Accabadora

In 2009, Sardinian writer Michela Murgia, -an extremely original writer and often politically provocative figure, with a sustained commitment to women’s issues and to the traditions of her birthplace, Sardinia-, wrote her widely acclaimed book Accabadora. In the book, the author draws attention to a haunting figure in Sardinian society, the accabadora, the woman of death, the finisher, the terminator. This is a woman appointed by the community to assist souls of the elderly, the severely sick, or the dying and infirm on their passage into the next world by mercifully ending their lives at the request and approval of the family and themselves (if conscious). The word itself comes from the Spanish verb acabar which means “to finish, to end, to terminate”, and from the Sardinian s’accabu which means “end”. Interestingly, in Sardinian, the verb accabaddare may also signify crossing the hands/arms of the dead.

In most of the accounts about the practice, the accabadora is deemed to have be a woman, usually the village midwife. According to Murgia no one is born without someone’s help and no one should have to leave without help. According to Murgia “Often the accabadora was also the midwife of the village, ‘the practicing female’, she was the expert woman, the one who knows what to do and when it is necessary to do it. Therefore she was called in different moments of life: birth and death.”