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Author Topic: Grave Tending as a Ritual  (Read 4549 times)

OpenHands

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Grave Tending as a Ritual
« on: July 05, 2011, 11:38:28 am »
I was wondering if anyone has ever tended graves as a family tradition or has incorporated it into a form of ancestor veneration.  What sorts of things do you do at the gravesite?  How often and when do you go?

I grew up in a family that doesn't visit graves.  They believe that once the soul leaves the body, the place where the remains lay is just an empty spot so there's no point in going.  I've been feeling a strong inclination to visit and tend the graves of my recently deceased relatives though as a way to honor them.  Something inside keeps insisting that the bones of my ancestors are sacred and if possible, I should go and visit.  

I'd really appreciate any experiences folks are willing to share.  I've never visited cemeteries except at burials and touring historic ones.

Marilyn/Absentminded

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Re: Grave Tending as a Ritual
« Reply #1 on: July 05, 2011, 11:54:01 am »
Quote from: OpenHands;1329
I was wondering if anyone has ever tended graves as a family tradition or has incorporated it into a form of ancestor veneration.  What sorts of things do you do at the gravesite?  How often and when do you go?.


It's not exactly solemn or reverent (except when it is) but the local cemeteries have 'decoration' days two or three times a year.  People go and tend their relatives and friends, people meet over family graves, and the whole thing tends to develop a festival atmosphere.  

You hear stories from people you thought were strangers, you respectfully tune out those people speaking to the graves, and you approach or leave in peace those who are grieving, as they seem to prefer.  People plant flowers or place gifts, sometimes they do more or less depending on the cemetery rules about display.

It might be that this is only a small town custom - I can't imagine it at some of the huge cemeteries I've seen in larger urban areas.  All of the small towns and villages around here do it, though.  I think strangers might find seeing 'Cemetery Decoration Day July 10th (or whenever)' on a sign a bit odd, but I've grown up with it.

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Juni

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Re: Grave Tending as a Ritual
« Reply #2 on: July 05, 2011, 12:09:42 pm »
Quote from: OpenHands;1329
I was wondering if anyone has ever tended graves as a family tradition or has incorporated it into a form of ancestor veneration.

 
If I were in the same state as the relatives I would be honoring, I would definitely do so. Unfortunately, they are in Illinois and I am in Connecticut.
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Caroline

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Re: Grave Tending as a Ritual
« Reply #3 on: July 05, 2011, 12:17:44 pm »
Quote from: OpenHands;1329
I was wondering if anyone has ever tended graves as a family tradition or has incorporated it into a form of ancestor veneration.  What sorts of things do you do at the gravesite?  How often and when do you go?

 
Our family tradition is to visit on particular anniversaries (sometimes birthdays, sometimes death dates) and as frequently as necessary to tend to grave plants (more often in summer when watering/pruning etc is required more often). Sometimes a few words are said, usually more conversationally than anything else. Personally I also do libations and incense offerings.

OpenHands

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Re: Grave Tending as a Ritual
« Reply #4 on: July 05, 2011, 01:56:24 pm »
Quote from: Marilyn/Absentminded;1352
It's not exactly solemn or reverent (except when it is) but the local cemeteries have 'decoration' days two or three times a year.  People go and tend their relatives and friends, people meet over family graves, and the whole thing tends to develop a festival atmosphere.  

You hear stories from people you thought were strangers, you respectfully tune out those people speaking to the graves, and you approach or leave in peace those who are grieving, as they seem to prefer.  People plant flowers or place gifts, sometimes they do more or less depending on the cemetery rules about display.

It might be that this is only a small town custom - I can't imagine it at some of the huge cemeteries I've seen in larger urban areas.  All of the small towns and villages around here do it, though.  I think strangers might find seeing 'Cemetery Decoration Day July 10th (or whenever)' on a sign a bit odd, but I've grown up with it.

Absent

 
See, that sounds pretty neat.  My grandparents are buried back home in cemeteries where you need a map to find the "lane" they're located on- sort of like the parking lot at Disney World.  I've never heard of that done in my hometown, but I'd certainly attend.  :)  I currently live in a small town in western PA and have never heard of it here either, perhaps it's a regional thing?  (Or I'm just completely oblivious, that's a distinct possibility too.)

