Friday, August 26, 2011

Mausoleums, Crypts, and Tombs (Oh My!)

Mausoleums, crypt and tombs.   So what is the difference between the three? A mausoleum is an independent aboveground structure built to hold the remains of a person or persons. 

A crypt is a burial spot, built to hold a casket in a concrete or stone chamber.

And a tomb is a container which holds the deceased’s remains.
Each one offers us a different manner in which to bury and memorialize our dead.  Today we’ll take a look at all three options.

Mausoleum of Halicarnassus
Mausoleums came about when Queen Artemisia II of Caria, in Asia Minor, had a special structure built to house the remains of her husband and brother, King Mausolus, when he died in 353 B.C.  This is where the word derived.  The Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, near Bodrun, Turkey, is considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

Pyramid Type Mausoleum
Mausoleums were originally built to be impressive  and elaborate structures, housing the remains of the important - nobility and leaders. After the 10th century, Christians didn’t support the practice of burying the dead in such complicated structures, so mausoleums fell out of favor.  The Europeans constructed somewhat smaller mausoleums, with an interior chapel and area for visitors, making them more accessible to the gentry.  Mausoleums can be located on private grounds, in churchyards or in public cemeteries in Europe.  

Family Mausoleum
In the United States, family mausoleums became popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. New Orleans is known for their above ground burials and mausoleums.  Over 90% of all burials in that city are aboveground due to their location and the cemeteries are known as “Cities of the Dead.”

Inside a 6 Tier Mausoleum
Broken Mausoleum Window
Types of mausoleums include the vestibule, the sarcophagus, and those large, public mausoleums that are cemetery owned.  A vestibule mausoleum is a small structure, resembling a house or small ornate building with a door in the middle.  Upon entering, crypts may be stacked up to three high on each side.  Flowers and mementos may be placed inside the mausoleum.  A small window, usually crafted from stained glass, is usually located opposite the door on the back wall.

Interior View
A sarcophagus mausoleum is partially above ground but has no windows or doors.  The roof is lifted off and the casket is placed inside before it is sealed.  A sarcophagus can be a single width, double width, or have room for coffins to be stacked up to eight high. The main part of the sarcophagus is above ground, but only one burial is visible above ground.  The rest are in a large concrete structure below ground.

Public Mausoleum
A cemetery owned mausoleum may have an interior area available for visiting or it may consist of crypts stacked together with only outdoor access.  Seating, lighting and a place for flowers is usually provided.

Classical Style
Modern Style
Mausoleum architecture varies from the very ornate to the simple structure.  Many times you’ll find mausoleums built in the  Classical style, Gothic, Egyptian or Modern styles.

Taj Mahal
Lincoln's Tomb
Famous mausoleums include the Taj Mahal in India, the mausoleum for the Duchess of Kent in England, Lincoln’s Tomb in Springfield, Illinois, and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Washington, D.C.

Floor Crypt
Wall Crypts
A crypt is built to hold a casket in a concrete or stone chamber.  Many times it is placed beneath the floor, or in the wall, of a church, chapel or cathedral.  Crypts were originally located beneath churches as early as 600 A.D.  One of the most famous crypts is Old St. Peter's Basilica in Rome.    The concrete or stone chambers in a mausoleum, where the caskets are placed and sealed, are called wall crypts

Lawn Crypt
A lawn crypt, also known as an underground mausoleum, consists of pre-installed vaults that allow for single or double depth (stacked) burial in a cemetery lawn space.  A lawn crypt may be made up of several double depth vaults laid horizontally to allow for family members to be buried together.

Tomb of the Unknown
Tomb of James Whitcomb Riley
A tomb is basically a container for the deceased’s remains.  It can be any size of enclosed compartment….an urn, a burial vault, a crypt or a mausoleum, and as simple or elaborate as desired. In modern day it is usually a burial vault that is typically lined with stone or brick.  The ceiling is usually vaulted, hence the name.

Glowing Stain Glass Window
Now, with all of this in mind – Would you prefer to be interred in the ground, in a tomb or crypt? Or entombed above ground in a mausoleum?
Sunlit Mausoleum
My preference?  I’d choose entombment in a mausoleum.  There’s just something comforting about knowing I’d still be close to the elements, and the seasons, that holds an appeal for me.

What would your choice be?

~ Joy

Friday, August 19, 2011

Divining the Dead

18th Century Dowser

Regardless of what you call it, divining, witching, dowsing, or Rhabdomancy - there is now quite an interest in this ancient art.
Grave dowsing has caught the attention of genealogists around the world as a way to locate the unmarked graves of ancestors. It can also be utilized to help locate lost burial grounds, find pioneer cemeteries, and uncover the burial grounds of Native Americans.

