Tolling of the Bell

 If you go looking for a bell in the cemetery the easiest discovery will be a gravestone engraved with the surname Bell. However, if you are looking for the symbol of a bell unrelated to the surname it will be a long search. A bell is one of the rarest symbols found on headstones and quite simply represents mourning.

Thomas Toberts  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Dead Bell in the Middle Ages was believed to frighten away evil spirits.

wikipedia
Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dead_bell

When someone died the bell ringer passed through the streets of villages, towns or cities ringing the bell slowly and repeatedly while announcing the name of the recently deceased person and details of the funeral. The solemn ringing of the bell led mourners from the home of the deceased to the church where the funeral was held.

In 16th century Britain land for burial was sparse. Coffins were dug up and bones taken to the bone-house so that the grave could be reused. Upon opening the coffins, it was noticed that several had scratch marks on the inside. The realization that people were being buried whilst still alive led to the practice of tying a string on the wrist of the corpse which was attached to a bell above ground while a sentry sat in the cemetery overnight.

A little grave humour:
Harold, the Oakdale gravedigger, upon hearing a bell, went to go see if it was children pretending to be spirits. Sometimes it was also the wind. This time it wasn’t either. A voice from below begged, pleaded to be unburied.
“You Sarah O’Bannon?”
Yes! the voice assured.
“You were born on September 17, 1827?”
“Yes!”
“The gravestone here says you died on February 19?”
“No I’m alive, it was a mistake! Dig me up, set me free!”
“Sorry about this, ma’am,” Harold said, stepping on the bell to silence it and plugging up the copper tube with dirt. “But this is August. Whatever you is down there, you ain’t alive no more, and you ain’t comin’ up.”

The Bell of Hope was a gift from London’s St. Mary-le-Bow, which is the sister church to St. Paul’s Chapel in Manhattan. Installed in the churchyard of St. Paul’s Chapel in September 2002, the Bell of Hope is rung at a ceremony every year on September 11th. It has also been rung after the bombings in Madrid, 2004; London, 2005; Mumbai, 2008; Moscow, 2010; and the Boston Marathon, 2013; and for the shootings at Virginia Tech, 2007 and in Norway, 2011.

1stpauls_hopebell
Source: https://walkaboutny.com/2016/09/11/the-bell-of-hope-at-st-pauls-chapel/

The bell is inscribed:
“To the Greater Glory of God
And in Recognition of
The Enduring Links Between
The City of London
And
The City of New York”
“Forged in adversity—11.September.2001”

The La Cambe German Cemetery in Normandy, France where there are 21,222 burials with 207 belonging to unknown soldiers. A peace garden with 1,200 maple-trees is adjacent to the cemetery.

dday center
La Cambe German War Cemetery, Normandy, France. Source: http://www.dday.center/cemetery_de_lacambe.html

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in

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Trees

A common symbol on gravestones trees have different interpretations on what they represent.

  • The tree is a symbol of life; regeneration, regrowth and renewal
  • It reflects human fruition or frailty
  • Like a tree, man reaches towards Heaven
  • The tree can also represent man’s sin with reference to the Garden of Eden
  • Trees also represent knowledge, life, and time.

If a tree is felled it reflects death and mortality .

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A tree trunk denotes the brevity of life, and the number of broken branches can indicate deceased family members buried at the site.

A severed or broken branch symbolizes a life cut short.

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Each species of tree has a symbolic meaning:

  • CEDAR TREE   Consecration; Length of days; Strong faith; Success
  • CYPRESS   Death; Eternal life; Hope; Mourning; Sorrow; Roman symbol for mourning
  • DOGWOOD   Christianity; Divine sacrifice; Resurrection; Triumph of eternal life
  • EVERGREENS   Immortality
  • HAWTHORN   Hope; Merriness; Spring
  • HOLLY    Foresight
  • MULBERRY    I will not survive you
  • OLIVE TREE   Healing faith; Peace
  • OLIVE BRANCH   Forgiveness; Humanity; Peace
  • PINE    Fertility; Fidelity; Regeneration,
  • YEW   Eternal life; Immortality; Sadness
  • WILLOW   Human life

A sprouting tree represents a new beginning in the afterlife.

Sometimes the gravestone may be replaced with a ‘tree stone’ in the shape of a tree stump or log sculptured to resemble wood. This symbol is mostly used by the Woodmen of the World Fraternity.

Campbellville B Ground

When the trunk is leaning it represents mourning. Sometimes a tree stump will be shown with an ivy plant. It often relates to a premature death but can also represent immortality.

God’s Creatures

The symbol of a fish represents faith, life and plentifulness. It is a recognized symbol of Christianity often referred to as a Jesus Fish.

Horses symbolize courage, death, and strangely, generosity. More specifically a white horse represents good and a black horse represents evil. Horseshoes were believed to be a protection against evil, and in present day are considered lucky.

The meek trait of a rabbit is recognized in the symbolism of gentleness, humility, and self-sacrifice.

rabbit

A squirrel represents religious meditation and spiritual striving.

Squirrel_MIlton Evergreen

In the world of Memento Mori, the crocodile was a symbol of evil. They were hung from the ceilings of cabinets as a reminder of the mortality of humanity.

Crocodile