Genealogy


Cemetery Art  (1)

Pike County,

Indiana

To add additional sources relating to Pike County, E-Mail the County Coordinator.

This article appeared in the Family Chronicle • March/April 2007. A special Thanks

to the Magazine,  Halvor Morrshead  the Editor & Publisher and the Author

Kathleen Shanahan Maca for allowing its use on the Pike County Web Page.


     FINDING AND DECODING ancient clues has taken on a renewed popularity with interest in the best-selling Da Vinci Code and television shows like Treasure Hunters. Even seasoned genealogists may be surprised to find that some secrets of the dead are right in front of us, if we only know how to read the signs. Since prehistoric times, humans have adorned final resting places with symbols. Petroglyphs carved and painted in caves around the world tell stories of everyday lives. Mayan tomb art portrays terrifying skeletal warnings that echo that culture's fear of death. Elaborate Egyptian pyramids are filled with signs of deities and the promise of rebirth.And just recently, it was announced that a 27,000-year-old burial cave (the oldest of its kind) had been found in France with a series of decorations painted on the walls.

     On this continent, dire Puritan warnings of mortality (mostly in skeleton forms) from two cen-
turies ago slowly evolved into picturesque Victorian expressions of sorrow and hope. Each reflects the sentiments and beliefs of their own era. Though gravesite adornments are nothing new to the human race, our memory for their meanings seems quite short in the tapestry of time. Wander through any old cemetery and you're likely to see designs carved into the headstones: Some crude, some elaborate. Although it is safe to assume the meanings of standard images such as a cross (signifying Christianity and resurrection) or a weeping angel (a symbol of mourning), some are not so easily decrypted. Other than memento mori (symbols of death and mortality such as skulls, crossbones and hourglasses), many gravestones icons can be broken down into basic categories.
Images of Nature Fruits and grains of harvest present a clear parallel for the cycle of life.

• Corn — ripe old age    

• Fruits — eternal plenty    

• Grapes — blood of Christ, eternal life

• Sheaf of wheat — ripe     for harvest, old age, fruitful life

Flowers and bouquets in general represent sorrow and the fragility of life. Variations have more specific interpretations: Buds for a life cut short, full rose for prime of life or a severed stem for a life cut short.Particular flowers usually follow the Victorian "language of flowers" symbolism.

Bellflower — constancy and gratitude    

Calla lily -majestic beauty and , marriage

Daisy — innocence,  often on a child's grave   

Evening primrose — eternal love, memory, youth, hope and sadness

Garland or wreath — victory in death

Iris — sorrow

Lily, lily of the valley or tulip — innocence, resurrection

Lotus — resurrection, perfect, beauty, spiritual revelation

Morning glory — beginning of life

Pansy — remembrance, meditation

Poppy — eternal sleep

Rose — purity, love

Thistle — Scottish descent or remembrance

• Violet — humility

Animals or related objects, many of which were a part of the deceased,s- everyday life,
represent a variety of beliefs and qualities of character.

• Bee — industrious- ness, Christianity

• Beehive — domestic virtues, education, abundance in heaven

• Butterfly — early death, resurrection

• Caterpillar — life, An engraved lily. metamorphosis


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