My protagonist in The Graveyard Queen series is not only a cemetery restorer, but something of an expert in symbolism and folklore. So here are some things I’ve learned from Amelia Gray:
Bottle trees once found in Southern graveyards and still prevalent in rural Southern landscapes originated in Arabia over three thousand years ago with legends of bottle imps and magic lamps. In the Deep South, we use primarily cobalt bottles because blue is a natural ghost repellant. We even have a special color of paint for trimming doors, windows and porches called “haint blue.” Side benefit, it also keeps away the wasps and carpenter bees.
White sand sprinkled on graves will thwart dead relatives from rising to interfere in the lives of the living. Thorny yucca in and around graveyards will inhibit the movement of ghosts (and sometimes vandals). To be on the safe side, place a maze at the cemetery entrance to prevent spirits from returning to the living world because everyone knows that ghosts can only travel in straight lines. Also, placing a tombstone on the grave will keep the spirit weighted down. The bigger and heavier the stone, the better.
Avoid removing a corpse through the front door of a house. Instead, cut a hole in the side of the structure, then close it back up so that the spirit of the deceased can’t find its way back in. Remember to remove the deceased feet first to prevent the spirit from looking back and beckoning another member of the family to follow. Mirrors should also be covered so the soul doesn’t become trapped in the house.
The headstone of a witch should be set backward on the grave and the body must be buried face down to prevent further supernatural mischief. If this doesn’t work, then desperate times call for desperate measures. Dig up the witch and turn her clothes inside out, then rebury her face down. Good luck with that one.
So long as the funeral bill remains unpaid, the corpse cannot rest. (Believed to have originated from Morticians Association of America.)
And there you have it. More than you ever wanted to know about death superstition and cemetery folklore. But in case you do want more, check out The Restorer on sale now, followed by The Kingdom in April and The Prophet in May. And watch my book video on YouTube.
Bottle Tree Photo courtesy Zen Sutherland (http://www.flickr.com/people/zen/)