Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Cemetery Symbolism--The Cherub


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

The Cherub: angelic innocence, the death of a child.

Inscription:
JOHN P.
Son of
Simon & Catherine
EMERY
Died Feb. 5, 1858
Age 5 yrs. 5 mo.
2 Days

The deep eyes of the cherub are haunting. Despondent in the shadow of the sleeping world.

(St. Peters United Church of Christ, West Pikeland Township, Chester County, Pennsylvania)

27 comments:

Eileen said...

I love the composition with the tree seeming to sprout from the stone. Nicely set up

Sandra Ruttan said...

Jason, I do hope you're keeping all of these in a collection - when you're a famous writer, people will want to buy this book too.

Actually, some already want to.

Bernita said...

My mother had a thing about stopping at old graveyards when we went for Sunday afternoon drives.
I was always looked at the childrens' gravestones with a kind of innocent wonder - and the sometimes records of epidemics craved thereon - diptheria, for example - that ravaged communities.

Goldberry said...

I get a little freaked out looking at that picture. Something about it...

Bailey Stewart said...

As someone with a major in history - I love cemeteries. The children's graves are so sad. Actually, a cemetery can be a great source of ideas for a writer. We came across some graves once where an entire family died in one day - made you stop and think/wonder what happened (later found it that a lot of people died that day - tornado).

Wonderfully expressive picture.

jason evans said...

Eileen, I do like to get artsy when the situation presents itself. Since most gravestones are just one more stone in a sea of stones, I don't often have the chance.

Sandra, you certainly help me keep the dream alive. Thanks for that!

Bernita, in retrospect, were you damaged in any way? I've taken my daughters with me, and now they say, "yay, we're going to a cemetery!" It's not abuse, is it? BTW, I've always found the child graves the most haunting. Especially the simple stones which just say, "our baby." So sad.

Goldberry, understandable. I intend these graveyard posts to evoke emotion. By reflecting on these souls, we reflect on ourselves.

Eve, I agree. The most powerful human experiences and emotions are recorded there.

Bernita said...

Damaged?
Oh heavens, no,Jason!
A clear and continuing benefit.
Taught me the appreciation of history, gave me - though only glimpsed as a child but expanded later - a sense of time, of events like immigration ( when one discovers nothing left of a community but a weathered sign post on a country road and a graveyard) an appreciation and understanding of events like epidemics of diseases no longer a risk or of childbirth mortality or the native dangers like tree-fellings/river crossings/run-away horses.
It peopled the past with real people, not a recitation of political decisions.
And it removed forever any fear of the resting places of the dead that fiction might have engendered.
My mother put the stones in context, commenting on their stories, so brief yet so telling, and explained the lilac bush or the rose bush or the conch shells to me as well as the inscriptions.
She taught me respect for the past and for the pain of others, for their lives and for their rest.
I could go on and on, but this is enough.

ann marie simard said...

Dear Jason, you are breaking my lil-heart on purpose. You made me cry. Really. A thought for the tiny person. {{{{{{ wings }}}}}}}}

It is my daughter's age. She just had a very bad meningitis.
It is like in the years bygone... it still exists.

Thanks for your comments. Many of us love this family life and yet need space. Writing is, in a sense, another life...

ann marie simard said...

'our baby'

I know that.

Sadder than anything in the world.

sniff I am going....

You are a very cool person. Artistic and ethical perspectives. Both.

jason evans said...

Bernita, I feel better. Thanks. I figured that the perspective and empathies gained were a positive experience. Understanding and respect are precious.

Ann Marie, I very much hope your daughter has fully recovered. Such a scary experience. As for the age of this child, I feel for the parents of that era. Five years old is right between the ages of my daughters. So many children didn't make it back then. Seeing the realities forces you to imagine things you'd rather not. But that reality is important. It makes you realize the gifts you have.

Thank you for your kind words. If I've evoked painful memories, I hope that a bright thought can shine on them and turn them sweet.

Melissa Marsh said...

So very sad. Sandra is right - your work is brilliant and you definitely need to save it all for an upcoming book. :-)

Jeff said...

Great photo, Jason. I agree the deep eyes are haunting. Is this unique or have you seen one like this before?

jason evans said...

Melissa, you guys are amazing confidence builders! I really appreciate your support.

Jeff, the cherub motif isn't rare, but I'm not sure I've seen another one reclining quite like this one. Such a strange effect. I wonder if it had a more innocent look before 150 years of weathering.

Kelly Parra said...

I love the church in the background here. Very peaceful, Jason!
-kel

ps I haven't been to the PO yet, but I'm looking forward to the trip. =D

beadinggalinMS said...

so sad...

GirlGrownUp, Still Dreaming said...

Just wanted you to say that the photos and graphics on your blog are inspiring, I'm checking this blog out now to see them! I can't figure out how to do them yet, but I have this picture I want to put on mine. My aunt and uncle recently lost their home in a tornado, went right through it and left basically nothing, but a few yards over in a pile of debris we found the cigar box perched amongst the rubble that holds my uncles war medals from WWII. Your pictures, for some reason, reminded me of that one. The images just stay with you. Thanks!
GirlGrownUp, Still Dreaming

Jay said...

It rips at me to see that every day of his life was accounted for.

Erik Ivan James said...

Ditto Sandra.

jason evans said...

Kelly, thanks! I'm kind of partial to that shot. Hope you like your prize!

BeadinggalinMS, I know these posts aren't your favorite. And yet you still let me know you've dropped by. Thanks for that. :)

GirlGrownUp, thanks so much for stopping by! I'm glad you like the compilation of photos. There are more in the archives, but these are my favorites. If you've got a scanner, you can definitely post some of those photographs you saved (amazing that they survived the toronado! What a horrible thing to loose a home.) Hope to see you back!

Miss Jay, expressing the lifespan of a person down to the day was common during this period. It does seem to be a painful gesture.

jason evans said...

Erik, very kind of you to say. Thank you!

Mom of All Seasons said...

My son and I often wander through our neighborhood's cemeteries (three laying in a loose triangle) on our way to the park, store, ball fields or pond. We like to find a theme and go on a little explore (oldest date of birth, oldest by age at death, place of birth farthest from here, etc). Over the years we've 'gotten to know' many of the graves - often talking about them as friends. "Look, there's some trash hanging on Beth's stone. I better get that off of there." He is especially protective of the children's graves.

(How's that for scarring a kid for life?)

And yes, it really is a lovely picture.

mermaid said...

Those eyes seem to even swallow the shadows, don't they? Yikes!

jason evans said...

Mom of All Seasons, I think that's a really sweet story! You're teaching him such a valuable perspective. I'm sure it will stay with him all his life.

Mermaid, yes, they pull the entire scene into them.

cheesemeister said...

These are always very sad. I like visiting old cemeteries. The one in Boulder is considered a historical site.
One time I was there and saw this gravestone with a lamb. It was for a little child. This really struck me, and I got teary. Unfortunately this horse's ass had to be lurking around and make some kind of snide remark. I remember him and I will make a character based on him who I will kill off in my story!

jason evans said...

Cheesemeister, the lamb is another one of those symbols used for children. Always touching. The lamb is usually at rest.

Go ahead and punish the fool in one of your stories! Disrespect in a cemetery is very foul.

Cate said...

I agree with Sandra. People would love these posts in a book. What a beautiful volume that would be.

For me, they put life into such perspective--make me remember what is important. And I so admire you for giving these families a voice, making sure that they are remembered.

jason evans said...

Cate, thank you for the kind words. I'm so glad there are people out there who understand my urge to do these posts.