Saturday, July 28, 2012

My Guide to Cemetery Etiquette

Today, readers, I discuss a topic very close to my heart: cemetery visits. I started visiting cemeteries with my grandmother and mother as soon as I could walk and, to me, they've always been a pleasant place for a visit. They're quiet, calm, and full of rich history. I'm not alone in my love of these places. Many Goths are partial to cemeteries (particularly cemetery picnics) and it's one of our great cliches. However, I'm saddened by the amount of disrespectful behavior I've seen from my fellow spooks in regards to cemetery visits. So, I've decided that I want to compile my short guide to proper cemetery behavior.

Source: Funstoo

Why am I asking you to alter your behavior on cemetery visits? Let's face it: not everyone shares our morbid interest in cemeteries. In general, most people come to cemeteries to mourn their loved ones. It is imperative that you be respectful of these people while you are in the cemetery. No, it doesn't matter what your ideas about death and mourning are. The last thing you want to do when someone is saddened by a passing is upset them further with insensitivity. So, without further ado, I present to you my brief guide of cemetery etiquette:
  1. Do not damage any of the headstones - This, really, should go without saying. Purposeful damage of a headstone is utterly rude and disrespectful. While it might seem insignificant, headstones can cost hundreds to thousands and thousands of dollars. Accidents happen, everyone knows this. If you somehow cause to any monuments of headstones, report it to the cemetery staff and be prepared to pay for damages. It's the right thing to do.
  2. Do not take anything from the cemetery - Flowers, mementos from gravestones, etc. are all off-limits. Even if you intend to remove the item and then replace it after snapping some photos, it's incredibly rude and you shouldn't do it. It should also go without saying that grave robbing is a disgusting practice. Please do not remove human remains from the graveyard, they do not belong to you. But none of my readers would do that, of course.
  3. Do not stand, sit, lie, have sex, or otherwise support yourself on the headstones - Headstones, as previously stated, as extremely expensive. Some of them might also be old and historic and easily breakable, so do not drape yourself over the headstones. Not only that, but that marker does not belong to you. I'm not one for complaining about people "disrespecting the dead," but if you are on the headstones you are disrespecting the family who the deceased has left behind. This is especially important if you are taking pictures. Also, watch your step when you are walking; you never know if a flat headstone is under your feet. The exception to this rule is bench monuments, but use your best judgement about if the stone will support you or if it is simply too old.
  4. Avoid contact with funeral goers or mourners - Ideally, you should quietly and inconspicuously move away from any mourners or funeral processions if you see them. However, if you have your little black heart set on where you are, keep your voices down and avoid staring at the procession. And, no, shouting "hey, can I have that hearse when you're done?" isn't cute. Be respectful of people in their time of weakness.
  5. Respect the fences and gates - If part of a grave site is closed off via a fence, please do not try to climb onto the fence or into the fenced-off area. It is fenced off for a reason and, really, you can probably get your photos from outside of it.
  6. Do not bury anything without permission - A cemetery, along with being a place for mourners, is a business. The cemetery plots have to be bought by those who want to use them (for themselves or their family.) Burying anything there without permission is akin to stealing real estate. If you must bury your deceased pets, go to your own yard or find a pet cemetery.
  7. Obey the wishes of cemetery staff and cemetery rules - The easiest way to find out about cemetery rules is to check the website for the cemetery (this may be the website of a church, if the cemetery is associated with it.) They should have hours for the cemetery, a list of banned practices (such as grave rubbings, attending the cemetery when there is a funeral planned, and taking pictures) and contacts should you have any other inquiries. Likewise, if a cemetery worker asks you to leave, you would be wise to do so or you run the risk of being called a trespasser and having the police called.
Source: Me
Picture taken in Mount Auburn Cemetery, MA

I hope that this guide was helpful to all of you who are unsure of the proper behavior during a visit to a cemetery. I also hope that I did not come across as talking down to you. Recent events on other websites about the glorification of grave robbing in particular have make it a necessity for me to outline what is an is not acceptable behavior for visiting the cemetery. So, readers, what do you think? Did I leave out any rules that you try to abide by? Or do you take issue with mine?y

31 comments:

  1. I've always been taught that it's only proper to bring some type of flower with you and place them on some of the graves. I usually look for the older ones, which may have been forgotten about.

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    1. I've never heard that before, but I think that's a wonderful idea! Very sweet and respectful.

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  2. I've always wanted to have a polite event with some friends at a cemetery, but it would have to be at a time where there were no one else in the cemetery. I wouldn't want to offend actual mourners by being stereotypical (even though stereotypical can be fun!).

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    1. I see your point on that one, though. Perhaps you could contact the cemetery to ask what times they are less busy so you can have a small, private gathering?

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  3. As someone who always makes a point of visiting cemeteries wherever she travels, these are all excellent rules to abide by, not only in cemeteries but all publicly shared places.

    I had no idea people are actually condoning grave-robbing these days. I thought that practice "died" back in the Victorian Era ... How extremely disrespectful.

