I am a Tombstone Tourist: someone who loves to wander cemeteries. I find it akin to visiting a museum: an opportunity to enjoy rarely seen sculpture, intricate carvings, and amazing architecture, all in a tranquil outdoor setting. This blog is about cemetery culture, art, history, issues of death, and genealogy - subjects of current relevance. I usually find something that intrigues me and makes me want to dig deeper. Care to join me? Read on...
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.’
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.
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
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.