Cemetery Markings and Signs
Interpreting the markings and signs (icons) on gravestones is both important and interesting, since such graphics contain meaning and messages. An excellent discussion about cemetery icons and symbolism can be found at this link at The Association for Gravestone Studies.
A simple guide follows...
- (Military and nationalistic icons such as flags, eagles, and emblems should be self-evident, reflecting service and duty, patriotism, and sacrifice.)
- Winged Skull: early motif signifying that death was inevitable and would come to all. Later succeeded by baroque-style cherubs (and angels), symbolizing Godís presence and resurrection.
- Sunsets/Sunrises: a transitional icon, signaling the end of earthly life (or the beginning of life in the hereafter).
- Hourglass: oneís time has run out
- Lambs: symbolizing innocence, and the Lamb of God (Jesus). Found mainly on childrenís gravestones
- Birds: Egyptian origin: the soul ascending. The dove expressing a divine message of Truth.
- The Eagle: ascension of Christ, immortality, and St. John.
- Flowers/Wreaths (apart from aesthetic appeal):
- Flowers: lifeís brevity.
- Roses: completion, perfection, beauty and righteousness.
- Lilies: purity.
- Daisies: innocence.
- Vines: righteous from the unrighteous.
- Ivy (popular border): evergreen.
- Floral wreaths: eternity (circular shape).
- Hand(s): Godís protective hand. The right hand of God (power, strength & righteousness).
- Left hand: evil & unrighteousness.
- Index finger pointing up: delivery from evil, headed for salvation.
- Linked hands: the welcoming hand of God.
- Portrait/Scene Stones: intends to deliver a moral lesson to the living from scriptures. Portraits are useful since they illustrate the clothing/hairstyle of the period.
- Willows/Urns/Obelisks: Tree of life (immortality), Tree of knowledge (good vs. evil: Genesis).
- Willow: desperation, grief & sadness (the leaves appear to be tears rolling down the face Ė weeping).
- Urns symbolize death, mourning & fate (with a lid they suggest supreme enlightenment, with triumphs over birth and death).
- Willows and urns combined become a symbol of life in the hereafter.
- An obelisk is a tall 4-sided pillar with a tapered pyramid-style top: strength and stability.
- Musical instruments: many musical instruments are found in scripture, none more than the lyre: a U-shaped 3-stringed harp. Symbolizes death.
- Three interlocking rings encasing the letters FLT represent the Odd Fellows, and the Rebekah Lodge (motto being Friendship, Love, and Truth).
- A star alludes to the Messiah or Creator.
- A 5-pointed star denotes the Nativity or the Sign of Christ.
- A 6-pointed star exemplifies the Creator, as well as the Star of David.