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Samhain Activities: Gravestone Rubbings

The death angel and variants, along with symbols like pentagrams and hearts, are common on grave markers.

  • You will need:
  • several large sheets of thin paper: blank newsprint or standard 20lb paper works best, heavy paper or card stock will not work well.
  • tape: removable tape is nice
  • artists' charcoals: willow or pressed
  • a graveyard with interesting gravestones

There are many old cemeteries around the world with beautiful stonework and engravings. A cemetery near us has a pentacle carved in it with ornate designs surrounding it. Another one contains an unusual story in old grammar about a man who left nine children, killed his wife and ran down the road in front of our old house and slit his own throat with his pocket knife.

The flat sides of these charcoals work well for deep relief patterns.Take your paper, tape and charcoals out to the nearest cemetery. When you find a stone you like, tape the paper tightly over the area you wish to transfer. Then lightly rub the flat side of the charcoal across the paper to pick up the image.

These rubbings can be hung on walls as they are, or the edges can be torn to make them look old (cream colored paper or parchment paper is very effective this way) or they can even be framed. Interestingly, fine willow charcoals are very appropriate for this work according to the magical correspondence of the wood. Although any artists' charcoals will work, willow is often found near burial mounds in Britain and willows are associated with the cycles of life, death and rebirth. Willow is also used in rituals to commune with the dead.

Interesting designs can be found on tombstones.Be patient with this technique, it can take some practice to get the images to look the way you want. Bring plenty of paper and try to vary the pressure you put on the charcoal. Remember to hold the charcoal the long way so you use a broad flat side, not the way you would hold a pencil.

You may frame your rubbing, or make a collage of several stone rubbings on the same paper (ransom note effect!).  This is an interesting way to create your own wall art, or to commemorate a favorite person on your family tree.

About the Author
Author: FridayWebsite: http://PaganPath.comEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Author & Academy Instructor
Friday is devoted to writing books and articles on a variety of Pagan subjects, and is the instructor of the online PaganPath Academy. She has studied and practiced the Craft since 1987, and worked as a professional tarot reader and vice president of a national psychic network for several decades. Currently, she is now a practicing herbalist and ordained minister. As a Master Gardener with a deep interest in permaculture, she is developing the PaganPath Sanctuary with her partner. This long term community project is an edible landscape demonstration, orchard and educational facility for future generations.

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