"We all travel the same river, the river of Life. The source is the same, as is the destination. Only the navigator who handles the rapids, the stormy waters, the serene inletsfor pause and restbefore the confluence, has it in his power to make this interlude bring a resurgence of dismay and discouragement or hopeful faith and confidence, situations which are determined by the skill, wisdom, desire and direction of the navigator. The shifting sands, the changing water, move away too soon and too soon are forgotten. Therefore the resting places consigned to those who have completed this eventful voyage are hereby given our consideration, and in some instances...[I will include] a brief account of the voyager. It is... [my] intent, in so doing, to express... [my] gratitude for their having shown us the way, and provided for us a foundation upon which we can build. Hopefully, we will strive to leave such a legacy when we are numbered among those who have gone before." (Our Pioneer Heritage, Vol. 20, p.133)
(Source: Encyclopedia Britannica)
The practice of inhumation dates back to the Middle Ages. A body is buried in a hollowed out trench in the earth covering it with stones and dirt.
There are a number of versions of this practice. The Eskimos, for example, cover the buried corpse with stones. And if pebbles are not available, the spot is canopied with an ice igloo.
If there are shallow trenches for the corpse, there are also big and elaborate burial underground sites deep into subterranean levels. They are so huge they could accommodate throngs of deceased.
In Peru, recent discoveries showed that burial chambers carved out from solid rock 18 feet below the surface of the ground had as many as 400 cadavers!
Arranging the body in some sort of a position while in the casket or coffin is dictated mainly by religious considerations. For instance, those buried in sepulcher caves are wrapped in grave clothes and placed in an extended position, as if in sleep.
Muslims bury their dead and laid in such a manner as to let the right side of the body face Mecca. The Buddhists, on the other hand, lay the head of their dead to the north. And the west is the direction that ancient Egyptians faced at gravesite.
Among the Dagari people of Africa, gender plays a crucial role in positioning the dead. Men are said to face the east so that when the sun rises they are prepared to hunt and farm. Conversely, the women face the west so that the setting sun at dusk will remind them to set the table and prepare the meals.
In an apparently puzzling similarity, early cultures in many parts of the ancient world preferred to bury their dead in crouching or squatting position - the same position that the mummies were in when discovered in Sagada in the highlands of the Cordilleras.
In modern Europe, a club in Vienna in 1970 called the "Vertically Buried Loved Ones" had attracted a wide following. They pioneered in burying their deceased relatives in big plastic tubes placed upright in a deep hole!
Exposing their dead in trees and platforms was carried out by primitive natives of Bali, Indonesia. The same style was adopted by the Naga tribe of India, some indigenous people in Central Australia, the Sioux and other North American Indian groups.
Christian Funerals and Burials
(Avalanche Journal [Lubbock, Texas, Newspaper]; Beth Pratt, Religion Editor, Saturday, October 9, 1999)
Christian funeral and burial rituals vary according to denominations, but all share an emphasis on the hope of eternal life through Jesus Christ.
Liturgical [prescribed sacramental rites] churches such as Catholic and Episcopal have more specific instructions. For example, in the ''Catechism of the Catholic Church,'' the teaching is: ''The Christian funeral confers on the deceased neither a sacrament nor a sacramental, since he has 'passed' beyond the sacramental economy ...''
Funeral practices among Baptist, Church of Christ and other congregational-type churches are matters of local church decision and tradition. Lutherans fall in between the liturgical and the congregational practices. Pastors have considerable influence in determining what is appropriate when there are not church-mandated guidelines. Today, most pastors will provide burial services for non-members upon request by a family or funeral director.
Cremation was once forbidden or discouraged by the Christian community, but in recent years has become an option in Christian burial and is gaining in popularity.
About 25 years ago, before the church divided, Lutherans adopted a statement that cremation was an option for Christians. They didn't say it was good or bad.
The Rev. James Haney, rector at St. Christopher's Episcopal Church (Lubbock, Texas), said he has seen two major changes in his 35 years as a priest; more people in the last five or six years are requesting cremation and more people are giving their bodies to the medical school for research.
The Episcopal Church encourages members to make the planning of their funeral service a Lenten discipline in which they update their plans each year during Lent. The church keeps a copy of the plans on file. The priest deals with the funeral home and helps with selections and arrangements. Families are encouraged to choose simplicity such as a pine box casket rather than an expensive model.
At St. Christopher's, Rev. Haney said, probably 10 or 20 percent have something on file about their funeral requests. Such choices include Scripture readings from the Prayer Book's funeral services and hymns, which must be from the official hymnal. ''The other thing happening within our liturgies now,'' Haney said, ''probably two-thirds to three-fourths, the vast majority, are done with Communion, which I think really focuses that Easter Communion of the saints kind of thing.''
Episcopal churches invite all Christians to partake of the Eucharist [communion], as does the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. Episcopal services for a non-member who professes the Christian faith is the same as for a member, Haney said. ''If not, the emphasis is that we just have to trust in God at some point. In our old prayer book, there used to be a form of service for those not professing the Christian faith, but I never did the service.''
Caskets are by church law covered with a pall [heavy cloth] in Episcopal and Catholic churches, and in Lutheran churches if desired by the family. ''All are equal in death,'' Hearn said. ''We never have an open casket funeral under any circumstances,'' she added. Episcopal funerals allow no flowers other than the flower arrangement on the altar.
