[Click the cover below to check it out! If you don’t see a book cover below it’s probably ad-blocker settings]
“Understanding Cemetery Symbols” by Tui Snider helps history buffs, genealogists, ghost hunters and other curiosity seekers decode the forgotten meanings of the symbols our ancestors placed on their headstones. By understanding the meaning behind the architecture, acronyms, & symbols found in America’s burial grounds, readers will gain a deeper appreciation for these “messages from the dead.”
[I dunno why but the quotations around ‘messages from the dead’ made me laugh]
Not a lot can be said about this one, it’s pretty on the nose about being a field guide for general summaries of all the stuff you see in/around cemeteries and graveyards.
I went in already knowing some of what was going to be described but the book did provide a lot of information that I wasn’t aware of. It covers everything from symbols/epitaphs on graves, statues, what certain gravestyles are/mean, all the different kinds of religious sects or secret fraternities, the list goes on. I found the most interesting part of the book was the difference of the past with their meanings of symbols and today. For example, if you see a newish grave that has a hummingbird on it, it usually just means that the dead person liked/likes hummingbirds. But if this is on a very very very old grave that happens to be someone of Hispanic descent, the Aztecs believed great warriors reincarnated as hummingbirds and it was a symbol of that hope or that the person buried/cremated was a fighter of some kind. [Cool af, btw]
I had this on my amazon wishlist for awhile from a recommendation of another death-positive related book I was looking at, and it seems that it also was recommended because the author is in TX, so she had a lot of TX-specific info too, which was pretty cool.
The book is pretty short and sweet, because it gets to the point with descriptions and grouped pictures to give examples of what to look for when meandering around and wondering about stuff in a cemetery or graveyard. It would be a good book to bring with you while exploring one, but a little larger than ‘pocket sized’ and more like ‘small bag sized.’
Also, Dimebag Darrel’s grave in pictured in the book. +5 respect [RE! SPECT! WALK! WHATDIDYOUSAY]
My only real qualms I had with the book were some spelling/grammatical errors but they were few and far between, and also some of the pages were printed really crooked or off-center. Also around the images inserted into the book, for some reason the re-sizing boxes were left around said images. The book seems to be published on a small scale so it’s possible those things were just missed.
Not gonna have any real ‘cool quotes’ at the end here, but instead I’ll put some stuff I thought was cool that I didn’t know:
-The difference between a cemetery and a graveyard is that in nearly all cases, graveyards are attached to or owned by a church
-Iron is used for cemetery gates not so much for symbolic reasons, as for a longstanding superstition that iron repels spirits [and in some beliefs, fae], which is also why many of the iron gates/fences were spike-topped as to further discourage restless/wandering souls and to keep them contained within the fence
-There’s a type of tomb called a bale tomb, which are barrel tombs that include a squiggly-like design on top. It’s been argued where the design gets it’s name. There are thoughts/research that the ‘bale’ on top is supposed to look like a wrinkled woolen shroud that bodies were legally required to be buried in during 17th century England, which is actually where the saying ‘pulling the wool over someones eyes’ is thought to come from.
-While uncommon in a most American cemeteries/graveyards, statues of a saint named Saint Lucia/Lucy of Syracuse can be found. She’s easily identified due to her statues sometimes showing her eyes being wrapped with blood coming out from the bandage, showing her actual eyes having been gouged out, or stylized to not have irises/pupils or ‘blank’ in appearance – but she is always seen holding out a dish with her eyeballs upon it. She also sometimes depicted as having her eyes within her hands [Pan’s Labyrinth Pale Man style].
St. Lucia became a saint after having her eyes gouged out, and it was said that it was done so while she was praying and continued to pray even after her eyes were removed, unaffected and ever-pious, and secondary legend was that she gouged out her own eyes when a suitor expressed multiple times that he thought that her eyes were beautiful, in order to remain faithful to her marriage with god and for him to leave her alone.
As such, she became the Patron Saint of the Blind. [When I was looking up this saint, btw, apparently in a lot of paintings and statues more recently that are colored, her eyes are ‘given back’ as that she had gained new eyes with her sainthood, interesting]
I give Understanding Cemetery Symbols 4/5 LychGates