Have you ever wondered why did pirates wear earrings? Along with the eye patch, a pirates earrings are, and have been, part and parcel of the archetypal pirate look. Even without an eye patch, a rugged looking sailor adorned with earrings gave away his chosen profession. He was almost certainly a pirate. But while the image of a sailor with ear jewelry is nearly always associated with a pirate, just about every sailor at some point had earrings. This begs the question, why? Was it some kind of fashion statement, or an extremely long lasting fad within the sailing fraternity? Well, the true answer is a little morbidly uncomfortable.
The reason that pirates wore earrings, and sailors for that matter, was to prepare for their own funeral. It does seem a little odd, to pimp yourself out like that if you are only preparing to be buried six feet under, or even perhaps at sea, but they had no intention of taking the jewelry with them. It was a kind of insurance cover.
As good Christians, who from time to time would plunder, kill, steal, swear and rape, receiving a good and proper Christian funeral after their death was extremely important. Simply being left for the fishes or the vultures without the ceremonial farewell could not guarantee their passage to Heaven. If they were to pass away while on their own ship, it would have been customary to conduct a proper funeral at sea, but if it was a case of man overboard, well, that’s a whole new ball game.
Being lost at sea is a terrifying thought. For someone who wanted a Christian funeral, being lost overboard would almost certainly mean that the funeral could not be carried out. Even if your body were to wash ashore, would anyone offer you the rite of passage? This is where the earrings for pirates comes in. Just as insurance companies today offer funeral plans to cover the cost if something unexpected were to happen, pirates wore earrings for the very same reason. By covering their ears in jewelry, where they could not be easily lost, it offered those who found his body the opportunity to be rewarded for a good Christian funeral. The value of the precious metals could even ensure that they would be returned to their families aboard the ship. It’s a pretty good and ingenious idea, so where did the idea originate?
It wasn’t actually a trend that took hold during the romantic period of pirating. The tradition dates back to the ancient Greeks. The ancient Greeks believed that people who had died had to pay the ferryman Charon to cross into Hades. This tradition just morphed and took on a new mold in a Christian burial.