Sepia Saturday challenges bloggers to share family history through old photographs.
This week’s Sepia Saturday prompt does my heart good. Cemeteries. Glorious cemeteries! If you’re a family historian, you are required to love cemeteries. It’s a rule, trust me, and I follow it devotedly. Small family cemeteries tucked into a corner of a field or fenced off next to a highway always demand my attention. Large cemeteries are equally fascinating because they represent entire families and communities. I wanted to write about my favorite cemetery, but I just could not slight the others, each of which has its own personality and charm. Instead, let’s look at the symbolic carvings of my relatives’ and ancestors’ tombstones.
ARCHES represent a doorway to salvation as well as being rejoined with a partner in heaven.
|John Jollett and Sarah Elizabeth|
Jollett Cemetery, Page Co, VA
Elk Run Cemetery Elkton, VA
|Benjamin and Fleeta Davis|
Elk Run Cemetery Elkton, VA
The Davis stone combines other symbols including praying hands and flowers.
|Ben Davis's sister Cora Davis|
Elk Run Cemetery, Elkton, VA
BIRD / DOVE is the messenger of God. A bird in flight represents the soul being transported to heaven. A dove holding an olive branch symbolizes the soul reaching divine peace.
|Mary F. Davis|
Elk Run Cemetery
BROKEN BUD is used on graves of someone who died an untimely or premature death, usually a young person. In this case, the grave is that of Mary, the sister of Cora and Ben Davis. The graves of Cora and Mary are back to back.
CHI-RHO (XP) is one of the oldest Christian symbols. The X and P or Chi and Rho are the first two letters in the Greek word for Christ. The symbol is set in a circle which is another motif of gravestones signifying eternal life because circles have no beginning and no end.
|Anthony Jacob Henkel|
St. Michael's Lutheran Church
DOUBLE STONES are an obvious suggestion of being united with a partner in heaven.
|Margaret and "Jack" Srott|
Forest Lawn Cemetery Norfolk, VA
My grandaunt Margaret Killeen Sprott's tombstone combines several symbols in addition to the double stones. The heart is an obvious symbol of love. Margaret's stone includes the Christian cross denoting her Christian faith. Jack's stone includes the square and compass signifying he was a member of the Masons.
FLOWERS represent the brevity of life and sorrow. Some flowers have other specific meanings.
DAFFODIL because it blooms in spring is sometimes used to represent rebirth and resurrection.
|Ben and Bertha Knight Shifflett|
Evergreen Cemetery, Greene Co, VA
DOGWOOD is symbolic of Christ’s sacrifice (the dark edges on the petal correspond to the blood shed on the cross) and rebirth. Thus it is a resurrection symbol for new life in heaven.
|Thelma Hockman and Lacy Sarver|
Sunset Cemetery Christiansburg, VA
IVY denotes friendship, fidelity, and rebirth. (Have you ever tried to get rid of ivy in your yard?)
|William J. Sampson|
Stanardsville Public Cemetery
LAUREL is a common symbol of victory and distinction, so in death it denotes victory over death, therefore, immortality.
Rockingham Co, VA
|James Henry Jollett|
Harriston United Methodist
MORNING GLORY represents the beginning of life. For Christians, life in heaven is the beginning.
Coverstone Cemetery Shenandoah, VA
ROSE is a common symbol on tombstones to represent beauty and fullness of life. It can also indicate that a person died in the prime of life.
SUNFLOWER OR PASSION FLOWER means devotion to Christ. In this tombstone, it is set in a circle, which represents eternal life.
LAMB is almost always reserved for graves of children because of its association with purity and innocence.
PRAYING HANDS is seen as pious devotion or a request for eternal life.
|Russ and Hattie Kohne|
Cedar Hill Cemetery Mathias, WV
SQUARE COLUMN usually tells a story. Often one family member is featured on each side, typically a husband and wife. Columns signify a noble life.
|Daniel W. Eppard|
on the other side
on one side
|Lourenna and Robert Bryan|
and son Jeremiah
share this tombstone
Dayton Cemetery Dayton, VA
URN is a typical symbol of death because urns were and still are used to hold ashes of those who have been cremated. The urn therefore suggests the soul and mortality.
I know you’re just dying to see what others have to say about cemeteries at Sepia Saturday.
© 2018, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.