I kept running across people who covered themselves in sackcloth or laid on it during times of distress. 

According to https://www.gotquestions.org/sackcloth-and-ashes.html “Sackcloth was a coarse material usually made of black goat’s hair, making it quite uncomfortable to wear.”

Many other websites are unsure exactly what sackcloth was, but its meaning was quite clear. 

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