Ocular Distortion – Cemetery Series

October 22, 2009 by  
Filed under culture, photography

Ocular Distortion - Cemetery Series

Ocular Distortion

About the Artist

Grace Victoria Swann is a witch, student, and freelance writer/editor living in the Minneapolis, MN area with her partner, Frater Barrabbas. From Cherokee and German/Lutheran ancestry, Grace began formal studies in witchcraft and high magick in 2005. She recently attained 3rd degree in British Traditional Wicca (Alexandrian) and is active in the Order of the Gnostic Star, or Egregora Sancta Stella Gnostica (E.S.S.G.). Grace writes a quarterly pagan travel column for The Crooked Path Journal. She may be reached via grace@gracevictoriaswann.com.

The Sentinel

Overlooking the James River in downtown Richmond, Virginia, the Hollywood Cemetery feels more like a garden than where the dead sleep. Rolling valleys and winding hillside trails snake through gravemarkers and monuments that date back to 1850. Over the years, Hollywood Cemetery has welcomed millions of visitors because of the people who spend eternity there. The property is the final resting place of: our nation’s 5th president James Monroe, whose corpse resides beneath a bird cage-like architectural structure; John Tyler, the 10th president of the U.S. with a larger than life oblisk; and, the Civil War President of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis. (Despite Richmond’s cosmopolitan flair, cemetery caretakers do have to remove rebel flags and momentos weekly from Davis’ gravemarker.)

This particular looming gravemarker photographed is positioned to the left of Jefferson Davis. It marks the burial place of his daughter and son-in-law. To me, the haunting and sad beauty of this particular marker and tree overshadows Davis monument by far.

The Sentinel by Grace Victoria Swann
©2009 Grace Victoria Swann. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Black Death

In 18th century American southern graves, the skull and crossbones was used to denote the graves of people who died from the Black Death (the plague) or from other mysterious causes. The markings ensured that grave robbers would leave the body alone — lest they unearth disease that would further spread to pandemic levels.

This grave denotes the final resting place of Mr. David Stoddard of Charlestown (now Charleston), South Carolina. He transitioned to the afterlife on Nov. 5, 1769, and is buried in The Circular Church Graveyard located at 150 Meeting Street in Charleston, SC. The graveyard was established in 1681, making it one of the oldest cemeteries in the southeastern U.S.

Black Death by Grace Victoria Swann
©2009 Grace Victoria Swann. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Headless and Moss Covered

The shade from ancient elm, oak and magnolia trees — combined with just the right amount of humidity — creates a breeding ground for moss, which covers many of the graves in the historic Elmwood Cemetery in Memphis, Tennessee. Established in 1852, the grounds are conveniently located just a few miles from the wafting scent of barbecue and blaring blues guitar music of Beale Street.

While this particular headless grave marker, seen below in full and detail shots, makes my skin crawl, there’s plenty of other eye candy to behold while strolling through the grounds. The mausoleums, an arboretum, and a butterfly garden showcase diversity and architectural majesty. Docent and audio tours are available. www.elmwoodcemetery.org and www.memphistravel.com.

Headless and Moss Covered by Grace Victoria Swann
©2009 Grace Victoria Swann. All rights reserved. Used with permission.
Headless and Moss Covered, detail by Grace Victoria Swann
©2009 Grace Victoria Swann. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

©2009 by Grace Victoria Swann
Text edited and images resized by Sheta Kaey.

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