Saturday, December 10, 2005

Cemetery Symbolism--Hands, Clasped

Victorian cemetery art incorporated elaborate symbolism to convey the hopes and sorrows of those left behind.

Hands Clasped: Symbolizing a final farewell. Attention should be paid to the cuffs in hand symbolism. A frilly cuff indicated a woman. These are too worn to be certain.

Usually the hand grasping the other depicts the person who died first. Here, the grasping hand is also pointing downward, indicating mortality. Mourning is symbolized by the drapes over the headstone.

Geo. W. Case
Dec. 21, 1821
Aged 30 yrs. & 9 mos.
(Rest is unreadable)

(Unmarked rural cemetery, Wayne County, Pennsylvania)


beadinggalinMS said...

I have always been fascinated with rural cemeteries. The old grave stones always capture my attention.

M. G. Tarquini said...

Where did you learn the symbolism?

jason evans said...

BeadinggalinMS, the proximity between a rural cemetery and the families who buried love ones there is intriguing. Often times, the cemetery is within sight.

M.G. Tarquini, I find interesting stones, then research the symbolism on the internet. Not many examples are posted, so I'm hoping this series will add another reference for people.

Kara Alison said...

Good question. How do you know all of this? It's really interesting.

jason evans said...

Too funny, Kara. Looks like we had a war of the "publish" buttons!

Jeff said...

jason- another good post. :)

Michele said...

This is interesting.
My question, why have interesting customs like this faded away?

I mean, it's poignant and sentimental with personality...All I see now are plain headstones..just last names and dates..
Very generic and basic.
Does it come down to cost..again?

jason evans said...

Jeff, thanks. :)

Michele, I would guess two things. Cost (probably took quite a bit of time to carve those stones by hand) and material. The hard marble used today is probably more difficult to carve than the softer stone used by the Victorians. Modern stones are sandblasted with pre-done patterns, probably by automated machines now.

Chemical Billy said...

My dad is bucking this trend - he's designing a headstone that he will carve himself to go at the head of my mother's grave (and his eventual grave).

The headstone will be a sculpture of my mother flying above, reaching down to pull my father up and out of the flat headstone.

jason evans said...

Chemical Billy, I think that's a great undertaking. As Michele points out, a return to a lost time. Perhaps it will be a source of comfort to know his own work will memorialize him.

cheesemeister said...

I love old cemeteries. I used to really enjoy going to the one at Central City before the gambling industry took over and made driving up their unpleasant.

jason evans said...

Cheesemeister, yes, the atmosphere around the old stones is strangely peaceful.