The Rev. Gene Driscoll, pastor of the new Holy Spirit Catholic Church, said the casket may be open for viewing at the entry of the church an hour before the funeral service. Then it is closed and covered with a white pall, symbolic of baptism, for the funeral Mass inside the church.
The Catechism refers to the funeral Eucharist as a celebration of the hope of Resurrection, ''the Christian's Last Passover.'' Three types of funeral celebrations are conducted according to the place of the service - home, church and cemetery ''and according to the importance attached to them by the family, local customs, the culture, and popular piety.''
Priests consult with the family on the preferred liturgy. ''The majority prefer Mass at church with the body present,'' Driscoll said. ''If the person is to be cremated, we prefer to bring the body to the church (before cremation). However, we can bring the ashes and the Mass can take place.
The church offers many options, Driscoll said, ''thinking always of the family because they are the living. If the family wants the service at a funeral home, a priest or a deacon can officiate there. In a case where many would not understand the liturgy, we would do the service at the funeral home and cemetery, and the night before have a vigil (some prefer the rosary). The vigil may interchange with a Scripture service we call the wake on the night before burial.''
A priest for almost 30 years, Driscoll is too young to have been involved when the church had many rules about who and where people could be buried. Today's biggest misunderstanding with those outside the Roman Catholic Church relates to the Eucharist, which is open only to Catholics who meet the standard requirements for Communion.
Members of the Orthodox Christian, Syrian Church of the East and the Polish National Catholic Church are considered in communion and may partake of the Eucharist in a Roman Catholic Church.
Who Can Be Buried in a Catholic Cemetery? The most common confusion concerns husbands and wives who have Non-Catholic spouses. Non-Catholic spouses can be buried in Catholic cemeteries with their Catholic husbands and wives. Similarly, the Non-Catholic children and relatives of Catholics can be buried in the same family plot or cemetery. It is the Church's belief that those who were together in life should not be separated in death.
Placement of the coffin is different in the Lutheran tradition, Swoyer noted. It's an ''interesting quirk that Lutherans have." If the casket is brought to the front, it is placed lengthwise, not across the front. If the deceased was a minister, the head would face the congregation. If laity, the body will face the altar.''
Byers, a Missouri Synod Lutheran, said the Lutheran service does not focus on the deeds of the deceased, but ''on the joy of faith and how this person really is in Heaven in the Lord's presence.'' Byers encourages use of the pall, and much prefers a closed casket.
The Rev. Tom Mills, pastor of St. Luke's United Methodist Church, also prefers that the casket remain closed, although both pastors abide by the wishes of the family. The closed casket is a change that Mills has observed in Methodist churches in the 22 years he has been a pastor. Opening the casket in the church ''was a cultural practice in a bygone generation, and people are not doing that much anymore,'' he said.
Eulogies are not done in the Episcopal tradition and are the exception in Lutheran funerals. People who are not church-goers select music for funerals that is sometimes a little odd, Mills said, but he tries to accommodate the family.
In the Lutheran Church (ELCA), there are not hard and fast rules about funerals, he said. ''We may read an obituary and may refer to the deceased's vocation, but we would not eulogize them. Instead, we lift up Christ through their work, their volunteer service.''
Swoyer's favorite phrase in the liturgy comes at the end of the service as the ministers prepare to leave with the coffin. They place their hands on the coffin and pray: ''Oh merciful savior, receive we humbly beseech you, a sheep of your own fold, a lamb of your own flock, a sinner of your own redeeming.''
Mormon Burial Practice
(Charles D. Tate, Jr., Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Vol.1)
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints counsels its members to bury their dead in the earth to return dust to dust, unless the law of the country requires cremation. However, the decision whether to bury or cremate the body is left to the family of the deceased, taking into account any laws governing the matter. Burial of the body usually follows a funeral or graveside service. The body of a deceased member of the Church who has received the temple Endowment should be dressed in temple clothing. Relief Society sisters dress deceased women, and priesthood brethren the men. When it is not possible to clothe the body, temple clothing may be laid over it.
A member of the bishopric typically presides at the burial, where a simple, earnest prayer is offered to dedicate the grave, with blessings promised as the Spirit dictates. This prayer may include a dedication of the grave as a sacred resting place until the resurrection if the person giving the prayer holds the Melchizedek [higher] Priesthood and has been asked to give such a dedication. The grave site often becomes a sacred spot for the family of the deceased to visit and care for.
Quaker Burial Grounds
Gwynne Stock (Post Graduate Research)
Quakers, a name given to members of the Religious Society of Friends believe that all ground is 'God's ground' and special consecrated ground is unnecessary, thus any convenient piece of land is acceptable for burial. Quakers, however, wanted nothing to do with any established Church, so a variety of pieces of land, in a variety of locations, might be acquired by gift or purchase, and pressed into use by the urgent need for a place of burial. Uniformity is preserved in respect to the materials, size, form and wording of the stones, as well as in the mode of placing them, as may effectually guard against any distinction being made in that place between the rich and the poor.
