Gothic Council Discusses Proper Graveyard Etiquette
The popular image that you may have of our people is that we hang out in graveyards dressed in black while hammered on absinthe and listening to :Wumpscut. Three of the four of those are fairly accurate, but it's the hanging out in graveyards thing that we're discussing today.
Gothtopia has always felt that cavorting around someone's eternal resting place was a little insensitive. It has just always felt wrong to us. Not all the time, we don't fault Asmodeus X for filming "Voices of the Fallen" at a local cemetery. On the other hand, Candy Apple Blue's "Graveyard" music video is an affront to all taste... mostly because it's bloody terrible.
So what is the proper behavior in a cemetery? To answer the questions we decided to gather the Gothic Council. Joining the Council this week is stylist Carol Daeumer, Punky Moms founder Sarah Fanning, his Excellency the Count of Montrose, hearse enthusiast and blogger Desiree Stark, contributor to Carpe Nocturne Magazine Alethea Carr, and spooky dessertier Lynda Rouner.
Carol Daeumer: It really depends on who is buried there. In the case of historic cemeteries (Paris, New Orleans) I think it is okay. Most of the dead are either historical figures, celebrities or are long-forgotten with no relatives to mourn them. These places generally have active tourism.
Now, should you go down to your local cemetery that still has active burials on a regular basis and fang-tard about? No. There are genuine mourners at these, and it is offensive to them. Hanging out with the dead might seem fun for you, but those who have recently lost a loved one, the last thing they need are some black-clad twits giggling and humping the headstones.
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Sarah Fanning: My husband and I recently had this very discussion. I took the family to an old cemetery (est. 1808) here in Alexandria, Va., for an afternoon outing. We always see it driving home from Whole Foods and the kids were curious about it. I am certainly not going to say no when my kids ask to check out a cemetery. So off we went.
Matty, my husband, was upset that we were being disrespectful. I disagreed. Many of the older graves there were neglected, which says to me the deceased no longer have family coming to pay their respects rendering them essentially forgotten. Our visiting the cemetery and reading their tombstones is a way of honoring the lives that these people had.
And when you reallying think about it. Every step you take is on the grave of someone or something that lived and died here through our time.
The Count of Montrose: Every quarter-century I like to disappear, and of course attend to the graves of my previous manifestations, showered with memorabilia of my minions' affection. Often I spend my evenings with the dead, and hold court in forgotten cemeteries. If thou would be studious enough to find these stones to my memoriam, search the base of the headstone's northernmost sign for my illustrious devil's mark.
Desiree Stark: As long as there is no intent to be disrespectful, or annoyingly "edgy," I actually think it's a problem not to spend time in cemeteries. Death is a part of life, and as a society we seem to do everything we can to avoid sincere acknowledgment of our aging and finite lifespan in personal or intimate terms.
As long as nothing is being openly desecrated, who is to tell me whose mourning rituals, for the self or others, are more appropriate than someone else's? Maybe if death was less of a taboo, somber subject, it wouldn't be such a big deal whether someone in the cemetery dressed like a Hot Topic exploded on them.
Alethea Carr: Growing up, we made frequent visits to cemeteries. While my adult relatives tended gravesites and freshened flowers, reflected, or prayed, I would treat them like a park or playground - as long as I was careful not to step on any actual burials and played quietly, it was considered respectful. My mother even taught me to drive a car in one cemetery. Not only did it have zero traffic and twisty, turny roads, she said I couldn't hurt anyone there if I crashed!
The dead were nearly as alive to us as the living because of these visits and because of stories passed down about the particular people we visited there. So when I was in high school, my best friend and I were tooling around the back roads, and we discovered a forgotten, abandoned graveyard with no more than half a dozen headstones.
It was almost completely hidden by overgrown prairie grass, and when we entered the rusted gate, we found a grave: Mary, dead at 14, nearly 100 years gone by. Her family had embedded her headstone with marbles - her playthings - and their grief was still palpable because of this one personal detail. And here Mary was forgotten after all. It was so sad.
In my teenage idealism, I vowed I at least would remember her forever. So when I visit cemeteries now - and I do, very often - I carry some of that hope of honour, remembrance, or connection. I like to think that, in a poetic sense, at least, the dead appreciate visitors. Who would want to be exiled, after all?
I confess, though, to make it seem less creepy, I clean up litter and debris while I'm there! Good excuse when other people - or the caretaker - discover me there.
Lynda Rouner: Maybe it's because I lost someone so dear to me, or maybe it's because I'm a strong receiver, but I feel that people should be respectful around the dead. It's not a place to posture. People are grieving. People have lost loved ones. If I came to visit a grave of someone I knew who died, and found a bunch of capetards having a picnic I'd be pissed.
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