Dragonfly68

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Re: Grave Tending as a Ritual
« Reply #5 on: July 05, 2011, 01:57:45 pm »
Quote from: OpenHands;1329

I grew up in a family that doesn't visit graves.  They believe that once the soul leaves the body, the place where the remains lay is just an empty spot so there's no point in going.  I've been feeling a strong inclination to visit and tend the graves of my recently deceased relatives though as a way to honor them.  Something inside keeps insisting that the bones of my ancestors are sacred and if possible, I should go and visit.  

 
You know, this is how I feel, about the remains, but my daughter has been pushing to visit the graves of her grandfather and great-grandparents.  It's not so much that I don't want to do this for her, but I'm having a hard time understanding the reason or need too.  I'm really interested in what people are saying in this thread.  It might help me understand her point better.

Jujulinda

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Re: Grave Tending as a Ritual
« Reply #6 on: July 05, 2011, 02:24:10 pm »
Quote from: OpenHands;1329
I was wondering if anyone has ever tended graves as a family tradition or has incorporated it into a form of ancestor veneration.  What sorts of things do you do at the gravesite?  How often and when do you go?

I grew up in a family that doesn't visit graves.  They believe that once the soul leaves the body, the place where the remains lay is just an empty spot so there's no point in going.  I've been feeling a strong inclination to visit and tend the graves of my recently deceased relatives though as a way to honor them.  Something inside keeps insisting that the bones of my ancestors are sacred and if possible, I should go and visit.  

I'd really appreciate any experiences folks are willing to share.  I've never visited cemeteries except at burials and touring historic ones.


I do this for my grandmother. She was like my mom to me. I try and go on her birthday, the day she died and the solstice (she loved it even though she wasn't pagan. She grew up on a farm. So, lots of celebration), also whenever I feel like I should. I tend to take some fresh flowers, from a field. Or I write her something and dig a small hole and bury it. She loved music. If only I could do something with that. It's a very small rural cemetery in a very conservative town. I don't know if I'd be run out of the place and shot.

Stardancer

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Re: Grave Tending as a Ritual
« Reply #7 on: July 05, 2011, 02:40:19 pm »
Quote from: OpenHands;1329
I was wondering if anyone has ever tended graves as a family tradition or has incorporated it into a form of ancestor veneration.  What sorts of things do you do at the gravesite?  How often and when do you go?


I'd really appreciate any experiences folks are willing to share.  I've never visited cemeteries except at burials and touring historic ones.

 
It's common here to visit the grave around Christmas, decorating with wreaths and candles. It's part of the reason why my husband likes to visit his hometown every December (a 3h drive), even though we barely find time for it. Personally I get too sad when I go to family graves, so I prefer not to.
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veggiewolf

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Re: Grave Tending as a Ritual
« Reply #8 on: July 05, 2011, 03:05:05 pm »
Quote from: OpenHands;1329
I was wondering if anyone has ever tended graves as a family tradition or has incorporated it into a form of ancestor veneration.  What sorts of things do you do at the gravesite?  How often and when do you go?


I made a trip to the graves of my grandparents, maternal and paternal, in the autumn of 2010, for the purpose of connecting with them as part of my religious practice.  I ended up sitting at each site doing the following: speaking to them to remind them they are loved, offering water, and sitting silently.  I've not been back since then...but your post has inspired me to make another trip...and to go more often.

I wrote a blog post about it ...I'll have to see if I can find it.
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Harzgeist

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Re: Grave Tending as a Ritual
« Reply #9 on: July 05, 2011, 04:45:59 pm »
Quote from: Dragonfly68;1406
You know, this is how I feel, about the remains, but my daughter has been pushing to visit the graves of her grandfather and great-grandparents.  It's not so much that I don't want to do this for her, but I'm having a hard time understanding the reason or need too.  I'm really interested in what people are saying in this thread.  It might help me understand her point better.

 
When my dad died, my mom and I decided to have a proper grave (when you're cremated, there's the option of either having a proper grave or being buried beneath a nice meadow) because my brother, who's 7 now, might want have a reminder when he's older. My mom explained to him that a grave is like a postbox - if we put flowers there, we can be sure that dad gets them (i.e. sees they are for him). And it also helps my brother to understand that our dad isn't just gone. If that makes any sense.

