Glass tombstones and ashes in cosmos

Nowadays, the traditions of commemoration and burial have changed a lot. Funerals can take place in ways that we could have never imagined centuries ago, even more, they would have been considered as sacrilege. After death, ashes can be embedded into a record, loaded into a fireworks shell or even shot into the cosmos. The presence of the deceased can silently be kept in the fertilizer of a rose garden in front of a house or one can grow a tree by planting a seed into the ground altogether with ashes. They can also be embedded into jewellery – earrings, pendants, bracelets or rings, thus the loved one will always remain closely beside. An artist can mix the ashes into colour and create a portrait. A cemetery in the depths of an ocean is also an option by installing a memorial plaque under the water.  Glass tombstones, in turn, is a Latvian alternative, which despite the global changes in tradition of burial, still stick to clear and stable values. 

A part of something bigger

Traditional burial ceremonies seem to be losing their topicality in the face of modern memorial trends. Today, man’s understanding of death has taken other forms, not only have we become aware that the world is wider but also our eternal resting place can now be located in the immense Universe instead of the womb of the Earth. It makes us review our place in the world – not only we are children of Earth, but also of the Milk galaxy. Everything becomes one – in the end, we are just as sand by the seashore or simply dissolve into the waves of an ocean. Scattering of ashes enables one to blend with those natural places that during one’s lifetime were loved most.

Staying with roots

However, Latvia, considered as a nation of graveyards, does not give in to those new tendencies so easily. We have cemetery festivals, candle days and if we review the Sun calendar of ancient Latvians, we can note that a whole month has been dedicated to the deceased, known as time of Forefathers Eve. Also, in Latvia’s Cultural Canon, the tradition of tending graveyards is mentioned as one of stable values that has remained throughout centuries.  At the same time, the view of today’s Latvian artists on the design of cemeteries differs and a new vision of aesthetics is offered. Layer glass tombstones are unique types of monuments in the World. But even though they are innovative, at the same, undeniably, this format enables the continuation and conservation of the traditional burial traditions and the sacredness of the memorial place. 

Looking for uplifting vibes

Ancient Latvians’ understanding of the realm of the underworld was not very promising – Forefathers realm was described as gloomy, dark and cold. It can be also noticed in most of the graveyards, as the same feeling is created – dark granite tombstones and shadows of trees. The message of Christianity changed the perception of death, showing it as a possibility of a new life. Also the glass tombstones seem to reflect more this feeling of the resurrection idea.  After assessing the ever-increasing range of modern offers of widest possible range of ash-use and the diversity of burial ceremony characters, a tendency to give death a lighter and more uplifting vibes can be noticed. From death nowadays we can grow a new tree or a flower bead and organise a glorious farewell party in the form of fireworks. This way, death can become a celebration of the living at the same time. Homer also did not describe the realm of the underworld in too hopeful colours. Already Plato strongly condemned it in one of his most famous works, accusing the poet of inflicting fear of death into the soldiers that have to be ready for war and develop courage. By promoting the fear of death with such stories, in turn, only weak soldiers could be brought up, thus also laying foundations for a weak state. For this reason, Plato expelled poets out of his ideal state so that their stories did not corrupt the youth by depicting the world in a fallible way. 

Looking for the silver lining

In today’s age, we can see that people do not want to look into the face of death with fear anymore. Instead, we hope to regard death with its silver lining or find a ray of hope in it. We are no longer satisfied with stories of a gloomy realm of the underworld, but just the opposite – we are striving for light, hope and peace of mind.  Such a story that is acceptable to the modern man is also offered by the glass tombstones. Glass tombstones workshop of Latvian artist Ernests Vītiņš with the help of unique design and material depict death as a condition of freedom and lightness. Also in those monuments something transcendental can be felt, a white light shines through and caresses the cheek of its viewer in a soothing way. Besides, next to the glass tombstone a glass bench can be set up, thus making the memorial place even lighter.  Looking at the glass tombstones has an uplifting effect –  mourning seems to be lighter and death – more acceptable, lighter and less frightening. The visual form, shape and material enables treating death with reliance instead of mistrust and fear, finding hope that the soul is resting in peace.

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