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    1. I'm afraid it's still practiced by those who want to prove their bad-assery, and I find it absolutely vile. Hopefully the Goth community as a whole will condemn the practice within our ranks. Also, thank you. I'm glad you liked my rules. :)

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  4. We have a small 'pauper's grave' cemetary that isn't very old and still has people being buried there but you could never tell by looking at it. Most of the graves are sinking into the ground due to storms and the other's don't even have proper headstones, just little metal plates that get knocked over or blown away during storms.

    I don't know if anyone actually takes care of it or not so when I do stop by I try to clean up some of what I can by wiping off dirt from stones or brushing pine needles away or picking up trash left behind by men that the city occaisonally hires to throw out old bouqets or cut down rotted pine trees.

    I didn't realize people where graverobbing...what's the point to it?

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    1. I was unaware of it until recently when going through the "goth" tag on Tumblr...disgusting. I assume it's just to prove one's bad-assery or some such nonsense.

      I think that's very sweet of you to do a bit of cleaning like that without prompting. :)

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  5. GRAVEROBBING? IN THIS DAY AND AGE? THAT'S SO DISRESPECTFUL TO THE SLEEPING CHILDREN OF DEATH. THERE ARE SOME NICE IMAGES HERE. BEYOND THE CEMETERY GATES THERE ARE A LOT OF FATES. I'M ALREADY NOT OF THIS WORLD, AS I'VE NEVER REALLY FITTED INTO A NON-EXISTANT SOCIETY.

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  6. It's terrible that those rules have to be written out for certain people, to me they are natural and who the F*ck robs a grave? That's a disgusting and unbelievably rude thing to do, oh my!

    I have a question that you could maybe answer. We have a beautiful graveyard here whcih has great old graves. It is located in a forest which makes it even prettier so I always thought it would be a great place to walk through.

    I am not sure though if it would be disrespectful to take pictures there in general. I am not talking about the graves but rather the location. Old trees, benches etc.
    How do you feel about that?

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    1. I don't think taking pictures in the graveyard would be disrespectful, particularly if you were focusing more on the scenery than on the graves themselves. (It sounds like a lovely place to me, so I'd be tempted as well! Perhaps you could share those pictures if you do end up taking them?)

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  7. Thank-you :)

    I just feel so bad for the little cemetary. The oldest grave are only from the 1920's, the majority between 1960 and the 1990's but you would never know by just glancing at it. I honestly dont think anyone takes care of it, even though there are quite a few veterans graves ranging from WW2 to the Afgan/Iraqi war and a lot of their headstones are at least missing chunks on top. My theory is that it was originally an African-American graveyard (and mostly still is) and our county didnt desegregate until
    sometime in the mid to late 70's so I think old prejudices remain or its mainly forgotten next to the newer cemetary next to the funeral home
    across the highway. I just think the whole ordeal is rather sad.

    Disgusting. Real badass to destroy a piece of history and a family's peace of mind. I swear, majority of the population doesnt know how to think beyond their own self-satisfaction.

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  8. It's sad you had to make this. :/ These sorts of things should go without saying, especially since you'd think goths would understand the importance of being kind to cemeteries.

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  9. I think picknicks and taking photographs would be included to the list, at least for swedish graveyards. It's so disrespectful to vandalise the graves and not respect the silence in a graveyard, the remnants of our ancestors need this peace.

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    1. I think perhaps that is a cultural difference, as graveyards in the United States were intended to serve the same purpose as public parks (my grandmother tells me stories about going with her grandmother to the local graveyard for tea and such)until it fell out of fashion and was deemed "creepy."

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  10. You forgot to mention don't leave anything behind, like garbage and cigarette butts. I don't think taking pictures is disrespectful. If anything it honors them. In the way that someone took time to pick the spot for them, the headstone the grave would bear, taking pictures is a celebration of life.

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  11. Question , I am a board member of a Historic Preservation Society, we are planning our Towns Memorial Day Ceremony at a local Cemetery. Are there any rules, traditions concerning how you approach a grave to place a flag? We are thinking of handing out a flier to all attendees so that they can appreciate where they are and conduct themselves appropriately. Help?

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  13. I've honestly always been hesitant to visit graveyards. The idea that each of these people is someone who is missed turns me away. Imagine your loved one dying and you visit the graveyard and there's just goths posing for pictures in front of gravestones for aesthetic, having a fun picnic, etc. I totally see the appeal of graveyards because they are so morbid and fascinating, but for the sake of those hurting I stay away. Unless I am actually visiting a loved one, I don't go.

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  14. I GOT PICTURES OF A HONOR GUARD SITTING ON HEADSTONES AND STANDING ON GRAVES,,AND A MEMEMBER OF THE HONOR GUARD TOOK THE PICTURES AND POSTED THEM ON FACEBOOK,AND I SHARED HIS POST AND VOICE MY OPINION ON HOW DISRESPECTFUL IT WAS, AND THEY BANNED ME FROM VFW AND AMERICAN LEGION FOR SHARING THIS POST AND VOICING MY OPINION.. I SO WISH I COULD POST THE PICTURE ON HERE..

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  16. I find it wasteful that the plastic flower pots and metal wreath stands just get thrown in the trash. Is there any reason why the couldn't be re-used, instead of going into a landfill?

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