Jewish Funeral and Burial Practices
(According to Temple Beth Ami Funeral Practices Brochure, Rockville, Maryland)
A funeral is held within 48 hours of the death, unless there are extenuating circumstances such as family members traveling from great distances, the Shabbat, or the advent of a major Jewish holiday (Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashanah, Shavuot, Pesach, Sukkot, or Shemini Atzeret/Simchat Torah). Jewish funeral services are simple. The central element is the eulogy; it may be delivered by clergy and/or family members or other lay people. The services are intended to honor the deceased and to comfort the bereaved.. The service may include some psalms and concludes with Eyl Maleh Rachamim, a prayer asking God to have compassion upon the soul of the deceased.
The funeral provider should be chosen based on the site of the funeral rather than where the death occurred. Contact a local funeral provider to help coordinate with the funeral provider at the location where the funeral is to take place and to assist with the necessary shipping arrangements. For interstate shipping, the body must be packed in cool packs, enclosed in a sealed metal case (Zigler case) or embalmed.
Once the death certificate is signed, the funeral provider will take possession of the body, remove it to the funeral home and place it under refrigeration. The provider will then explain to the family the options available to them, such as tahara [ritual washing] and shomrim [persons who will sit with the body until the funeral service], casket selection, and burial property if the family does not already have cemetery plots. The provider will facilitate the rental of either a hearse or, at a lesser expense, a black van, and limousines. The provider will also furnish materials for shiva: books, shiva candle, stools, kipot, and acknowledgment cards.
Jewish tradition strongly suggests a simple plain pine casket to reaffirm that we are all equal in death. A kosher casket is made only of wood, using wooden dowels rather than nails, and vegetable (not animal) glue.
Tahara is the ritual washing of the body in preparation for burial. It is a burial custom that may be performed for any Jewish person. The washing is done by a Chevra Kadisha (literally, "holy fellowship"). Some synagogues have their own. In this area there is a community Chevra Kadisha which is a group of professional volunteers who will perform the ritual for a donation of $100.00 (used for tzedakah by the committee). Tahara must take place as close as possible to the funeral service. Jewish tradition discourages public viewing of the deceased, although private arrangements can be made between the family and the funeral provider. Viewing of the body (public or private) is discouraged after tahara.
Dressing of the deceased is a matter to be discussed between the family and the clergy. If the tradition of tahara is observed, the body is generally dressed in a shroud, made of either muslin or linen. According to Orthodox or Conservative practice, linen shrouds are reserved for Cohanim (Priests) or Levites.
The family may arrange for shomrim, persons who will sit with the body until the funeral service. The custom is based on the desire not to leave a loved one unattended. Sh'mira may be performed by members of the Chevra Kadisha who read psalms or study sacred texts during their shifts, or by friends of the family who may read or have appropriate discussions. Occasionally, a family member might choose to be among the shomrim.
Kriah: Tearing of the Garment. The practice of kriah dates back to the bible when Jacob rent his garment upon learning of the supposed death of Joseph. Thus, one made a rend or tear in a garment immediately upon hearing of the death of a loved one as a way of indicating we are incomplete. Many Jews attach a black ribbon to their garment immediately before the funeral service which is torn instead of tearing an actual garment. Kriah is usually observed by the immediate shiva relatives (parents, children, spouses and siblings). The kriah ribbon or torn garment is worn throughout the entire period of shiva. When mourning the death of a parent, kriah may be extended to 30 days.
Jewish tradition discourages autopsy, unless it provides some medical benefit to the surviving family or the immediate community (e.g., diagnosis of a genetic or infectious condition), or is required by law. The authority of the medical examiner supercedes all other authorities.
Judaism deems embalming unnecessary and unacceptable. The extensive invasion of the body required by the procedure violates the Jewish practice of treating the body of the deceased with utmost respect. Attempts to preserve the body frustrate the process of decay which is considered natural and appropriate. Any cosmetic treatment of the body is considered an undesirable emphasis on the physical remains at the expense of the spiritual legacy.
Jewish tradition does not condone cremation, the willful destruction of the human body. The Temple's clergy will not officiate at a crematorium nor take part in a service at any other location preceding a cremation; the clergy will officiate at a memorial service after the cremation has occurred. (Some clergy will officiate with the body present at a service prior to cremation, but most will not officiate with the ashes present.) The staff will do its best to meet the needs of the family.
Some cemeteries permit only ground-level markers at the gravesite instead of gravestones. These markers, however, are not accepted by all Jewish authorities and some Orthodox Rabbis will not officiate at cemeteries where markers are used.
Gravesite rituals include the recitation of Kaddish and participation in the act of burial. The burying of the dead is the final mitzvah that one can perform on behalf of the deceased. It is a loving obligation of the family to ensure that the burial takes place properly. Family and friends are encouraged to participate in the mitzvah of covering the casket; Judaism teaches that the burial should not be left totally in the hands of strangers.
It is customary not to return to the gravesite until after the shiva or sheloshim period. At Temple Beth Ami, we encourage the bereaved to balance their remembrance of the deceased with the need to return to their normal daily lives. Subsequent visits to the gravesite may be acknowledged by placing pebbles or small stones on the top of the gravestone or marker. Some sources suggest that to do so honors the deceased.
Washing one's hands upon returning from the cemetery symbolizes leaving the
cemetery behind and returning to life. A bowl of water and a towel are placed
outside the mourner's home for this purpose and all are encouraged to take
part in this important custom.
