Dal punto di vista rituale-simbolico le ossa sono l’ultima traccia terrena significativa dei morti, quando la loro carne è già diventata polvere.

In un certo senso sono indistruttibili e in condizioni favorevoli possono conservarsi per secoli.

Per il cristianesimo le ossa sono considerate il seme della resurrezione dei corpi dopo il Giudizio Universale. Quando i sepolcri si apriranno esse, al suono delle trombe, si ricomporranno e saranno di nuovo rivestite di carne.

I teschi o le ossa lunghe degli antenati furono spesso conservate come insegne o come oggetti rituali.

Durante l’età della pietra era uso costruire per gli antenati enormi monumenti funebri in pietra, megaliti o dolmen, poiché si credeva di dover proteggere gli scheletri dei defunti dai danni causati dalla terra che li ricopriva.

Nell’area della cultura orientale-giudaica si maledicevano i nemici augurando che le loro ossa divenissero aria.

Tra i popoli cacciatori era uso comune restituire intatte e complete alla terra le ossa degli animali uccisi per favorire il ripopolamento della selvaggina.

Anche i caproni che trainavano il carro di Thor, il dio del tuono della mitologia nordica, potevano essere magicamente richiamati in vita dalle ossa mediante la benedizione del martello.

Le ossa umane non sono dunque solo simboli funebri, bensì anche immagini della fede nella resurrezione.

In altre culture il loro impiego rituale è in rapporto al superamento della paura della morte. Una concezione completamente diversa si esprime nella cremazione dei corpi, che mira a una totale dissoluzione dei defunti nel fuoco, come elemento di purificazione.

Il teschio e le due ossa incrociate oltre ad essere il simbolo piratesco, nella massoneria simboleggiano la vittoria dello spirito sul corpo.

Il teschio, come saggezza, conoscenza e spirito dell’uomo, sovrasta le due tibie incrociate e divide in quattro, cioè “squarta”, il corpo.

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