April is a month for me synonymous with death and taxes. Taxes because in the US we file our income tax statements by April 15th. Death because my mother passed away on April 15, 1995. I feel fortunate that I was with her at the moment of her death. I had never before seen anyone die, though I had had a kitten, abused unintentionally by children, die in my hands. As my mother’s spirit left her earthly remains, her face relaxed into such a beautiful expression of peace that it took me some hours to cry for her.
I also had the good fortune of being with Mike at the time, and while the nurses prepared mom’s body for whatever would be next, we stood out in the parking lot of the nursing facility. Night cloaked the city as we looked for stars and symbols. And behold, an owl flew across the space in front of us.
I’ve collected owl statues and rugs and everything since high school, so to have one come to my sight at that moment thrilled me. As well, in Wiccan beliefs, an owl is the symbol of the crone, and what better messenger to take mom to the next stage of her evolution.
While researching the customs of mourning during the Regency period, I discovered a web site that is stunning and touching and should not be given a brief once over. The Art of Mourning (http://artofmourning.com/) is a blog on wearable (for the most part)memorial items throughout history. I’m talking rings, miniatures, hair art, bracelets, brooches, lockets, and so on. And much of it is from the period I love to write about.
That got me looking at the History of Grave Markers. Some monuments to the dead are well known, like the pyramids and the Taj Mahal. And many places of worship are the final resting grounds of true believers. Ancient people often created huge underground burial places, common to some Native American tribes and Celtic tribes. Did you know the word masoleum comes from the name of a king in Asia Minor? King Mausolos has a lovely large tomb there. http://thefuneralsource.org/mar06.html
Cemeteries are popular with genealogists tracing family trees. The variety of grave markers spans the creativity of the human mind. There are even associations of gravestones. http://www.iscga.org/what-are-the-different-types-of-gravestones.html This page talks about the shape and style of markers, but they have pages listed to the side to discuss materials and color for the markers.
And then I found this: http://www.colorado-cemeteries.com/symbols.html The wealth of information here is a delight, but the comments are entertaining. Such as, don’t read too much into the symbols. Maybe the person was a healer, and thus the primrose is a symbol used in that way. But maybe they just liked primroses. And lilies were popular at funerals because their strong scent masked possible unpleasant smells.
So what is the difference between a crypt and a mausoleum? I’m glad you asked! http://tngenweb.org/darkside/typology.html Here you’ll find definitions, photos of graves and markers, and links to many more photos. I rather like the shaped stacked stone tomb. Oh, and there are some fun epitaphs at the bottom.
Want to jaunt around Jolly Old England looking at cemeteries? Here is a list of the top ten! http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/picturegalleries/5478341/Top-10-Britains-famous-cemeteries.html The first one on the list was called the Necropolis once, and had its own railway connections. I think my favorite is Ione Abbey in Scotland, where Duncan, the king whose murder is preserved in Shakespeare’s Scottish Play, is rumored to be buried. Very pretty, very simple, very peaceful.
I leave you with two lists of the top ten: One of the ten most beautiful cemetaries in the world: http://www.cnn.com/2013/02/20/travel/world-beautiful-cemeteries/ and ten of the most scenic: http://www.cnn.com/2013/10/30/travel/worlds-most-scenic-cemeteries/ You’ll note a bit of overlap.
Have a good week, and I will see you on Wednesday.