Usually family and friends provide the initial sustenance for the mourners; this meal is called the seudat havra-ah. In some communities, this symbolic meal is eaten shortly after returning from the cemetery. Although customs may vary, traditional food for the first meal includes hard-boiled eggs and bagels, whose roundness suggests the continuance and eternity of life.
Origins of Undertaking
(Seminar in Early American History, David Burrell, 9 June 1998)
Societies in all places and times have expressed disdain for people who handle the dead because it is part of our instinctive reaction against death. Because undertaking involved a gradual expansion of various death-related tasks, the timing of the occupation's origins cannot be precisely ascertained. It began not when folks started doing undertaking tasks, but rather, when they came to be called "undertakers" - or to call themselves such. The term "undertaker," which had previously been applied to any person who undertook a task or enterprise, did not gain its modern connotation relative to funeral arrangements until late seventeenth- or early eighteenth-century England. It was a century or more before many undertakers could be found in North America. New York City records reveal an undertaking business by Blanche White as early as 1768, but this was a significant exception, not only in timing but more particularly in gender. More typically, we find undertakers emerging in the mid-nineteenth century, with establishments for Montreal in 1820; Baltimore in 1824; Providence, Rhode Island in 1856; and Vermilion County, Illinois in 1869. These varied dates reveal important first principles regarding undertaking: the occupation's evolution was both highly localized and contingent upon urbanization.
On the national level, undertaking did have numerous roots. More often, local services were dominated by just one of the several "feeder" occupations. In antebellum New York City, sextons controlled the area's undertaking market. In many other cities, cabinetmakers held sway: in Cleveland, Ohio, at least 7 of the city's 8 undertakers in 1857 hailed from cabinet work; in Columbus, Ohio, the 3 undertakers listed in 1860 included one cross-registered with cabinetry and another previously listed as a cabinetmaker; and in 1860 Covington, Kentucky, all 3 men listed as undertakers were also cabinet ware manufacturers. Yet in Cincinnati, the cabinet-maker undertaker seems virtually nonexistent. Only 1 out of 35 undertakers listed in the 1850s could be identified as a former or current cabinetmaker. But 11 were liverymen. The skills, education, training, and material requirements employed by mid-century undertakers were so inconsequential that most Americans could well have done the work themselves.
Undertakers' advertisements revolved around two things: coffins and a readiness to serve. Though undertakers in the 1840s and 1850s provided a number of goods and services, the coffin always appeared central. While the style and expense of coffins had varied according to wealth even in colonial times, the nineteenth century witnessed a sustained era of coffin "improvements." With the basic idea of storing a dead body within a closed container fairly well established, the improvements in the mid-nineteenth century aimed at a more protective and aesthetic device. Metal burial cases debuted in Providence, Rhode Island in the late 1840s and introduced in the West in the early 1850s. These metal "cases" redefined the terminology of dead body containers away from the harsh connotations of "coffins."
From the luxurious silk lining materials to the cases' individualized nameplates to a new system of locks and keys replacing the "remorseless screws and screwdriver," everything about the new cases bespoke a transformation the treatment of corpses. With their metallic composition, mummy-style shape, and "eighteen different sizes... varying in length from 22 inches to 6 1/2 feet," such burial cases preserved and glorified the body lain inside.
Material preservation and the inaccessibility of bodies to harm were indeed recurrent motifs. David Sholl claimed that his terra cotta burial case was "made of material which is everlasting - neither water nor dampness has any effect upon it. We warrant them to neither rust nor decay. They are truly the everlasting Burial Case." The rationale for such claims is elusive. Why did people care whether the container rusted or decayed? What had changed in society such that people suddenly sought "the everlasting" in coffins as well as in religion?
Cholera epidemics throughout the mid-nineteenth century highlighted the need for cleaner streets and efficient disposal of the dead. Disease microorganisms, which flourished in the rapid crowding of mid-century urbanization, thus deserve at least part of the credit for undertaking's growing success. The urban epidemics they instituted offered prime opportunities for people to enter the undertaking business - and with very high rates. During the 1849 cholera in Cincinnati - which killed 4900, or nearly 5% of its population - Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote to relatives that "Hearse drivers have scarce been allowed to unharness their horses, while furniture carts and common vehicles are often employed for the removal of the dead."
Whereas once the family members, nurses, midwives, and professional layers-out-of-the-dead who had touched and cleansed the body were predominantly female, by the mid-nineteenth century the idea of a female undertaker was unthinkable. This had not always been so. Taking care of the dead was seen as part of women's domestic tasks, an extension of their nursing and nurturing functions, part of their customary service to the community, and consonant with their "natural" religiosity. The diary of Martha Ballard chronicled in Laurel Thatcher Ulrich's A Midwife's Tale has revealed that midwives were not only aided in childbirth, but also performed considerable undertaking duties. Such seems natural: with 35% of all eighteenth- and nineteenth-century births resulting in the infant's death, as well as a considerable number of maternal deaths, midwives were charged with swaddling both the newborn and the dead. Though people accepted the idea that women should be excluded from undertaking due to their "natural" facilities and weaknesses. Within a short time, it became difficult to remember that women ever had done such work.
Embalming did not become popular in the United States until the Civil War when battleship casualties needed to be shipped home over several days. Before this time, bodies were kept on ice and buried within a few days of death.
