Cadaveric spasm  

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"In world literature and especially in anonymous oral tradition we find many examples of the interweaving of death throes and the act of defecation."--Rabelais and His World (1965) by Mikhail Bakhtin

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Cadaveric spasm, also known as instantaneous rigor, cataleptic rigidity, or instantaneous rigidity, is a rare form of muscular stiffening that occurs at the moment of death, persists into the period of rigor mortis and can be mistaken for rigor mortis.

In literary language, these spasms are known as the death throes.

The cause is unknown, but is usually associated with violent deaths happening under extremely physical circumstances with intense emotion. Cadaveric spasm may affect all muscles in the body, but typically only groups, such as the forearms, or hands. Cadaveric spasm is seen in cases of drowning victims when grass, weeds, roots or other materials are clutched, and provides proof of life at the time of entry into the water. Cadaveric spasm often crystallizes the last activity one did prior to death and is therefore significant in forensic investigations, e.g. holding onto a knife tightly.

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