Day 9 of the 31 Days of Myths, Magic, Mayhem, and more…
I will be your host for the evening, and tonight, we will be diving in the topic of graveyards.
Now, I will start the conversation by saying that some of my fondest childhood memories are ones where my mother would take me to random graveyards. We would walk through the different rows, paying attention to who had been married to whom. Noting the dates and paying our respects to those whose lives were lost too early. We would connect dots and talk about wars, diseases, and any of the other hundred moments in history represented by the gravestones.
Graveyards are the best way to remember and honor history and those who have pass on.
I learned at an early age that there was beauty in death.
Ironically, I don’t want to be buried.
But in my years of research and travel, I have come across some beautiful graveyards, and some that have a strange uniqueness to them.
Okunoin Cemetery, Japan
Okunoin is the site of the mausoleum of Kobo Daishi, the founder of Shingon Buddhism and considered one of the most revered persons in the religious history of Japan. Kobo Daishi is believed to be in eternal meditation as he awaits Miroku Nyorai (Maihreya), the Buddha of the Future, and provides relief to those who ask for salvation. Okunoin is one of the most sacred places in Japan and a popular pilgrimage spot.
While there, take a moment to stop by Torodo Hall (Hall of Lamps) and be amazed by the more than 10,000 lanterns donated by worshipers and lit eternally. In the basement are 50,000 statues donated to commemorate the 1150 anniversary of Kobo Daishi’s eternal meditation.
Neptune Memorial Reef, Key Biscayne, Florida
Coloums guarded by carved lions welcome the dead to their final resting place. The kicker? It’s 40 feet underwater, with stone roads, soaring gates, and crumbling ruins. Originally named the Atlantis Memorial Reef, the lost city is part of an underwater cemetery that also acts as an artificial reef, sponsored by the Neptune Society, a cremation company. Located about 3 miles off the coast of Key Biscayne in Miami, the undersea cemetery was designed by Florida artist Kim Brandell and opened in 2007.
If your worried about being able to visit- don’t! There are plenty of companies that offer scuba-diving excursions and it’s a popular area for boaters.
The Merry Cemetery, Romania
In the town of Săpânţa, Romania, the Merry Cemetery houses over 800 wooden crosses that bear the life stories, dirty details, and final moments of the bodies they mark. Displayed in bright, cheery pictures and annotated with limericks are the stories of almost everyone who citizen who has died.
How did this come to be? Interestingly, it was one man. Stan Ioan Pătraş was born in Săpânţa in 1908; by the age of 14, he had already begun carving crosses for the local cemetery. By 1935, Pătraş had begun carving clever or ironic poems about the deceased in a rough local dialect, including a portrait and how the individual died.
Underneath this heavy crossEpitaph in the Merry Cemetary
Lies my mother-in-law poor
Had she lived three days more
I would be here and she would read / You that are passing by / Try not to wake her up
For if she comes back home
She’ll bite my head off / But I will act in the way
That she will not return
Stay here my dear
The Old Jewish Cemetery, Prague, The Czech Republic
The Old Jewish Cemetery is not the first Jewish cemetery in Prague – its predecessor was the ‘Jewish Garden’ located in the present New Town of Prague. This cemetery was closed by order of King Vladislaus II in 1478 because of complaints from Prague citizens. Later, it disappeared under the streets of New Town.
It is unclear when exactly the Old Jewish Cemetery was founded but the oldest gravestone is that of rabbi and poet Avigdor Kara and is dated to 1439.
Because Jewish custom doesn’t allow for the abandonment of old graves, and the community wasn’t allowed to purchase grounds to expand the cemetery, a considerable number of graves crammed into a relatively small space.
There are around 100,000 bodies buried there, many of which are marked under various gravestones, denoting that the bodies are stacked 12 deep in many places. As a result, the surface of the cemetery is raised several meters higher than the surrounding streets.
Arlington National Cemetary, U.S.
Arlington National Cemetery, the most famous cemetery in the U.S., is the final resting place for many of our nation’s greatest heroes, including more than 300,000 veterans of every American conflict, from the Revolutionary War to Iraq and Afghanistan.
It contains the remains of more than 300,000 veterans in 70 burial sections and 38,500 remains in the eight columbariums. Section 27 contains the remains of more than 3,800 former slaves who resided in the Freedman’s Village on the cemetery grounds. Freed slaves were allowed to farm on this land from 1863 to 1883, and those who died while residing in the village were buried there.
The most visited area is the Tomb of the Unknowns- a burial vault containing the remains of three unidentified service members, one each from World War I, World War II, and the Korean War. A white marble sarcophagus sits atop the vaults facing Washington and is inscribed with three Greek allegorical figures representing Peace, Victory, and Valor. The Unknown Soldier of World War I was interred on Armistice Day in 1921 after lying in state beneath the Capitol dome after his remains from France arrived. The Unknown Soldiers of World War II and the Korean War were buried on May 30, 1958, after lying in state and each receiving the Medal of Honor. The Unknown Soldier of the Vietnam War, interred and presented with the Medal of Honor in 1984, was subsequently identified as Air Force 1st Lieutenant Michael J. Blassie. In 1998, Lieutenant Blassie’s remains were disinterred from the Tomb of the Unknowns and reinterred near his family’s home in St. Louis. Since then, the Vietnam vault has remained vacant. The tomb is guarded continuously by the 3rd U.S. Infantry, the oldest active-duty infantry unit in the Army, also known as “The Old Guard.”
One of the biggest decisions that we have as mortals is to decide where we want to stay for eternity, and how we want to be remembered. It’s a big decision and I invite you to take a look at how other cultures are honoring their dead and make the right decision for you.
“Every life holds an epic tale, even if no one alive remembers it.”Greg Melville, Over My Dead Body: Unearthing the Hidden History of America’s Cemeteries
If tales of legend, myth and fantasy topped with a nice cup of coffee interest you, I suggest taking a look at my book The Writer and the Librarian. It’s a historical fantasy about a middle-aged woman faced with a decision: accept what is written in books or find out for herself the truth behind the stories. Now available on
And on any of your favorite Indie Book Store website!