Inaccurate Death Records
(1996-2000 Cultural Resource Analysts, Inc)
From a biological perspective, historic records found in courthouse records or elsewhere are considered wholly inadequate largely because medical diagnosis and treatment during the colonial period and up into the 20th century was deficient, and in many cases it was inaccurate. As a result, people died from medical conditions of which physicians had no knowledge, or they were dying from illnesses that had been misdiagnosed. Some of these purported causes of death can be rather amusing. For example, a death certificate filed in the state of Kentucky in the early 20th century lists cause of death as "ate too many green apples" (Yvonne Beam, Kentucky Department of Vital Statistics, Personal Communication, 1994).
Illnesses that had a social stigma attached to them (such as sexually transmitted diseases) or causes of death associated with pregnancy (particularly illegitimate ones), including induced abortions and childbirth were frequently recorded on death certificates with deliberately inaccurate causes of death. This was done by the family physician so that surviving family members could "save face" in the community. For example, at least one Colorado death certificate from the 1920's gives cause of death as "flu," but the actual cause of death, according to oral interviews with surviving family members, was death from a botched abortion. The physician who induced the abortion was also the one who filled out the death certificate (Paul Morris, Genealogist, Personal Communication, 1992).
Black slaves, unaccustomed to sexually-transmitted diseases in Africa, were very susceptible to them in the white man's culture, which resulted in a high mortality rate. A prime example of inaccurate reporting of sexually transmitted diseases in an historic slave cemetery (ca. 1660-1820) occurred on a plantation in Barbados (Handler et al. 1989, Jacobi et al. 1992).
Researchers have quickly found out that even in organized church cemeteries with parish records, cause of death is rarely noted (Saunders et al. 1993:184).
Eccentricities and Tall Tales
The first since the ancient Egyptians, that is. Summum, an organization that is reviving and refining the technique of mummification, has mummified dogs, cats and birds in its Salt Lake City, Utah facility. Its staff and about 100 others around the world have signed up to be mummified after their death. But at this point, their facility for human mummification in Boca Raton, Florida awaits its first "official" mummification.
John Reed spent 44 years as gaslighter at the Walnut Street Theater in Philadelphia where he never missed a performance and never showed up late. In his will he asked that his head and body be separated. His body was to be buried. But, his head was to be "brought to the theater where I have served all of my life, to be employed to represent the skull of Yorick in the play Hamlet." (Source: Coffin, Margaret M. Death in Early America. Thomas Nelson Inc., Publishers, NY, 1976.)
Death and Symbolism
ChrisTina Leimer, 1996-1997
Symbols are objects that carry secondary meaning. Usually they represent abstract concepts or ideologies of a particular culture so understanding them depends on the viewer's knowledge of that culture. For example, a broken tree is a common symbol of death. But, on a stone in a Massachussetts cemetery is a carving of a fallen tree beside a standing tree. Near the fallen tree is an axe and looking out from under this tree is a face. By reading the accompanying epitaph it becomes clear that this picture is not symbolic but literal. The deceased died when the tree he was chopping fell on him.
In the Middle Ages, Christian iconography was widespread; the meaning of the images was well-known, e.g. the dove symbolizing the holy spirit, the fish and the monogram form of the Greek letters chi and rho (XP) symbolizing Christ. By the latter part of the 17th century though, such a broad-based cultural ethos was dissipating. Symbols and their meanings were becoming more individualized and consequently, harder to interpret. Today, you can sometimes see new tombstones on which the symbol or the words obviously have a very personal meaning which can't be interpreted by the casual visitor with any degree of certainty. The epitaph on Lauri Butler's marker in Houston, TX reads "wild, wild horses we'll ride them someday;" clearly a message of highly personal significance. For this reason, the following interpretations should be used with caution.
Acorn As the seed of the oak, the acorn is a symbol of potential.
Anchor Commonly used in the 18th and 19th centuries to represent the deceased's seafaring profession. Also used, often wrapped in vines, to represent firm Christian faith.
Bats Commonly used in 18th century New England to represent the underworld.
Bridge Symbolize linking; between the earthly and heavenly realms, between the physical and the spiritual, or between life and death.
Bunch of Grapes In Egyptian art it symbolizes the heart, because of the similarity of shape, color and blood-like juice of the grape. Since the heart is vital to life, it symbolizes life itself.
Butterfly Based on its evolution from egg to caterpillar to chrysalis to butterfly, it represents the transformation and rebirth, the creation of life from apparent death, a symbol of resurrection.
Candle In Christianity, candles represent the divine light of Christ and faith. In Catholic funeral rites, candles signify the light of heaven. When lit by worshippers and placed before shrines, candles signify the souls of the departed or a request for illumination by prayer. When on opposite sides of a cross on an altar, the two candles represent the dual nature of Christ, human and divine.
Celtic Cross In pagan times, this cross, with its axis enclosed by a circle, was a symbol of fertility and life, the cross representing male potency and the circle, female power. Prevalent in Ireland, it is now primarily a Christian symbol signifying the unity of heaven and earth.
Clock/Watch Represents the transitory nature of human existence.
Coat of Arms High social status and family lineage.
Coffins Often carved on 17th and 18th century New England tombstones to signify mortality.
