Jewish - British Similarities? Note by Douglas Fell
The Old North English Word for the Mourning Period was "Arvel." In Hebrew it is "Avel." There is not much difference.
I tried to fins what "Arvel" might mean but all I came up with was that it was the name of a person from the Pict area in Northern Scotland.
Douglas Fell sends us the following message and Illustration:
One item you might not be aware off is the ancient Scottish custom of burial with a stone / pebble. I understand that this tradition is still practised by Jews today.
It is a Jewish Custom after visiting a gave to leave a small pebble on the tombstone. The origins of this custome are not clear but it seems to have baan ancient practivcew that for a while almost disappeared but in recent times has been widely renewed. Here are some extracts concerning it:
Of special interest are the words of Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef (former Chief Sephardi Rabbi of Israel) concerning making a CAIRN (pile of stones) over the grave just as was often done in the case of dolmens!
The superstitious rationale for stones is that they keep the soul down. There is a belief, with roots in the Talmud, that souls conitinue to dwell for a while in the graves in which they are placed. The grave, called a beit olam (a permanent home), was thought to retain some aspect of the departed soul.
Family Will Know Someone Visited
Stones being placed on a grave lets the family know that someone cared enough to visit the grave. It communicates that the loved one is still thought about and missed.
Honor the Deceased
The stones on a grave is a physical way to honor the deceased. Stones last longer physically than flowers. They are everlasting and permanent like the memory of the deceased.
It's a Mitzvah [i.e. good deed]
Some have made the claim that this is a relatively new custom,1 but while it is not necessarily a universal or even a Chabad custom,2 it is indeed an old Jewish practice that goes back at least to medieval times and possibly earlier.3
Cairn of Stones
Rabbi Ovadia Yosef says this, "In former days one did not mark a grave with marble or granite with a fancy inscription, but one made a cairn of stones over it. Each mourner coming and adding a stone was effectively taking part in the Mitzvah of matzevah ("setting a stone") as well as or instead of levayat ha-meyt ("accompany the dead"). Of course, the dead were often buried where they had fallen, before urbanization and specialization of planning-use demanded formal cemeteries...Therefore in our day one tends to stick a pebble on top of the tombstone as a relic of this ancient custom, and it is still clear that the more stones a grave has, the more the deceased is being visited and is therefore being honored. Each small pebble adds to the cairn - a nice moral message. This has become slightly spoiled by the cemetery authorities clearing accumulated pebbles off when they wash down the gravestones and cut the grass."
The Picts buried their dead in a supine position. Scottish graves have been found with scattered small white stones (quartz), believed to ease the passage to the afterlife.
There are several explanations as to why visitors leave small stones or pebbles on someone's grave. And it is not strictly a Jewish tradition. For thousands of years, people were buried in tombs or directly in the earth where they had fallen. Stones were then rolled in front of a tomb as a way of sealing it from scavengers and keeping evil spirits from escaping out into the world. ...
Symbolically, the stones can indicate many things; that love and remembrance are as strong and as lasting as a rock. That as a stone lasts forever so to does love. Even a belief that the deceased is with God, since the Old Testament refers to God as a rock, as in Psalm 18:2 -- "The LORD is my rock."