Category Archives: Symbolism

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

The term ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ was initiated when President Bill Clinton signed a law regarding the service of homosexuals in the military, which directed military personnel to ‘don’t ask, don’t tell, don’t pursue, don’t harass.’

Leonard P. Matlovich was an Air Force sergeant who served three tours of duty in Vietnam and was gravely wounded. He was awarded the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart and two Air Force Commendation medals for gallantry under fire and exemplary service. Yet, despite his service, he was discharged from the U.S. Air Force after confessing his sexuality to his commanding officer. His struggle to receive an honourable discharge, rather than the general discharge advocated by the Air Force, triggered a national movement regarding gay rights especially in the military.

Knowing that he had AIDS at a time when it was a death sentence, he designed his own headstone with the idea that it would stand as a memorial for all gay veterans.

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His design of a black reflective surface replicating the Vietnam War Memorial incorporated two triangles referencing the pink triangle which was a symbol sewn on the clothes of homosexuals in Nazi concentration camps. The left triangle pointing downward is a symbol of defeat. It is highlighted with the legend, ‘Never Again.’ The upward pointing triangle on the right is a symbol of victory with the phrase, ‘Never Forget.’ Although the dates of his birth and death are inscribed on the headstone, his name (Matlovich) is only inscribed at the foot of the memorial.

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As an activist for Gay Rights, his words are inscribed on his headstone: ‘When I Was In The Military They Gave Me A Medal For Killing Two Men And A Discharge For Loving One.’ Although eligible to be buried in Arlington National Cemetery he chose to be interred in the Congressional Cemetery in Washington DC. “I believe we must be the same activists in our deaths that we were in our lives,” Leonard Matlovich. A gay veteran’s memorial service is held at his grave every Veteran’s Day.

military gay

Members of American Veterans for Equal Rights have purchased adjoining plots with the intention of creating an LGBT veterans memorial.

This marker for Marine Corps veteran and activist Tom Swann is located near Matlovich’s grave. Swann won a lawsuit against the Navy for discrimination against him as a civilian employee after they learned he was gay. He also led the creation of a memorial for LGBT veterans in Desert Memorial Park near Palm Springs. Never Give Up Hope Or Give In To Discrimination.

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Michael William Hildebrand’s stone does not state that he is gay. However, the use of the pink triangle and the proximity to Matlovich’s grave suggests such. An inscription reads, “It Was Said Of Him That He Had The Gift To Give Love To Those Who Felt Unloved.”

hildebrand

macdonald sanders

Caged Graves

Known as Mortsafes in Britain, already documented in the post Body Snatchers, these parallel iron bars are known as caged graves in the USA. Legends abound for the reasoning behind the ‘cages’ such as wolves digging up the recently buried, or a restraint against the undead and vampires. However, it was most likely a deterrent to body snatchers hired to provide fresh corpses to anatomists in Medical school.

Mt. Zion Graveyard, referred to locally as the Hooded Graves Cemetery, in Franklin Township, Catawissa, Columbia County, PA, contains several caged graves.

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On 18 June 1852, Sarah Ann Boone died at age 22 years. A small marker carved with the initials S.A.B. identifies her grave which is protected by a cast iron cage with ogee roof and two winged eagles on the peaks (eagles symbolize salvation). A headstone reveals several details of the woman known as Sarah.

Sarah Ann
Consort Of
Ransloe Boone
Daughter Of Lloyd Frances Thomas
Entered Into Rest
June 18, 1852
Aged 22 Years 6 Mos 9 Days

Lo! Where This Silent Marble Weeps
A Friend, A Wife, A Mother Sleeps

The image of an open bible represents resurrection through scripture, and the drapery with frills and tassels denotes mourning.

Diannesalerni

Religious Crosses

Although the Crux Immissa (Latin cross) is commonly acknowledged as the type used to crucify Jesus, it is a source of debate between theologians and historians. There are many other forms of a cross.

A gemmata cross may have five stones representing the five wounds suffered by Jesus on the cross; or 13 gems representing Christ and the twelve Apostles.

gemmata

A ship portrayed with a mast like a cross represents a place of refuge and is acknowledged as the church. The Ark of Noah is a symbol of refuge and salvation.

noahs ark

The cross encompassed within a circle is often found on altar tables. It is also used in processions to represent eternity.

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The Ixthos cross is a combination of a Latin cross and a fish symbol. The Greek word for fish is an acronym for “Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior” and secretly identified others of the faith during dangerous times of persecution.

fish

This symbol represents Peter, the apostle, who was crucified head down because he did not feel worthy to die in the same position as Jesus.

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The Tau cross is one of the oldest forms of a cross and is believed to have been held by Moses in the wilderness.

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The dove on this Tau cross is symbolic of the Holy Spirit.

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This cross form is created with four Tau crosses, each arm also resembling a crutch.

tau cross

Although a forked cross was known in the Middle Ages as a thief’s cross, it also represents the Holy Trinity and is symbolic of arms lifted in prayer.

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The Ankh, originally the Egyptian symbol for life, is shaped like the letter T surmounted by an oval or circle. It symbolizes eternal life; peace; and truth.

ankh

Chi-Rho is an ancient Christian symbol representing the first two letters of the Greek word for Christ: χριστος – Chi (X) and Rho (P)

This Chi Rho cross also displays letters of the Greek alphabet: Alpha (the first) and Omega (the last) are symbols representing the beginning and the end of all life.

alpha gamma

St. Andrew’s cross was named after the disciple Andrew who was crucified on a cross of this shape. It came into use during the Middle Ages.

andrews

In the Greek language, the first letter of the word Jesus is I; and the first letter of Christ is X. When these symbols are combined this cross represents Jesus Christ.

