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ARVALS, Arvels or Arthels (O. Norse Arfr, inheritance,
and öl, A.S. Ale, a banquet), primarily the funeral dinner, and
later, especially in the north of England, a thin, light, sweet cake,
spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg, served to the poor at such
feasts. The funeral meal was called the Arvel-dinner. The
custom seems to have been to hold on such occasions an informal
inquest, when the corpse was publicly exposed, to exculpate the
heir and those entitled to the property of the dead from all
accusations of foul play.
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