Y Branch

Witching, divining or dowsing has been used for centuries to locate water, oil, caves, precious metals, artifacts and treasure.  Cave paintings depicting dowsing have been found in France, Spain and the Middle East.  

Pharaohs were buried with dowsing tools and etchings on how the tools were used have been found on the walls of their tombs. Dowsing is mentioned in the Old Testament.   The Greek poet Homer referred to dowsing as Rhabdomancy – meaning divining rod in Greek.  Dowsing with a pendulum was popular in ancient Greece. In the 1700 and 1800’s. Europeans used forked branches to locate water and ore deposits. The U.S. military used dowsers in the Viet Nam War to locate land mines and hidden tunnels.  The British military had dowsers on the Falkland Islands to help locate unexploded ordnances.

De Vinci
There were times in history when dowsers were considered to be witches, or evil.  The Catholic Church assisted in this rumor by declaring that the devil was involved, giving dowsers ‘special powers.’  Dowsing fell from favor and went underground during the 1500's and 1600’s.  Victorians revived an awareness of it with their interest in the mystical and spiritual.  Many well-known people were dowsers including Leonardo De Vinci, Robert Boyle, Otto Edler von Graeve and Albert Einstein.

There are mainly four types of dowsing items used.  There is the rod, usually from a peach, willow or witch hazel tree.  The L rod can be brass, copper, aluminum, even wire coat hanger, bent in the shape of an L.  The Bobber rod is a long, slender, tapered stick.  The Pendulum is not a rod but a weight with a chain or a string attached.

L Rods

The actual skill of dowsing is not hard to learn.   L rods are easy to use and to explain.  You can make your own from wire coat hangers. Simple cut off the hook and straighten out the wire.  Make a bend about 4 inches in on the wire to create an L shape.  The smaller part of the L will be the handle. Create another and you have two L rods.

L rods held out

Stand normally, hands at your side.  Raise your arms to bend naturally at your elbows, with your forearms parallel to the ground.  Hold each rod straight out.  The rods should be held lightly in your hands.  Do not place your thumbs over the bend in the rods.  Now begin walking slowly and calmly toward the area you wish to test.  When you step on a grave the rods should cross or swing apart. When you step off the grave, the rods should uncross or swing back to their former positions.  Before you attempt to go into uncharted territory to divine graves, get your feet wet.  Take your rods to a cemetery and practice the art of dowsing there.

Many dowsing books and articles mention that cemeteries in the U.S. are usually laid out with heads pointing west and feet pointing east.  Supposedly this will aid you in identifying the gender of the body.  I have been in countless cemeteries where this is not the case.  While it may have begun in that manner, through the centuries, especially in large cemeteries, the bodies have been buried with the lay of the land.  Regardless, working your way from north to south will help you create an organized search route and may be able to determine the width of the cemetery.

Counting steps to determine age
Once you get familiar with the rods, you may want to try to identify age and gender.  Age can be guessed at by the length of the body.  Count your steps lengthwise along the body.  A general rule of thumb is 1 or 2 steps for an infant, 3 or 4 steps for a child, 5, 6 or 7 steps for an adult. 

...indicates a female.

A swing to the left...

For gender, there are several methods.  An easy  one is to push one rod in the ground at the center of a grave.  Step back away from the grave and reapproach the grave with the remaining rod in one hand, out in front of you.  A swing to the left indicates a female; to the right is a male.  You can attempt to verify by approaching the grave from the other end and see if the verdict is the same.  (This is why practicing in a cemetery is useful – The stones will verify what you’ve found out.  Try different methods in order to discover what really works for you.)  Also remember, dowsing rods can also pick up on cremated bodies and animal remains

Dowsing Forms
So how does it work?  Better still, why does it work?  There are no true proven answers.  Theories abound that there may be a physical connection made between the dowser and the item sought.  It could possibly be an energy vibration that the dowser tunes into and the diving rods amplify, causing them to move.   Scientists say that the rods are not picking up on soil disturbances, metal in the ground, magnetic fields, or decay.  But as many have proven, believing in dowsing is not required for it to work.

Not everyone can dowse.  Just as we don’t know why it works, we also don’t understand why some people have the ability and some don’t.  As a water witcher, I felt compelled to try grave dousing.  I have always used peach or willow branches as Y dowsing rods, but discovered that the metal L rods work fine.  Cajoling my husband to assist me, we went to Richmond Cemetery in Richmond, Kentucky so I could see if I had, as my grandma would have said, ‘the touch.’  Grandma would be proud - I do.

