Graveyard

Graveyard
Cedar Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

Sunday, June 17, 2012

A Leaf for Grief and a Belief in the Hereafter

Ferns, Odd Fellows Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

Indian Orchard Cemetery, Indian Orchard, PA


While flowers are probably more popular for adorning tombstones of the mid-19th and 20th centuries, there are several leaves which are frequently used to identify the deceased with a certain virtue or a wish for a glorious afterlife.

Acanthus

Acanthus plants are native to tropical and warm temperate regions, and have spiny leaves, similar to those of thistle or poppy.  A common name for the acanthus plant is “bear breeches,” though I cannot fathom the reason behind that, having never seen a bear in breeches.   Acanthus leaves have great architectural appeal, as they are the leaves that are found at the top of Greek Corinthian columns (The Stately Column Broken By Death).  According to Douglas Keister in Stories in Stone, acanthus are used as a funerary motif to symbolize the prickly journey of life to death, and then the ultimate triumph of succeeding to the afterlife.

Acanthus Leaves on the sides, Easton Trinity Episcopal Cemetery, Easton, PA

Evergreen Cemetery, Gettysburg, PA

Forks Cemetery, Stockertown, PA

Glen Dyberry Cemetery, Honesdale, PA

Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

St. John's Cemetery, Bangor, PA

Woodlands Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA
 
Fern

Ferns have shown up in the fossil records of 360 million years ago, though Wikipedia maintains that the ones we see today are members of families that appeared only a mere 145 million years ago.  Ferns can have such delicate and lacy fronds that dance in the slightest breeze in the dappled shade of the forest.  They symbolize humility and sincerity.

Hilltown Baptist Cemetery, Hilltown, PA

Hollisterville Cemetery, Hollisterville, PA

Laurel Cemetery, White Haven, PA

Morrisville Cemetery, Morrisville, PA

Odd Fellows Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

Belfast Union Cemetery, Belfast, PA

Bristol Cemetery, Bristol, PA

Deep Run Mennonite East, Bedminster, PA

Ferns or Palms?, Immanuel Leidy's Cemetery, Souderton, PA

Ferns or Palms?, Jerusalem Evan. Lutheran Cemetery, Sellersville, PA

Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

Montgomery Baptist Cemetery, Montgomeryville, PA

Montrose Cemetery, Montrose, PA

Newtown Cemetery, Newtown, PA

Northwood Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

Richlandtown Cemetery, Richlandtown, PA

Stroudsburg Cemetery, Stroudsburg, PA

Stroudsburg Cemetery, Stroudsburg, PA

Trumbauersville Cemetery, Trumbauersville, PA

Salford Mennonite Cemetery, Harleysville, PA

Ferns & Ivy, New Britain Baptist Cemetery, New Britain, PA
Ivy

Ivy is a tombstone symbol that I have seen by itself, but also paired with other symbols.  Ivy remains eternally green even in the winter, so it represents immortality and loyalty.  It also clings to a multitude of supports so it represents attachment, friendship and undying affection, being used frequently on the tombstones of wives, while their husbands many times sport oak leaves, a symbol of strength.  (oh, those quaint Victorians, with their idea of women being weak and clingy)  The three-pointed leaves are said to represent the Trinity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, and many times, ivy is seen covering a cross.


"The maid is not dead, but sleepeth," Abington Presbyterian Cemetery, Abington, PA

Arlington Cemetery, Upper Darby, PA

Cold Spring Presbyterian Cemetery, Cold Spring, NJ

Cold Spring Presbyterian Cemetery, Cold Spring, NJ

Easton Cemetery, Easton, PA

Easton Cemetery, Easton, PA

Forks Cemetery, Stockertown, PA

Forks Cemetery, Stockertown, PA

Freeland Cemetery, Freeland, PA

Freytown Cemetery, Freytown, PA

Glen Dyberry Cemetery, Honesdale, PA
 
Indian Creek Christ Reformed Cemetery, Indian Valley, PA

Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA


Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

Milford Cemetery, Milford, PA

Montrose Cemetery, Montrose, PA

Ivy & Palm, Stroudsburg Cemetery, Stroudsburg, PA

Tinicum UCC Cemetery, Tinicum, PA


Woodlands Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

Woodlands Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA
 

St. Joseph Cemetery, East Bangor, PA
 
Laurel

Laurel is a plant which, in funeral art, usually is depicted as bay laurel or Grecian laurel.  It is the source of bay leaves used in cooking, and was used by both Greeks and Romans to make wreaths to celebrate victories, especially in athletic games.  Since the bay leaf never wilts after it's been picked, it also symbolizes immortality and eternity.  The laurel leaf and berries fashioned into a wreath on a tombstone symbolizes the deceased’s victory over death.  The Bible treats the laurel as a symbol of prosperity, fame and the resurrection of Christ.

Belfast Union Cemetery, Belfast, PA
 
Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

Newton Cemetery, Newton Ransom, PA

Evergreen Cemetery, Gettysburg, PA

Evergreen Cemetery, Gettysburg, PA

Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

North Wales Baptist Cemetery, North Wales, PA

Doylestown Cemetery, Doylestown, PA
 
Dunmore Cemetery, Dunmore, PA

Dunmore Cemetery, Dunmore, PA

East Swamp Mennonite Cemetery, Quakertown, PA
 
St. Paul's UCC Cemetery, Swiftwater, PA
Palm

The palm leaf was used by Romans as a victory symbol, and the Christians adopted it symbolize a martyr’s triumph over death.  Today, I think most Christians would associate it with Jesus Christ, as pieces of palm fronds, sometimes knotted into crosses, are handed out in churches on Palm Sunday.  They represent the palm branches placed in Christ’s path as he triumphantly entered into Jerusalem as he knowingly went to his Passion and Resurrection.  Like the ivy, the palm in funerary art is often paired with the cross.   


Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

This is supposed to be on the ground, Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA


St. Joseph Cemetery, East Bangor, PA

Dalton Shoemaker Cemetery, Dalton, PA

Hays Cemetery, Easton, PA

St. Michael's Evan. Lutheran Cemetery, Sellersville, PA

East Bangor Cemetery, East Bangor, PA
 
Stroudsburg Cemetery, Stroudsburg, PA


Palm Tree, Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA    At first, I thought this was a strange weeping willow, but on closer inspection, I realized it was a palm tree.  According to Douglas Keister in Stories in Stone, in Christian mythology, St. Christopher carried Christ across the river, then thrust his own staff made out of a palm wood into the ground, where it grew into a palm tree and bore fruit.  I wonder if this palm tree is a reference to that?

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Fantastic blog! Thank you. I learned so much.
Dee Ann Smith

Anonymous said...

Thank you Tammy for such a wonderful story that goes to these symbols on these tombstones. It shows how the living accept the death of their loved one in a beautiful and loving way. Your friend, Pat Bonitz