John Belushi and Puritan Iconography


Here Lies Buried

The Body Of


January 24, 1949

March 5, 1982

I may be gone, but

Rock and Roll lives on.

Catie, a friend of mine, was vacationing on Martha’s Vineyard and walked through Abel’s Hill Cemetery when she spied the tombstone of comedy legend John Belushi. His gray slate marker depicts the skull and crossbones. Here, what is old is new again. Some of the oldest gravestones in America display the skull and crossbones iconography broadcasting the message to “remember death” meant to remind all that life is short.

Here lies buried

The Body of Mr BENJAMIN PARKER Mercht

Who Departed this Life

The 14th day of November


Aged 54 Years

Here again on this gray slate gravestone in the Granary Burying Ground at Boston is an example of the skull and crossbones symbol.


But if you take a close look at the edges of the gravestone were the beginnings of a softer message.  Two small winged cherub faces are carved on the marker.  These images are called “soul effigies”.  They mark the transition away from harsh Puritan theology to the gentler Age of Enlightenment that gave way to the sentimentality of the Victorian Era.

These winged figures represent the flight of the soul away from the body, presumably to Heaven.  Instead of the symbolism of skulls, bones, grave-digging equipment and the like, the soul effigies speak to a message of optimism and the glory of the soul in the hereafter.

Here lies buried

The Body of


Who departed this Life

August 17th 1790

in the 60th Year

of his Age.


The version found at the Burying Point in Salem, Massachusetts, is a variant of the skull and cross bones that depicts the skull with wings—representing the flight of life.


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2 Responses to John Belushi and Puritan Iconography

  1. Sarah McKinzie says:

    Jonh Belushi?!!!!! How cool!!!! Was that Catie Christianson? How very fun! Hope all is well at Solution Tree this week – miss you all but am very much enjoying my new adventure. Wishing you a very blessed Christmas and much joy in the New Year!

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