Albert Einstein
Be skeptical, if you like.   After all, many consider this to be based on folklore, superstition, placing dowsers in the same category as charlatans and with doctors. Albert Einstein explained dowsing as a way of using the human senses to perceive something that is “unknown to us at this time.”     And since he had a good grasp on things being ‘relative,’ I can buy that!  ; D

To learn more about dowsing visit these web sites:

International Society of Dowsers
American Society of Dowsers
Appalachian Dowsers      
Canadian Society of Dowsers

~ Joy

Friday, August 12, 2011

Funeral Transports through History

Funeral Procession on Foot
Over the centuries, numerous systems have been used to transport the dead to their final resting places. In ancient times, a procession of mourners would bear the wrapped body to the burial grounds.   Transportation of the body has continued to changed throughout time to accommodate whatever modes of transportation we have available. 

Wooden Bier
With horses and the invention of the wheel, a bier would be used.  This flat wooden frame could be used to carry the shrouded corpse to the burial location and then used to display the body.  A bier is still used today, but is now made from aluminum and is on wheels.  Known as a ‘church truck,’ it is draped with cloth to create a more dignified display, but is still easy to move.

An English Lych Way
When the population began moving into and out of the countryside, a means of transporting a body to or from the city became necessary.  Corpse roads were created and provided a sensible means by which to relocate the body from a rural community to a parish cemetery or chapel.  In Britain, these roads were also known as bier roads, coffin roads or lych ways.

Cemetery Maze
Superstitions and legends abound about these roads regarding ghosts, spirits and wraiths tormenting travelers or following mourners home.  There are old cemeteries created around mazes.  This was done as a way to confuse the dead and keep them from returning as a spirit.  In the 19th century, the deceased was to be carried out of a house feet first to keep the spirit from looking back and beckoning others to follow.  Even today, some still consider it prudent for the funeral procession to return from the gravesite by a different route than the one taken with the deceased.

Trains were also a way to transport the deceased.  A funeral train is one that has been contracted to carry a coffin or coffins to the final location.
Necropolis Railway Train
In London, the first funeral train left the Necropolis Railway Station on November 7, 1854.  The train carried the dead and their mourners to Brookwood Cemetery.  Even the deceased’s final ride was based on their station in life.  If the deceased was traveling on a first class ticket, more attention was paid to their transport and more care taken with the body.  The train ran seven days a week from 1854 until 1900.  Trains were then scheduled on an “as needed basis.”  They continued to run until 1941 when the station was bombed during the Blitz.

Lincoln's Train
When President Abraham Lincoln was shot in Washington, D.C., in 1865, his body was carried back to Springfield, Illinois by train.  The train took almost 2 weeks to make the 1,654 mile journey, due to numerous stops to allow the public a final goodbye.  Lincoln’s train was the first time a president’s body had been borne across the country by rail.

19th Century Hearse
Hearses are what we think of when the subject of moving
a dead body comes up.  Hearses have always come in many shapes and styles.  Hearses drawn by horses were ornate, stately, and many times glass enclosed. 

1926 Buick Hearse
Photo by Nelson Brothers
When the automobile took over in the early 1900’s, hearses took on a variety of shapes that suited the vehicle’s body.

A Combo Car
Ecto 1 "Ghostbusters"
Photo by Chad Davis
Some hearses were known as combination cars – a combination of an ambulance and hearse, equipped to carry gurney or a coffin.  These were popular from the 1950’s through the 1970’s.  They were discontinued in 1980.  The Caddy used in the movie ‘Ghostbusters’ was a combo 1959 Miller Meteor coach.

Modern U.S. Hearse
In the U.S., a hearse is usually crafted from a luxury brand of auto like Cadillac or Lincoln.  The body is more of a landau style with heavy vinyl padding on the roof.  The windows are curtained.

Modern English Hearse
In England, Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar and Rolls-Royce luxury cars are used as hearses.  The limousine style is more popular, and the windows are left uncovered.

Japanese Hearse -
Photo by Jim Epler
In Japan, a hearse may be a small ornate Buddhist temple covering the rear of the vehicle.  Nissan and Toyota are two companies that build these types of hearses.

Motorcycle Sidecar Hearse
There are also the unique hearses and burial vehicles, such as a motorcycle with a side hearse.

Space Burial
A space burial in which the ashes of the deceased are enclosed in a capsule about the size of a lipstick tube, and launched into space using a rocket.

President Kennedy's
Riderless Horse Black Jack
Then there is symbolic transport, such as the rider-less horse, usually found following the hearse, or caisson, carrying the casket.  In the U.S. this is part of military honors given to an officer with the rank of Colonel or above.  U.S. Presidents and the Secretary of Defense are also honored in this manner.  Abraham Lincoln was the first U.S. President to receive such an honor. 

The Final Goodbye
You’ll notice a pair of black riding boots reversed in the stirrups.  This represents the fallen leader looking back upon his troops for a final time on that final trip to the grave.