I know this has been covered in a post in the past, but I thought it be a good one to touch on again as so many of us visit graveyards and cemeteries, some of which may not be so well-kept. This graphic might help you to know what people looked to for meaning when we die.
Walking through your local cemetery is always a peaceful way to spend time. Even if there are people around, they are always so reverently quiet. But as you walk along, you might notice the standards of a tombstone:
name of deceased
date of birth and death
What often gets overlooked, though, are the symbols which are also typically found on a person’s tombstone. I decided to search for a listing of the meanings of various symbols found on a tombstone and share them with you so that next time you find yourself in a cemetary or graveyard and notice these symbols, you’ll be a little more enlightened about their meanings.
- anchor/ship – hope or seafaring profession
- arrows – mortality
- broken column – early death, grief, loss of the head of the family
- caterpillar – time or metamorphosis
- column – noble life
- dove – innocence, gentleness, affection, purity
- eye – humility
- frog – worldly pleasure, sin
- grim reaper – inevitibility of death
- handshakes – farewell
- orb – faith
- rope circle – eternity
- shepherd’s crook – charity
- sun setting – death
- winged effigies – flight of the soul
The full list from which these were taken can be found at this website.
There are many things that are weird, strange or just plain ol’ different about Louisiana, but one thing that makes New Orleans stand out more than anything else are our cemeteries. Because of the water table for the city, in most areas, burial is not possible in the ground as one expects of a typical burial. Digging the requisite 6 feet into the Earth results in water seeping into the hole. When the city was first being settled, this resulted in many dead literally rising in their graves whenever there was a flood. After a time, crypts were built above the ground – massive single (and occasionally multi-) family structures were built to accommodate the dearly departed. As the cemeteries grew with these small structures, which often resemble houses, the cemeteries began to resemble a small city. So if you visit New Orleans and hear of our cities of the dead, don’t be too concerned; we’re only speaking of our cemeteries.