A Collection of Obelisks

I am in the midst of working on a blog post about my adventures searching for the grave of Tom Thomson in Algonquin Park. I’m hoping to have it up in the next week or two. In the meantime, I thought I would take a look at some Egyptian revival architecture that can sometimes be found in cemeteries, more specifically—obelisks.

Obelisks are Egyptian in origin, but became a popular Christian funerary symbol. They are now a common sight in most cemeteries. I have found quite a few in my cemetery travels and wanted to share some of them with you today. 

In Understanding Cemetery Symbols, Tui Snider notes that obelisks became popular symbols after Napoleon invaded Egypt in the late 1700s. An obelisk is thought to represent a ray of light, but it can also symbolize focused spiritual goals, with the wide base narrowing to a point, symbolizing the deceased reuniting with God at death, and the two becoming one. 

Different variations of obelisks can be found throughout a cemetery. For example, Truncated obelisks do not come to a sharp point at the top, but are flat or topped with another symbol like a cross, urn or an orb. 

Obelisks can sometimes be found at the center of a family plot, representing the family’s connection to God. They are particularly well suited for this, as there is generally a lot of room on all four sides of the stone to inscribe the names of family members. 

You might also find vaulted obelisks. These stones have points on all four sides at the top instead of coming to one point.


References:

  1. Understanding Cemetery Symbols: A Field Guide for Historic Graveyards by Tui Snider
  2. Stories in Stone: The Complete Guide to Cemetery Symbolism by Douglas Keister

Visiting cemeteries on Manitoulin Island

The beautiful summer weather has finally arrived in my area and I am very excited to be able to go on some cemetery adventures once again. I have many road trips planned out for the upcoming weekends and my summer vacation. I’ve mapped out lots of fun sightseeing spots and new cemeteries to visit, that are surprisingly close to home. It should make for some fun road trip stories. So while I continue to plan for those, I thought it might be fun to share a road trip adventure from last year.

Last October, in 2021, I took advantage of some time off and took a little road trip to Manitoulin Island. Manitoulin Island, or the island as some locals call it, is a large island in Lake Huron. It’s also home to Canada’s first European settlement, the town of Manitowaning, and the historic Anishinaabe settlement.1 It’s a beautiful place to explore the outdoors and of course, cemeteries.

My mother came with me on this trip and got to experience what a real cemetery road trip is like. We visited 9 cemeteries that day. Not all of them were located on the island though. We left fairly early in the morning, and after stopping for our Tim Horton’s coffee, we were on our way. We stopped at 5 cemeteries on our way to and from the island, while visiting 4 cemeteries directly on the Island. 

We weren’t very lucky with the weather on our trip as it was quite rainy for the majority of the day, but it did make for some nice photos. Of the 9 cemeteries that we’re on my itinerary, we only ended up stopping at 7 of them, due to some bouts of heavy rain. But, it worked out as we happened to find 2 more cemeteries that were not on my list when the sun did decide to show itself. One of those cemeteries was in Cold Springs and turned out to be a very nice find. It’s technically a graveyard because sitting in the middle of it is a century-old log Presbyterian Church, that is dated A.D. 1887. The building was locked, but we could look inside the little one-room church through some windows.  

We stopped for lunch at Main St. Express in Kagawong. They have a great little drive-thru set-up. We brought our lunches to the waterfront, just across from the Old Mill Heritage Centre. We took advantage of some nice covered picnic tables. It was quiet on the waterfront, as the tourist season was at its end. 1 or 2 couples were walking around, enjoying the sights. If we had gone during peak summer hours, the waterfront would have been bustling. I think we went a good time, even though it was rainy. There was another advantage to having our lunch on the waterfront—it was also next to Kagawong Cedars Cemetery. After our lunch, we took some time to visit that cemetery and take some photos. 

Kagawong is also home to the Kagawong River Trail. It’s a beautiful trail, running beside the river’s edge the whole time. There are some lovely sculptures scattered throughout the trail as well. These sculptures and heritage plaques were installed as part of the Billings Canada 150 project.2 The crown jewel of this trail is Bridal Veil falls! In nicer weather, you can walk behind the falls, and even take a dip.

Because tourist season was done, we did miss out on a few things, like visiting the Old Mill Heritage Centre and the Manitoulin Chocolate Works. I was disappointed when we found the doors locked to the chocolate shop. I will make sure to stop in there the next time we are on the island. There were some things we did get a chance to visit though, like the East Bluff Lookout, that was somewhat close to Gordon Cemetery in Gore Bay. The East Bluff Lookout offers some amazing views, and we also happened to see some wildlife; a red squirrel and some white-tail deer.

Even though I did have to cut my time short at a couple of the cemeteries due to heavy rain, I would say it was a great trip. We enjoyed the beautiful fall scenery, ate some delicious food, and visited some lovely cemeteries. I enjoy exploring the island and look forward to making another trip out there this summer to explore more of it. 

Have you visited Manitoulin Island? I would love to hear about your visit in the comments.

Thanks for reading! 


  1. An Insider’s Guide to Magical Manitoulin Island | Keep Exploring
  2. About Bridal Veil Falls | Explore Manitoulin

A Collection of Books

I love books! I am a big reader and have a large book collection at home, but I love finding stone books among the tombstones while wandering a cemetery. I find them very interesting and love trying to interpret what they mean.

Books can be both decorative or a representation of something. You can sometimes find a book being used as a decorative device to display the name of the deceased along with the birth and death dates. An open book can sometimes represent the human heart, as in it’s emotions are open to the world. An open book may also symbolize a life that has been cut short, before getting to the last page. Another variation of this is an open book with a cloth draped across it. This also represents a life cut short, the veil of death having bookmarked the person’s last chapter before the book is finished being written. A closed book might represent a long life, lived to the last chapter.

Any book found in a cemetery may represent the bible. Sometimes you may even find the words “Holy Bible” engraved on the book.

In my experience, books are not as common as some other funerary symbols, like hands and lambs. I love to photograph them when I do find them. I wanted to share some of my favorites with you today.


References:

  1. Understanding Cemetery Symbols: A Field Guide for Historic Graveyards by Tui Snider
  2. Stories in Stone: The Complete Guide to Cemetery Symbolism by Douglas Keister

UPDATED! The road so far…

Back in June, I wrote a post about how many cemeteries I have visited so far. You can read it here.

My tally at that time was 85.

After that post I had a goal to reach—hit 100!

This year has not been the best for travel. My cemetery road trips with my friends have had to wait for the current pandemic to end. Luckily, my Mother is very easy going! We have been spending time outside together, and going for hikes locally. She doesn’t mind if we tack on a cemetery visit here or there. 

That being said, I was able to go on some small road trip adventures with her. We visited Manitoulin Island and walked the Bridal Veil Falls trail. We also stopped at a couple cemeteries on our way there, as well as a couple on the island. We also visited Elliot Lake. We walked the Horne Lake trail and visited the Fire Tower lookout, as well as visited a few cemeteries. Keep an eye out for future blog posts about those visits!

So, what’s my tally now?

  • Ontario – 93
  • Quebec – 6 
  • Saskatchewan – 2
  • United States:
    • New York City – 2

A total of 103 cemeteries. I feel like that’s a milestone! 

My record for cemetery visits in one day still remains at 13. Maybe next year that will change.

Time to plan some more cemetery road trips for next year! 

Do you have a running tally of visited cemeteries? I would love to read them in the comments.

Thanks for reading!