Cross There are many different types of crosses. The crucifix, a Christian symbol, is a Latin cross with an image of Christ nailed to it and depicts the sacrifice Jesus made for human salvation. The shepherd's cross has a crooked apex and represents both the Christian faith and Jesus' role in guiding people through life and saving lost souls. The Celtic cross was prevalent in Ireland and it looks like a cross with its arms surrounded by a circle. A cross whose vertical arm ends in a point is called a crossy fitch. Often used in heraldry, it looks like a cross and sword combined, and signifies one's unshakeable faith in Christianity and willingness to defend it.
Crucifix. A Latin cross with the image of Christ nailed to it represents salvation.
Dog Loyalty, Vigilance, Courage. As a symbol of faithfulness.
Door Passage from one state to another.
Dove Holy Spirit, soul reaching peace, spirituality. The dove is sometimes an emblem of Isreal.
Dove and Olive Branch A sign of God's forgiveness. Peace.
Dragon In the Orient, the dragon protects humans from evil spirits and represents joy, health and fertility. But in Western cultures, the dragon possesses the negative traits of the snake, destruction, danger, depravity, and loss of innocence.
Eagle Height, the spiritual, courage, victory, power.
Eye of God Judeo-Christian [and Masonic] symbol that includes an eye with a tent below it and a three-link chain underneath. Often shown in a triangle, the eye signifies God, the all-seeing, at the center of the Trinity. The tent is the house of God, its flaps open to show inner truth. The chain represents both the Trinity and the link that binds the faithful to God.
Fruit Various fruits possess their own symbolic meaning but fruit in general signifies abundance. Also, since it contains seeds, it represents life, potential, immortality.
Gateway Carries much of the same symbolism as the door but the destination is less personal.
Gourds In 17th and 18th century New England, the birth and death of earthly matters.
Grapes and Grapevines Grapes signify sacrifice, since they are used in the making of wine, which, in Christianity represents Christ's blood and his sacrifice. They can also connote life and immortality. Among the Jews, the grapevine signifies peace and abundance.
Hammer This tool, used in building and shaping, represents the power of creation.
Hand This is a very expressive symbol that takes on different meanings depending on its positioning in relation to the body and arrangement of the fingers. The raised hand symbolizes voice and song, placed on the chest it represents the wisdom of the sage, on the neck it depicts sacrifice, covering the eyes it signifies clairvoyance at the moment of death. Two hands joined typically signify union. A common hand placement on Jewish tombstones is the two open hands, thumbs touching, with index and middle finger spread away from the ring and pinkie fingers. This gesture, raised above the head, is used by priests to bring God's glory through the hands' openings and to the congregation.
Hand with Finger Pointing Gone Home, Look to God, Direction. The pointing finger represents direction, whether physical, spiritual or psychological.
Harp Harmony with the universe and ascent to higher things, a bridge between heaven and earth.
Hourglass Mortality. The swiftness of time. Because it must be turned upside down for the sand to run out, it also represents the cycle of life and death, and heaven and earth.
Iris/Lilly Light and Hope. With its pointed leaves, it's often called the sword lilly and is associated with the sorrow of the Virgin Mary.
Ivy Immortality, Friendship, Faithfulness. Because it is an evergreen that clings while climbing, it signifies the need for protection. Since it grows quickly, it also symbolizes regeneration.
Key Mystery, Opening and Closing, Solution to a Problem. Its dual symbolism can mean liberation and the ability to unlock secrets, or incarceration. In Catholicism, the key is a papal emblem, the key to the gates of heaven.
Labarum This symbol is also known as the Monogram of Christ, Constantine's Cross, the Chrismon, the Christogram and the Chi-Rho. Since the Roman emperor Constantine I used this symbol on his shield, overcame his enemy in battle, and consequently converted to Christianity, the labarum has been a symbol of Christianity.
Lamb Purity, Innocence, Gentleness, Sacrifice. In Christianity it represents the sacrificial crucifixion of Christ for the sins of the world.
Laurel Leaves/Wreath Victory.
Lilly Light, Purity, Perfection, Mercy and Majesty. It has Christian associations, usually attached to the Virgin Mary where it signifies chastity. When Christ is shown as the judge of the world with a lilly in his mouth, the flower represents mercy. A lilly and a sword signify guilt and innocence.
Lion Valor, Strength, Courage, Pride, Wisdom, Protection, Majesty.
Lotus Purity, Resurrection, Evolution, Potential. The flower is sacred in Buddhism. "It symbolizes the creation of life from the slime of the primordial waters. The closed lotus represents potential. Depending on the number of petals, the lotus' symbolism changes, shaped by the symbolism of the number. Eight petals represent cosmic harmony; 1,000 petals means spiritual revelation.
Masonic Compass and Set-square Freemasons combine religious and construction and architectural forms in their symbols. Viewing God as the architect and builder of the universe, Freemasonry intends to build the temple of humanity through self-improvement with stone-masonry work. The compass, used in geometric calculations, symbolizes creation and the spirit. The set-square draws perfect right angles, so represents uprightness and lawfulness. The compass and the square measure things, so they symbolize judgement. They also represent geometry, and the union of the sky (the compass's circle) and the earth (the square). The letter "G" in this symbol represents God, geometry and geomancy.
Menorah Jewish symbol of divine wisdom. The seven branches of the candle represent the seven days of creation; the sun, moon and planets; the seven heavens; and the seven stars of Ursa Major.