Since I live half a country away, I only go visit the grave when I'm in my hometown. I usually bring flowers in the colours of our favourite football team, and if no-one's around, I quietly sing the songs we sang when we were riding in our car in the summer holidays. So basically it's like a family visit, only that I don't get a direct reply.
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SatSekhem

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Re: Grave Tending as a Ritual
« Reply #10 on: July 05, 2011, 05:43:31 pm »
Quote from: OpenHands;1329
I was wondering if anyone has ever tended graves as a family tradition or has incorporated it into a form of ancestor veneration.  What sorts of things do you do at the gravesite?  How often and when do you go?

 
I do this with my father's grave, although I wouldn't consider it a form of ancestor veneration. I think of it more as a "visit." When I go there, I sit down and just kind of relax. I will also tend to his head stone. Grass grows rampantly around it and almost always, you cannot read the birth and death dates engraves. (It's one of those flat headstones.) I go whenever the whim takes me.
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Asch

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Re: Grave Tending as a Ritual
« Reply #11 on: July 05, 2011, 05:55:07 pm »
Quote from: Stardancer;1438
Personally I get too sad when I go to family graves, so I prefer not to.


This is my problem too. My mom is buried in a cemetery literally a block away but I haven't been to visit it in probably two years because it totally wrecks me for days afterwards. She died very suddenly in '06 and yesterday was the fifth anniversary of her death. I tried to go but just...couldn't. Which bothers me, I really want to do something for her grave to honor her etc both as part of my faith and for the simple fact that she's my Mom.

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Nyktipolos

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Re: Grave Tending as a Ritual
« Reply #12 on: July 05, 2011, 06:05:43 pm »
Quote from: OpenHands;1329
I was wondering if anyone has ever tended graves as a family tradition or has incorporated it into a form of ancestor veneration.  What sorts of things do you do at the gravesite?  How often and when do you go?

Family tradition, for lack of a better word, is going to the gravesites of my mother's parents on Remembrance Day (my maternal grandfather served in the war, and grandma is a war bride), Father's Day, Mother's Day, their birthdays, and deathdays. Although I can only speak for my mother, and she goes to all of them. I have no idea if the rest of the family does as well.

Last year I also went out there for Samhuinn, and tried to visit the other graves of my family that I never knew that are buried there. Not of all my extended family lives where I live, however. Many of them live in B.C., or out of town.

I do view it as a form of ancestor veneration.
« Last Edit: July 05, 2011, 06:07:27 pm by Nyktipolos »
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Marilyn/Absentminded

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Re: Grave Tending as a Ritual
« Reply #13 on: July 05, 2011, 08:09:06 pm »
Quote from: Asch;1598
She died very suddenly in '06 and yesterday was the fifth anniversary of her death. I tried to go but just...couldn't.

My mother died in 08 on Midsummer Day.  We were more-or-less prepared for it, but it was still difficult.

There is no grave to visit, and there won't be until my dad dies too.  This was their compromise, since they had co-existed peacefully, a Christian and a Pagan, for over 50 years.  My mom was cremated, the closest she could have to a pyre, and her ashes saved.  When my father is buried he will be holding her urn.  They will remain together but distinct, the way they have always been.

Of course, it is after that that the argument will start again - my dad doesn't believe in reincarnation and my mom is convinced that they have been together for many lives.  They will probably bicker about it for half eternity.

I do plan to visit dad's grave when the time comes.  I will speak to both of them there.  She isn't likely to abandon him just because he expects to sleep and she, at least, is likely to respond.

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« Last Edit: July 05, 2011, 08:10:01 pm by Marilyn/Absentminded »
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OpenHands

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Re: Grave Tending as a Ritual
« Reply #14 on: July 05, 2011, 09:51:14 pm »
Quote from: Juni;1365
If I were in the same state as the relatives I would be honoring, I would definitely do so. Unfortunately, they are in Illinois and I am in Connecticut.


A lot of my ancestors are buried at an inconvenient or unmanagable distance too.  That's definitely an obstacle and a frustrating one at that.

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