Tag Archives: Skulls

More Questions Than Answers

This gravestone is located in St. Nicholas Churchyard in Dalkeith, Midlothian, Scotland. The inscription has disappeared due to weather erosion which is also attacking the sculptured effigies. Although this stone hosts common mortality symbols of Memento Mori in the hourglass, arrows and the skull the remainder is difficult to interpret.

Dalkeith_St Nicholas_men

On a humourous note, the skull on the bottom left appears to be wearing sunglasses.

Is the floating image a mother looking down from Heaven on her children? Note how this figure seems to be casually resting on her hand. Is this actually a female or a male as period dress may indicate? What is the triangular shape the figure is holding in the left hand? Are the cherubs below children or representative of angels?

What are the cherubs holding onto? Is it the wings of a winged effigy or a shroud/drape which denotes mourning and often borders a dedication? Or is the entire scene related to a Fraternity?

What is the boat shaped item? A similar symbol is found in the Old Town Cemeteries in Stirling, Scotland.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/europealacarte/2245476877/in/dateposted/

Snakes and Skulls

Skulls are an acknowledged symbol of death and mortality. The skull represents our physical life now ended.

The image of a snake weaving through the eye socket is very popular with artists in particular tattoo artists. However, it’s meaning is not as dark as it may seem. The snake is symbolic of renewal perhaps because of its ability to shed its skin. When combined with a skull it indicates that there is rebirth and resurrection.

The Death’s-Head Skull, usually a depiction without the lower jawbone, was emblematic of bawds, rakes, sexual adventurers and prostitutes.

Day of the Dead 

In Aztec culture, a goddess who was also Queen of the Underworld was responsible for watching over the bones of the dead. Día de Muertos, derived from this belief, is a festival celebrated throughout Mexico and other Hispanic countries to celebrate family and to pray for their spiritual journey.

Source: http://dailytrojan.com/2009/10/27/dia-de-los-muertos/
Source: http://dailytrojan.com/2009/10/27/dia-de-los-muertos/

It is celebrated on October 31st in the belief that the veil separating the deceased and the living is removed to allow deceased children to visit the earth for 24 hours. It is known as Dia de Los Angelitos, “Day of the little Angels”.  Adult spirits join the festivities on November 1st and are welcomed with food and drink.

Altars to the dead are erected in homes and the cemeteries where their loved ones are buried.

Source: http://www.chido-fajny.com/2014/10/dia-de-muertos-mexican-tradition.html
Source: http://www.chido-fajny.com/2014/10/dia-de-muertos-mexican-tradition.html

Lighted by a multitude of candles as part of the vigil.

Source: http://www.banderasnews.com/0910/vl-dayofdeath.htm
Source: http://www.banderasnews.com/0910/vl-dayofdeath.htm

Orange marigolds (Flor de Muerto) believed to attract souls are used in in the decoration of these altars and cemeteries.

Source: http://www.jansochor.com/photo-blog.aspx?id=day-of-the-dead-dia-de-muertos-mexico
Source: http://www.jansochor.com/photo-blog.aspx?id=day-of-the-dead-dia-de-muertos-mexico

Preparation for the festival begins weeks in advance where sugar art, introduced to Mexico by the European missionaries, is widespread in the stores. Sugar decorations of skulls, coffins and skeletons are created in remembrance of departed love ones. The skull is decorated with symbols representative of the departed soul with the name written on the forehead. Always cheerful and colorful to capture the memory of the loved one, they are placed on the gravestone to welcome the soul.

Source: http://www.mexicansugarskull.com/support/dodhistory.html
Source: http://www.mexicansugarskull.com/support/dodhistory.html
Source: http://horrornovelreviews.com/2014/10/01/dia-de-los-muertos-day-of-the-dead/
Source: http://horrornovelreviews.com/2014/10/01/dia-de-los-muertos-day-of-the-dead/

Calaveros is a Spanish word meaning skull that has also become known as a satirical poem during the festival. Fake obituaries are written in poetic form to make fun of people and are often slightly insulting.

The time had finally come
Don Hugo was taken away
The skinny one named “Death” just had her way.

A piece of cake went down his throat
That made him sound just like a goat
There was no milk at hand you see
So blue and purple he came to be.

