Friday, November 27, 2009

"Did You Know?" Interesting Facts About Cemeteries.

 Do you know the difference between a coffin, a casket and a sarcophagus? 
 It's the shape!
 A coffin is wider at the shoulders, narrower at the head and feet.  A coffin is rectangular and a sarcophagus is more molded into the shape of  the human body and often had a portrait of the deceased painted on the lid.   Based on a standard grave size of 3' x 8', one acre of land will provide enough  space for 1,815 graves.   The typical iconography for Faith (cross), Hope (anchor), and Charity (mother  and child) are among the most commonly used Victorian funerary symbols.  Even groupings of three, such as three steps into a chapel or mausoleum,  or tiers on a monument, may signify this most favored symbolism of heavenly  apiration. The upward pointing obelisk (another popular monument style) will  often have a three layer base.  

  The custom of shutting the eyes of the deceased is believed to have begun  this way, done in an attempt to close a 'window' from the living world to the  spirit world. Covering the face of the deceased with a sheet comes from  pagan beliefs that the spirit of the deceased escaped through the mouth.    In some cultures, the home of the deceased was burned or destroyed to  keep his spirit from returning; in others the doors were unlocked and windows  were opened to ensure that the soul was able to escape.  In 19th century Europe and America the dead were carried out of the house  feet first, in order to prevent the spirit from looking back into the house and  beckoning another member of the family to follow him. Mirrors were also  covered, usually with black crepe, so the soul would not get trapped and not  be able to pass to the other side. Family photographs were also sometimes  turned face-down to prevent any of the close relatives and friends of the  deceased from being possessed by the spirit of the dead.   Some cultures took their fear of ghosts to an extreme. The Saxons of early  England cut off the feet of their dead so the corpse would be unable to walk.  Some aborigine tribes took the even more extreme step of cutting off the  head of the dead, thinking this would leave the spirit too busy searching for  his head to worry about the living.    

The use of tombstones may go back to the belief that ghosts could be  weighed down. Mazes found at the entrance to many ancient tombs are  thought to have been constructed to keep the deceased from returning to  the world as a spirit, since it was believed that ghosts could only travel in  a straight line. Some people even considered it necessary for the funeral  procession to return from the graveside by a different path from the one  taken in with the deceased, so that the departed's ghost wouldn't be able  to follow them home.    Some of the rituals which we now practice as a sign of respect to the  deceased, may also be rooted in a fear of spirits. Beating on the grave,  the firing of guns, funeral bells, and wailing chants were all used by some  cultures to scare away other ghosts at the cemetery.   In many cemeteries, the vast majority of graves are oriented in such a  manner that the bodies lie with their heads to the West and their feet to  the East. This very old custom appears to originate with the Pagan sun  worshippers, but is primarily attributed to Christians who believe  that the final summons to Judgment will come from the East.

  Did you know...  In 1785, the city of Paris removed bones from cemeteries to ease the  overflow of dead people. They took these bones and stacked them in  tunnels now known as the Catacombs. You can visit these tunnel  attractions and work your way along long corridors, which are stacked  with skulls and bones.  
 What's the difference between a cemetery and a graveyard?

  Answer:  A  graveyard  is  always  adjacent  to  and  part  of  a  church.

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