A dead body. (Anglo-Saxon, lic; German, leiche.)
in Staffordshire. The field of the dead, i.e. of the
martyred Christians. Lich-fowls. Birds that feed on carrion, as
night-ravens, etc. Lich-gate. The shed or covered place at the
entrance of churchyards, intended to afford shelter to the coffin and
mourners, while they wait for the clergyman to conduct the cortège
into the church.
The screech-owl, superstitiously supposed to foretell death. Lich-wake or Lyke-wake. The funeral feast or the waking of
a corpse, i.e. watching it all night. Lich-way. The path
by which a funeral is conveyed to church, which not unfrequently
deviates from the ordinary road. It was long supposed that wherever a
dead body passed became a public thoroughfare.
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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