Roadside non-crosses?
July 14, 2005 11:28 AM   Subscribe

An article in my local newspaper on the removal of roadside crosses (and having just read Carl Hiassen's "Skinny Dip," in which a minor character collects roadside crosses and replants them in his backyard) made me wonder if non-Christians put up non-cross roadside memorials, and if there are websites with examples.
posted by Joleta to Society & Culture (14 answers total)
I've seen many roadside memorials made out of flowers and, if the victim was young, stuffed animals. A Google image search for "roadside memorial" brings up a few scattered among the crosses.
posted by Monk at 11:58 AM on July 14, 2005

It's not uncommon to see roadside Jizo statutes in Japan. I don't understand the full significance of these, but I know that they're sometimes adorned by grieving parents as a memorial to a lost child. Here's an example (from the page I linked to above).
posted by mr_roboto at 12:29 PM on July 14, 2005

Someone asked about a shrine earlier (it's somewhat related). That's all I've got.
posted by KathyK at 12:34 PM on July 14, 2005

man mr roboto...that second link is so sad.....

(has a 2yr old daughter...and the blue shawl made me think of her)
posted by ShawnString at 12:37 PM on July 14, 2005

Like I said, my understanding of the tradition isn't complete... I know parents will also adorn the statues as a request to Jizo for aid when a child is sick, or as thanks when a child recovers from an illness. So that shawl doesn't necessarily belong to a child who has died.

But I know how you feel; driving onto temple grounds and seeing dozens of little Jizo statues all dressed in little red bibs (the traditional adornment) is very powerful. It's a very sad, somber atmosphere.
posted by mr_roboto at 12:47 PM on July 14, 2005

They have roadside displays in Thailand. There it has to do with the fact that people died in a violent way... it is a means of propitiating them if I recall correctly. Evidently violent deaths create pissed off ghosts in their worldview.
posted by konolia at 1:04 PM on July 14, 2005

They have them in the Middle East, sometimes they are ancient. They aren't always markers of where someone died though, maybe just a "holy" spot or a place where a spring comes out after it rains in the mountains.
posted by Pollomacho at 1:48 PM on July 14, 2005

Response by poster: I guess I was thinking about why you don't see roadside stars of David, or roadside pentagrams and the like. In the US, is the roadside memorial basically a Christian thing?
Or do non-Christians put up memorials without religious symbology?
posted by Joleta at 3:01 PM on July 14, 2005

Check out Descansos. I guess it means place of rest or something. I only learned about it becasue there is a place named Descanso near here.
posted by snsranch at 4:36 PM on July 14, 2005

THE CUSTOM of marking the site of a death on the highway has deep roots in the Hispanic culture of the Southwest, where these memorials are often referred to as Descansos ("resting places").

From the site.
posted by snsranch at 4:40 PM on July 14, 2005

I actually just saw one that was quite unique and, well, depressing. It marked a spot where their child was killed on a tenspeed. They had a little wooden sign there indicating when and who and whatnot, and had the bike that was hit painted white, leaning up against the lightpost.
posted by eurasian at 5:03 PM on July 14, 2005

After re-reading the article, it seems that the issue was not that the memorial contained crosses but that they were placed on private or personal property.
posted by snsranch at 5:12 PM on July 14, 2005

As makeshift memorials, in Japan people often (or almost always) put flowers and tokens associated with the deceased at the site of a road accident. One near my house has been maintained with fresh flowers for more than five years, a new one has appeared at the crosswalk nearest my mother-in-law's house. People will often set sake or beer for older decedents, and tea or a favorite soft drink for children. the idea of the departed soul relieving a parched throat or having an uplifting snootful seeems to be soothing to grieving Japanese.

The Jizo does indeed serve as a memorial for deceased, aborted or stillborn children, but they are usually permanent shrines for a large community and not really in the same spirit as the makeshift memorials, don't you think?

Also, very importantly, Jizou is the protector of neighborhood children. When our baby was born last year, one duty was to make a bib for our neighborhood's Jizou with our baby's name and birthdate, as well as a festival lantern of paper with his name for the Jizou festival held every August. Jizo performs a similar protective function for travelers, which is why there is a Jizo at most crossroads of ancient travel routes.
posted by planetkyoto at 5:30 PM on July 14, 2005

Just finished Skinny Dip myself: Hairy Tools rulez!
posted by growabrain at 1:30 AM on July 15, 2005

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