Don’t cry Hugo dear
For in our hearts we will still hear
The goatly sounds that you did make
And in your name, we’ll have some cake.

City newspapers publish these poems in a special section. Writers are also hired by the newspaper to mock famous people and politicians.

SKULLS

A frequent feature on gravestones, the skull is a symbol of death, mortality, penitence, and sin. It appears in several formats.

SKULL & CROSSED BONES
Symbolic of crucifixion, death, and mortality.
The fear which this ancient symbol of death inspires led pirates to adopt it as an emblem upon their black flags and chemists to use it to denote poison. The combination when it appears on tombstones means, “He  is dead.”

Greyfriars Cemetery, Edinburgh, Midlothian, Scotland
Greyfriars Cemetery, Edinburgh, Midlothian, Scotland

See yonder flower that scents the air
How sweet it blooms
How swift it fades!
Just such is man in youth how fair
How chang’d his form when death invades!
Yet fades the flower to bloom again
And we shall rise with Christ to reign.

St. Nicholas, Dalkeith, Midlothian, Scotland
St. Nicholas, Dalkeith, Midlothian, Scotland

As measured notes of set music we pass in fast or slow marches to the grave.

St. Nicholas, Dalkeith, Midlothian, Scotland
St. Nicholas, Dalkeith, Midlothian, Scotland

Gently this spot in solemn silence tread
Let none disturb the relics of these dead
Their souls have waft themselves to God on high
But here all round this stone their bodies lie.

Greyfriars Cemetery, Edinburgh, Midlothian, Scotland
Greyfriars Cemetery, Edinburgh, Midlothian, Scotland

In my Father’s house are many mansions.

It is interesting to note that this skull is accompanied with only one bone. Curious and puzzling.

Athelstaneford Parish Churchyard, East Lothian,  Scotland
Athelstaneford Parish Churchyard, East Lothian, Scotland

Lo!  Lost remembrance drops a pious tear
And holy friendship stands a mourner here.

This sculptured panel contains only the crossbones, and they are intersected with workman’s tools; a pick, a shovel, and a spade.

Greyfriars Cemetery, Edinburgh, Midlothian, Scotland
Greyfriars Cemetery, Edinburgh, Midlothian, Scotland

Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord
They rest from their labours and their works do follow them.

The skull represented here also displays crossed arrows and an hourglass, both of which symbolize mortality.

Lasswade Cemetery, Lasswade, Midlothian, Scotland
Lasswade Cemetery, Lasswade, Midlothian, Scotland

I am the Resurrection and the Life
He that believeth in me though he were dead yet shall he live.

The badly eroded stone displays a dove flying above a skull and represents the resurrection of the soul.

Campbellville
Campbellville Burying Ground, Campbellville, ON, Canada

SKULL, WINGED
A winged skull symbolizes the ascension into heaven, and the flight of the soul from mortal man.
Sometimes called death’s heads or winged death, it represents the fleeting nature of life and impending death. It was once a common motif on New England tombstones.

80% of the carvings on gravestones in Copps Hill Cemetery, Boston, bear the winged skull symbol.

Copps Hill, Boston, MA, USA
Copps Hill, Boston, MA, USA

Skull lyes

No flat ring marble rules the traveler here
The spot is sacred to affections dear
He was in life what artful men pretend
Companion, parent, neighbour, Christian, friend. 1802

Burial Hill, Plymouth, MA
Burial Hill, Plymouth, MA

Hail sweet repose not shall we rest
No more with sickness be distressed
Here from all sorrows find release
Our souls shall dwell in endless peace. 1789

King's Chapel Burying Ground, Boston, MA
King’s Chapel Burying Ground, Boston, MA

No longer was my  life
No longer was my breath
God called me home in early life
Because he thought it best. 1805

King's Chapel Burying Ground, Boston, MA
King’s Chapel Burying Ground, Boston, MA

Though far from home in distant land
My flesh returns to dust
In hopes to rise when Jesus calls
And dwell among the just. 1808

Old Burial Ground, Brewster, MA
Old Burial Ground, Brewster, MA

Life’s painful toils are over
Its pilgrimage is ended
And to a  purer happier shore
Her spirit hath ascended. 1808