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The Shepherd’s cross has a crooked apex and represents the Christian faith and Jesus’ role as the Good Shepherd.

 shepherds crook

The Maltese Cross has four arms of equal length ending in a “V” shape which creates eight points representing the Beatitudes.

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The letters IHC represent the first three Greek letters of the name Jesus when it is translated into Latin.

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Lambs

The use of the lamb pre-dates Christianity and appears to have been used first by the Egyptians.

lamb asleep

A lamb in its simplest form represents purity and innocence, and as such, is the most common animal symbol found on the gravestones of children.

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Most lambs are displayed in a crouching position.

GabrielleGaia 2
Gabrielle Gaia. Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/55643085@N02/23607442962

God needed one more angel child,
Amidst his shining band.

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Heartbreaking image of two children born two years apart who died in the same year.

Butterfly Flutterby

The butterfly is symbolic of the resurrection of Christ’s life, death and resurrection. The meaning is derived from the three stages of its life: the caterpillar, the chrysalis, and the butterfly.  It is often seen on the graves of children.

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What we keep in memory is ours unchanged forever.

rootsweb
Source: http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~kscemete/Unusual-stones/Butterfly-front-syracuse.jpg

Weep not for me I go to my Father where I will meet you all again. 1877

butterfly 

The call was short, the shock severe
To part with one we love so dear
Thy purpose Lord we cannot see
But all is well that’s done by Thee.   1914

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Source: https://hiveminer.com/Tags/butterfly,ohlsdorf/Interesting

My Marian gone, a mother cries
And soon the tomb will from me hide
My life, my love, my infant dear
To sleep in death and silence here.  1826

The Druids

In Forest Park Cemetery, Forest Park, Illinois, a monument to the Druids was erected in 1888. The monument stands in the centre of concentric circles created with logs. The circle was the symbol of the Supreme Being.

foresthome_cirle
Source: http://foresthomecemeteryoverview.weebly.com/druids.html

Other symbols associated with the order include the all-seeing eye within the triangle (a gateway between this world and the next symbolizing the all-knowing God).

foresthome_eye
Source: http://foresthomecemeteryoverview.weebly.com/druids.html

There is a shrouded figure of a Druid at the top of the monument with long beard and sad face so often associated with Merlin. He carries a sickle with a blade shaped like a crescent moon over his shoulder (a crescent moon is a symbol of immortality). His other hand rests on a harp, which bears the head of a young man.

foresthome_man
Source: http://foresthomecemeteryoverview.weebly.com/druids.html

The Druids is an ancient fraternal organisation founded in London, England in 1781 that still operates today. The fraternity (AOD Ancient Order of Druids) is not a religious organization. They do not discuss religion or politics in the Groves (equivalent of a Lodge). The mantra is to preserve and practise the principles of justice, benevolence and friendship as in the Seven Precepts of Merlin (the most well-known Druid in history).

  1. Labor diligently to acquire knowledge, for it is power.
  2. When in authority, decide reasonably, for thine authority may cease.
  3. Bear with fortitude the ills of life, remembering that no mortal sorrow is perpetual.
  4. Love virtue-for it bringeth peace.
  5. Abhor vice-for it bringeth evil upon all.
  6. Obey those in authority in all just things, that virtue may be exalted.
  7. Cultivate the social virtues, so shalt thou be beloved by all men.

The Druids revered the oak tree which is the derivation of their name. All their rites and ceremonies were performed only in the presence of an oak tree. Mistletoe, a potent and magical plant which grew on oak trees was believed by the Druids to have been placed there in a lightning strike by the hand of God.

The fraternity spread throughout the world, and the first Grove of Druids was instituted in the City of New York in 1830, and by 1883 Chicago, Illinois, was home to sixteen lodges, called Groves.

foresthome_monument
Source: http://foresthomecemeteryoverview.weebly.com/druids.html

Winston Churchill was inducted into the Albion Grove of the Ancient Order in August 1908.

redicecreations
Source: http://www.redicecreations.com/specialreports/2005/09sep/winstondruid.html

 

Lightning Strike

On 3rd June 1777, several neighbours congregated around a metal fence to see a horse which a preacher in Framingham was interested in purchasing. Peter Parker was riding the horse when a cloud appeared releasing several raindrops. John Cloyes left the metal fence, and as he took the reins a lightning bolt struck the horse and everyone present. John was struck and then crushed when the horse collapsed on top of him.

John Cloyes and Abraham Rice are buried side by side at the Church Hill Cemetery (Old Burying Ground) in Framingham, MA. The gravestone bears the image of a winged skull representing death and mortality. This symbol was popular during the 18th century and reflected the Puritan religious influence.

cloyes-and-rice-1777

In Memory Of Mr.
John Cloyes
Who Being Struck With Lightning
Died June The 3rd Anno Do
1777 In The 43 Year Of
His Age

O may you all both far and near
Who of this dispensation here
Now harken to the call of Heaven
And take the warning God has given
Surprising death to you soon may
Come in some unexpected way
I Pray that all make it their care
For sudden death now to prepare.

 

abraham-rice-headstone-1777

In Memory Of Cornt (Cornet is a commissioned officer of the British Calvary)
Abraham Rice
Who Departed This Life
In A Sudden & Awful
Manner & As We Trust Enterd
A Better June The 3rd Anno Do
1777 In The 81st Year Of
His Age

My trembling heart with grief overflows
While I record the death of those
Who died by thunder sent from Heaven
In seventeen hundred and seventy seven
Let’s all prepare for judgments day
As we may be called out of time
And in a sudden and awful way
Whilst in our youth and in our prime