Palm Tree. In Christianity, it signifies righteousness, resurrection, and martyrdom. In the Middle Ages, a palm leaf was a badge of pilgrimage to the Holy Land and people wearing it were called 'palmers.' Because of its height and radiating leaves, it was an early fertility and sun symbol.
Picks and Shovels Mortality. Commonly used in 17th and 18th century New England.
Pine Cone Immortality and Fertility.
Pyramid Symbol of Egypt, it represents the power of the kings and creation.
Rising Sun Resurrection, Immortality.
Rope Eternity, Binding and Connection.
Rose Completion, Achievement, Perfection. Meanings vary depending on the color, shape and number of petals. For example, the blue rose symbolizes the impossible, the golden rose the pinnacle of achievement, an eight petal rose regeneration.
Scales Justice, Balance. It represents the equivalence of guilt and punishment.
Scarab An ancient Egyptian emblem symbolizing the renewal of life. When shown with falcon's wings it represents transcendence and protection.
Shattered Urn Someone Old
Sheaf of Wheat Someone Old
Shell The Human Journey Through Life, Birth, Life, Resurrection, Love, Good Luck. The shell's hard casing protects life, the pearl inside. In Christianity, it symbolizes resurrection and baptism.
Skeleton The personification of death.
Skull Mortality. In Christianity, a skull wearing a crown of thorns means eternal damnation.
Stag Life, Wisdom, Regeneration and Growth, Virility. Associated with the Tree of Life and because of the way it renews its antlers, it's been used as a symbol of regeneration. The Chinese regard it as a symbol of virility and happiness.
Star The Spirit, Divine Presence, Enlightenment, Wisdom, Human Aspiration. Represents light struggling against darkness.
Star of David Symbol of Judaism and the State of Israel. This star, comprised of an overlapping upright and an inverted triangle, is associated with David because he carried a hexagrammic shield against Goliath. The interlocking triangles represent the union of opposites, also called the Creator's Star with each point representing the days of the week and the hexagram representing the Sabbath.
Steps In many religions steps, or a ladder, are seen as the path to god.
Swallow Hope, Fertility, Renewal of Life, Resurrection Like most birds, it also represents light.
Thistles Traditional Scottish symbol connoting remembrance.
Torch Turned upside down, it represents death. Right side up, it symbolizes life and the regenerative power of fire. It is also signifies truth and intelligence.
Triangle In the Christian tradition, the triangle represents Faith, Hope and Charity, and the Holy Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Ghost. The symbolism of this shape is always associated with its three sides, signifying a variety of triads such as birth, life and death; heaven, earth and human; mind, body and soul; body, soul and spirit; and father, mother and child.
Willows Presented in a variety of styles, this symbol, of German origin, represents sorrow.
Winged Effigies Commonly used in 18th century New England to signify the soul in flight.
Winged Death's Head Mortality, Transformation.
Winged Sun Disk This ancient Egyptian symbol represents the journey of the sun.
Wreaths Victory in Death.
Yew Leaves Eternal Life
Yin-Yang Circle The symbol comes from Taoism and Confucianism and represents harmony and balance. It denotes the two existential and controlling forces of the universe, the yin, the negative and passive feminine power depicted in black and on the left side of the circle, and the yang, the positive and active masculine power depicted in white on the right side of the circle. Yin represents the soul, wetness, cold, darkness, the moon, the Earth and sustenance. Yang represents the spirit, light, heat, dryness, day, the sun, heaven, creation and dominance. The yin before the yang signifies primeval darkness before creation. The small circle of the opposite color contained within both the yin and the yang represents the seed of the other and therefore their interdependence. The sigmoid line dividing the yin and yang means dynamism and the two are contained within a circle of revolution and unity.
Bouchard, Betty J. 1991. Our Silent Neighbors: A Study of Gravestones in the Olde Salem Area. T.B.S. Enterprises, Salem, MA.
Cirlot, J.E. 1995. A Dictionary of Symbols. Barnes & Noble Books, NY.
Coffin, Margaret M. 1976.Death in Early America. Thomas Nelson Inc., Publishers, NY.
Gibson, Clare. 1996. Signs & Symbols: An Illustrated Guide to Their Meaning and Origins.Barnes & Noble Books, NY.
Schwartzman, Arnold. 1993. Graven Images: Graphic Motifs of the Jewish Gravestone. Harry N. Abrams, Inc., Publishers. NY, NY.
Wilkinson, Richard H. 1994. Symbol and Magic in Egyptian Art. Thames and Hudson Ltd, London.
Burial Sites on the National Register of Historic Places
The National Register of Historic Places is the official list of nationwide resources that best represent U.S. culture. Authorized under the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, the National Register is administered by the National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior. Approximately 1,700 cemeteries or burial sites are listed on the National Register having been nominated by governments, organizations, and individuals because they are historically and archeologically significant to the nation, to a state, or to a community.
Properties on the National Register have been documented and evaluated in regard to their significance in American history and their structural integrity. Properties must meet these criteria: 1) be associated with events of broad historical significance, or 2) be associated with the lives of persons of outstanding importance to the community, state, or nation's past, or 3) embody the distinctive characteristics of an art, architectural or landscape type, period, or method of construction, or represent the work of a master, or possess high artistic value, or 4) possess the potential to yield historical information about cultural or ethnic groups. (Source: National Register Bulletin No. 41, Guidelines for Evaluating and Registering Cemeteries and Burial Places. U.S. Dept. of the Interior, National Park Service Cultural Resources, 1992).
