Thursday, October 20, 2011

How About a Little Respect for the Dead?

Hanging out in cemeteries is a very popular pastime among those in the goth community, often because us folks have darker aesthetics than most people and hold an appreciation for beauty in unlikely places. Goths are very likely to be seen in graveyards, either taking a leisurely stroll or sitting down somewhere enjoying the quiet atmosphere. They are perhaps the least likely of people to get in trouble for vandalizing such places, often because of the respect and admiration for the architecture, landscaping, and lives of those who are buried there. However, this said, sometimes people visiting burial grounds for our dead can be pretty disrespectful, and goths are no exception. It is one reason why photography "on or near graves" is now being prohibited in Whitby's famous graveyard, known for being the stomping ground for many a goth during "Whitby Gothic Weekend." A quick search on and other image hosting sites can provide a good look into why; Women in corsets laying on table stones and men with platform boots and neon dreads climbing cross-shaped headstones don't seem all that respectful... especially to the families of those buried there!

How then, might you ask, can you enjoy a graveyard while making positively sure you are respectful of the dead and their families?

1. Do NOT sit or lay on table stones or climb on top of graves!

As if this needs to be said! Taking photos with neat headstones is fun and can be very artistic... if one does it right. But while laying on a table stone may look artistic and lovely, it's disrespectful to the person buried there and the family probably wouldn't be happy about it either. Also, what happens if you knock over or break the grave? Wouldn't you feel really bad about that and the family that now has to pay to fix it? Therefore, if you decide to take a photo with a headstone, a tomb, or other monument to the deceased, sit or stand next to it, rather than all over and on top of it. Some very creative photographs of a statue or headstone can also be taken without a person in the photo.

2. If you decide to picnic, choose a place that isn't on top of a burial site!
Would you want someone non-consensually laying a blanket over you, sitting on you, and then enjoying a meal? Most people wouldn't. Give the dead a little space, huh? Most cemeteries have designated places to sit, like benches, or even places to picnic if the cemetery is big enough and set up like a park.

3. Clean up after yourself.
This should go without saying, but if you are enjoying an afternoon in a graveyard, be sure to throw away your garbage in a proper container and bring everything back with you that you came in with (unless, of course, you brought flowers or other tokens of affection to be left on graves).

4. Help the maintainer.
Sometimes when I'm in a cemetery, I come across a grave that's fallen down or someone placed a knickknack or a vase on a grave that got upturned. If this happens, try to fix it and make it look nice. Not only will the grave look better maintained, you'll probably feel like you've done something really nice for somebody you don't even know.

5. Bring something along to place on a grave.
This isn't necessary, but sometimes one flower left on an otherwise undecorated grave can mean something extra special to the person who left it or to a family member who has decided to visit on a whim. Plus, who doesn't like random gifts?

6. Grave Rubbings
Some cemeteries do not allow rubbings to be taken from graves, but it is an easy and effective way to remember your visit and take with you a keepsake of a tombstone that you found special or pretty. Grave rubbings are done with a large piece of paper (not too thick!) and a crayon (remove the wrapper first). Apply the paper over the grave, and then rub the side of the crayon against the paper. Don't press too hard! With much practice, you'll end up with a very pretty (and colorful) representation of the gravestone on your paper!

These are just a few tips of how to enjoy a cemetery while still giving the proper amount of respect to it. On your next lovely day, go take a ride out to your local burial ground and take a book to read with you if you're so inclined! I guarantee it will be one of the most relaxing and quiet times to yourself you've ever had.

Love and Headstones,