If you spend much time in a cemetery, you’re bound to see them - those stones left on graves. I’ve noticed that they are usually left on Jewish graves. But as for the significance, I didn’t know – until now.
There are several explanations as to why visitors leave small stones or pebbles on someone’s grave. And it is not strictly a Jewish tradition. For thousands of years, people were buried in tombs or directly in the earth where they had fallen. Stones were then rolled in front of a tomb as a way of sealing it from scavengers and keeping evil spirits from escaping out into the world.
For those buried in the ground, rocks and stones were placed on top of the usually shallow grave to keep animals from digging up the body. These stacks of stones were known as cairns. Cairns can be found all over the world and vary in size from a few rocks to man-made hills.
Cairns were built not only as funeral monuments but also for ceremonies and defense. Today they are still constructed to mark trails, as seamarks, as sculpture, and as memorials.
Another reason rocks were left on the grave was based on an Eastern European folklore belief that the dead could haunt their burial place, or return to their family and cause trouble. Stones and rocks were used to prevent the deceased from rising up and escaping the body as a spirit, to torment others.
It is also a Jewish custom to place a stone or pebble on a headstone to indicate that you have visited the grave and to indicate respect for the deceased. Adding a stone was also seen as taking part in the Mitzvah of Matzevah or the ‘setting of stone.’
Today, leaving a stone of remembrance is viewed more as a way of continuing this tradition of commemoration. The more stones found at a grave, the more the deceased has been visited and remembered by others. An example would be the scene in Schindler’s List when the people that Oskar Schindler saved visit his grave and honor him by placing stones upon it.
Symbolically, the stones can indicate many things; that love and remembrance are as strong and as lasting as a rock. That as a stone lasts forever so to does love. Even a belief that the deceased is with God, since the Old Testament refers to God as a rock, as in Psalm 18:2 -- "The Lord is my rock…”
Regardless of how the custom came about, it is still an incredible way to remember and respect those who have passed on. Leaving a stone or pebble is a gesture of appreciation for the strong and lasting impression they have made on your life. Stones left by others show a long-term influence in their lives as well. What a wonderful way to leave a lasting tribute of love and honor at the grave site.
Interesting post, and lovely tradition.ReplyDelete
Thank you Gayle!Delete
I´am Marina Garcia from facebook group called "apoyamos" .
Thank you Marina!!Delete
What an interesting post! Thank you for sharing.ReplyDelete
Glad you enjoyed it Herding Cats! (Love the name ; )Delete
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I saw this at a Catholic cemetary on some graves and my siter-in-law said it was a Newfoundlander tradition too. I always thought it was stictly a Jewish tradition.ReplyDelete
I have also seen stones left at other cemeteries. I think in today's society, it's a way to show your love and remembrance for someone special, regardless of their religion.ReplyDelete
I was recently visited by family who told me about leaving stones on gravesites and I wanted to read about it. Thanks!ReplyDelete
Glad you stopped by!Delete
Very interesting. I have never seen it in Catholic Cemeteries in Southern Europe, but will sure pick up the tradition...ReplyDelete
I wish I didn't have to think about this. But now that my dad passed away at the early age, I am forced to think about it. He always wanted to go cry at the Wall In Jerusalem even though he was Catholic. He never got to do it.It would be a great way to honor him. Afterall most of our ancesters have been Jewish at some point.ReplyDelete
A beautiful way to remember loved onesReplyDelete
This was a really interesting post. I came out of curiosity because while walking in a graveyard recently I noticed them. Right or wrong I placed a stone on one myself. I thought since the lady for whom the headstone was made lived so long and lost so many children before her it would be a way to recognize her. I didn't know here. After I went to bed that night I started to worry that the rocks were a bad thing meant to keep her in and started to feel bad. Even if she was mean in life she had obviously had a rough life. Who could blame her .... if she was a sour puss. I felt like going back and removing my stone. I pictured ppl being stoned. I had to know what it meant! Thank you for the post. It eased my mind. I at least know I didn't insult an old Jewish woman after her death.ReplyDelete
Glad it was helpful, Jman! You did the right thing by placing a stone on her headstone as a way to recognize her. But I think it was very nice that you would have gone back and removed it if it were meant to keep her weighed down. Far from insulting her memory - you honored it. How nice!Delete
I found this post to be quite interesting. Last year in school, my son did a report on Benjamin Franklin. One piece of trivia he stumbled across was the tradition of visitors leaving a penny on Franklin's grave, ostensibly referring to his adage of "A penny saved is a penny earned." The cemetery regularly collects the money left and uses it to help maintain the site. A couple of years ago, a significant fundraiser was established to help fund repairs for the stone from the damage done by the coins over the years.ReplyDelete
Thanks for sharing, Donna. I did not know that. I do know many cemeteries have stones where money is left. There is the stone for Johnny Morehouse in Dayton Ohio. Johnny died from a fall in the canal in 1865. Today people bring toys, decorations and money to his grave. The cemetery collects it and purchases more toys for Johnny, who will never be forgotten.ReplyDelete
I had a dream that I saw crystals all over the tombstone.....certain places I saw beautiful stones crystals!!!ReplyDelete
Weird that it was a dream of cemeteryand one particular grave it had crystals.....help what'd sites it mean?
In the wonderful move Visages Villages, there is a Catholic cemetery scene where a small stone is placed on a friend’s headstone amidst a lot of other small stones.ReplyDelete
I have been lead to believe it is Jewish in origin. It is a mark of respect for the person, that they are loved and remembered. Don't know if I have that right.Delete
Thank you for your post. I too am a Tombstone Tourist having walked many cemeteries in the U.S. and Europe. Headstones tell fascinating stories. Many deserve to have a stone left to remember souls often forgotten.
Thanks for reading, Donn. I agree. Leaving a stone is always a beautiful way to "pay your respects."Delete
My Aunt showed me this tradition. I think it is a small but nice way to let others know you have visited the departed.ReplyDelete
I agree, Eric. It's always nice to see stones left on graves as remembrances showing that person was loved.Delete
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Put I’m asking is there a particular crystal that should be left with loved oneReplyDelete
I haven't heard of a specific one. I know that Rose quartz is for a deep abiding love, so maybe that wouldDelete
be a good choice.