1. Juab Diamond Cemetery (03/14/1979), S of Mammoth, Tintic Mining District
2. Juab Eureka City Cemetery (03/14/1979), SW of Eureka off US 50, Tintic Mining District
3. Juab Fitch Cemetery (03/14/1979), SR 36 Eureka, Tintic Mining District
4. Juab Silver City Cemetery (03/14/1979), SW of Mammoth, Tintic Mining District
5. Glenwood Cemetery (05/01/1996), Silver King Dr., approx. .5 mi. N of Park City Ski Resort.
6. Iosepa Settlement Cemetery (08/12/1971), Skull Valley (Tooele County)
7. American Fork Cemetery Rock Wall (10/07/1994), 600 N. 100 E, American Fork
Find Famous Graves
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(The Tombstone Traveller's Guide; http://home.flash.net/~leimer/symbol.html)
She drank good ale, good punch and wine
And lived to the age of 99.
For a music conductor:
"Stephen and Time are now both even;
Stephen beat Time, and now Time's beat Stephen"
Dr. Fred Roberts
For a dentist:
"View this gravestone with gravity.
He is filling his last cavity."
For a banker from London:
"Beneath this stone old Abr'am lies;
Nobody laughs and nobody cries;
Where he's gone or how he fares,
No one knows and no one cares."
In a churchyard in South Wales:
"Hurrah! my boys, at the Parson's fall,
For if he'd lived he'd a buried us all."
Shed a tear for Simon Ruggle,
For life to him was a constant struggle,
He preferred the tomb and death's dark state,
To managing mortgaged real estate.
A zealous locksmith died of late,
And did arrive at heaven's gate;
He stood without and would not knock,
Because he meant to pick the lock.
Some have children--some have none
Here lies the mother of twenty-one.
The Defense Rests.
Beneath this monumental stone
Lies half a ton of flesh and bone.
For a woman who got around:
"On this marble drop a tear,
Here lies fair Rosalind;
All mankind was pleased with her,
And she with all mankind."
Here lies John Racket
In his wooden jacket,
He kept neither horses nor mules;
He lived like a hog,
And died like a dog,
And left all his money to fools.
A Welsh farmer's wife:
"This spot is the sweetest I've seen in my life,
For it raises my flowers and covers my wife."
Here lies Mary, the wife of John Ford,
We hope her soul is gone to the Lord;
But if for hell she has changed this life,
She had better be there than be John Ford's wife.
(Wiltshire, England, 1790.)
Here lies my wife: here let her lie!
Now she's at rest, and so am I.
Let her R.I.P.
He meant well,
Tried a little,
Here lies wife second of old Wing Rogers,
She's safe from cares and I from bothers;
If death had known thee as well as I,
He ne'er had stopped, but passed thee by,
I wish him joy, but much I fear,
He'll rue the day he came thee near.
1890. The light of my Life has gone out.
1891. I have struck another match.
Here lieth Mary, never was contrary
To me nor her neighbours around her.
Like Turtle and Dove we lived in love
And I left her where I may find her.
(Orpington, England, 1755)
Cold is my bed, but ah I love it,
For colder are my friends above it. (Chicago, 1859)
Two headstones stand side by side.
One reads "Father" and one reads "Mother."
Beneath an arch that joins the two is the inscription:
"Divided in life--United in death"
To all my friends I bid adieu
A more sudden death you never knew
As I was leading the old mare to drink
She kicked and killed me in a wink.
(Killarney, Co. Kerry)
Here lies Elizabeth Wise
killed by thunder
sent from heaven
in 16 hundred and seventy seven.
(Edinburgh, Scotland, 1677)
"Against his will
Here lies George Hill,
Who from a cliff
Fell down quite stiff."
For a man who died in a gunpowder explosion:
"He rests in pieces."
Sacred to the memory of Jared Bates,
Who died August the 6th, 1800:
His widow, age 24, lives at 7 Elm Street.
Has every qualification for a good wife,
And yearns to be comforted.
(Lincoln, Maine, 1800)
Opened my eyes, took a peep,
Didn't like it, went to sleep.
(Petersborough, New Hampshire, 1823)
"Stranger weep, for at the age of seven
Little Willie went to Heaven."
Someone later added:
"Cheer up, stranger, who can tell?
Willie may have gone to Hell."
For a one-month-old baby:
"Since I was so quickly done for,
I wonder what I was begun for."
For Lettuce Manning:
"Oh, cruel death
To satisfy thy palate,
Cut down our Lettuce
To make a salad."
Death is not extinguishing the candle.
It is putting out the light
because the dawn has come.
Angels often step in, do good and disappear.
Been everywhere else.
For me the world hath had its charms
And I've embraced them in my arms,
Courted its joys and sought its bliss
Although I knew the end was this.
(Orient, Maine, 1839.)
Here lies PAT STEELE
That's very true:
Who was he? What was he?
What's that to you?
He lies here because he is dead--nothing new.
(Ballina, Co. Mayo)
Had a good time
(Dr. J.J. Subers, Macon, Georgia, 1916)
Life is a jest, and all things show it:
I thought so once, but now I know it.
If there is another world I live in bliss
If not another
I have made the most of this...
(Harmony, Rhode Island)
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