Memento mori (Latin: ‘remember that you die’) is an artistic or symbolic reminder of the inevitability of death.
They say there are only two certainties in life – death and taxes.
But it is for us to make – and leave – our mark on the world in whatever we can, preferably in a positive and beneficial way.
In the Western world, we have now lost many of the rites of passage that our forebears took for granted – our former acceptance of the circle of life and death, has become one of unspoken fear and avoidance.
Where once we would have rituals, rites, and specific ways of mourning and expressing our grief in a natural way, we have become reticent to discuss death, or mourn our dead, in a way that allows us to traverse the perilous but necessary pathways of grieving.
The rituals of Freemasonry offer us a way of accepting our passage through life and the inevitability of death.
There are many symbols that allude to death, our mortality, and the importance of leaving a worthy and moral legacy.
And even in death, brethren can carry on the legacy of their Masonic life via their funerary monuments, gravestones, and epitaphs.
The gravestone below features at least five visible Masonic references/symbols but may be more that have worn away.
After posting the image on Facebook, we came up with a few ideas (thanks to David Cook and Wayne Owens for their help with interpretations):
Peter Johnson Youngs – masonic headstone
IMAGE Photo: © Philippa Lee
The symbols represent Orders he was a member of, namely; (L-R)
- Holy Royal Arch (two interlaced triangles, or Star of David)
- AASR or Rose Croix as it is often called in the UK (compasses extended on a quadrant enclosing a pelican in its piety)
- ? Royal and Select Masters (crown atop an inverted triangle)
- There is something to the right of this, which could be a sprig of acacia, but can’t be sure from the image – might allude to another Order?
- The lower two symbols (bottom left and right) seem to be ciphers.Below is the ‘pigpen’ or ‘Freemason’ cipher (see our article exploring this further on page 13).
The ‘L’ shaped carving denotes a ‘P’ but the dot/square situated at slightly different points adds another factor – so perhaps with lines and dots combined they are ‘IP’ and ‘IM’ respectively?
Please do let us know if that is not right!
So we suspect he was recording for posterity that he was a:
Royal Arch Mason,
Royal and Select Master,
and possibly one other Order if there is a symbol top right.
Thousands of people will have walked past Peter Johnson Youngs’ grave with little to no thought about it or him.
However, for those who have walked the path of Freemasonry and traversed the symbolic journeys themselves, this stone will make sense and be a reminder not only of his marked life and death, but of our own.
Art By Philippe de Champaigne – Web Gallery of Art, Public Domain.
IMAGE LINKED: wikimedia Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)
Memento Mori: What the Romans Can Tell Us About Old Age & Death
By: Peter Jones
In this revealing and entertaining guide to how the Romans confronted their own mortality, Peter Jones shows us that all the problems associated with old age and death that so transfix us today were already dealt with by our ancient ancestors 2,000 years ago.
Romans inhabited a world where people, knowing nothing about hygiene let alone disease, had no defenses against nature.
Death was everywhere. Half of all Roman children were dead by the age of five. Only 8% of the population made it over 60.
One bizarre result was that half the population consisted of teenagers. From the elites’ philosophical take on the brevity of life to the epitaphs left by butchers, bakers and buffoons, Memento Mori (“Remember you die”) shows how the Romans faced up to this world and attempted to take the sting out of death.
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