pitiful gesture the destiny of a sick man. Not a murderer, but the “last mother”.

She didn’t cry much when she left the Bastìu house, but each of those tears had left a new furrow on the already marked by time face of the Accabbadora.” (from the book “Accabbadora” by Michela Murgia)


Written by Daniela Toti


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