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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