Have you ever stopped to take a look at what you find on headstones besides names and dates?

Cemeteries are filled with symbolism that you may not even realize at first glance. As I payed close attention to the symbols on the headstones around me during my last visit to the cemetery, I was fascinated by what I found. These simple symbols are very thought provoking and gave me a deeper understanding of the people who are buried there.

You never know why people choose to put certain symbols on their headstone, but here are some symbols you might find on a headstone and a few ideas of what they might mean:

IMG_6812Book: If the book is open, it may represent the bible, faith, or “the Book of Life.” A closed book may represent a life completed.

IMG_6849Dove: This might represent a soul at peace, purity, or devotion. In Christianity it symbolizes the Holy Spirit and alludes to the dove Noah sent out to find land. In Judaism, it is a symbol of peace.

IMG_6846Drapes: May represent sorrow, mourning, death or a life closed off–sometimes early. It could also represent a “veil” between heaven and earth.

IMG_6802Urn: Traditionally associated with death and was especially popular in the 19th century. Often, they will also be accompanied with a drape, representing the mourning of death.

IMG_6830Hands: These are very common on headstones. Clasped hands (like the ones found in this picture) may mean a farewell, a welcoming into the heavenly world, a symbol of marriage. In this stone, one sleeve appears more feminine and the other masculine which is most likely a symbol of marriage.

IMG_6808Hand pointing up: Could signify the pathway to heaven, meeting again in heaven, no longer on earth, or heavenly reward. (See below for star symbolism)

IMG_6801Star: Could represent spiritual light, divine guidance or birth/rebirth. In Judaism, the star of David represents divine protection. In Christianity, it sometimes represents “light shining in darkness” or good overpowering evil.

IMG_6826Lamb: May signify innocence, purity or the grave of a child. It is also a Christian symbol of referring to Jesus Christ.

So next time you’re in the cemetery, take a look at the symbols around you. They just might give you some interesting insight into the people who are buried there.

What neat cemetery symbols have you come across? Comment below or send me a picture! I’d love to see what you’ve found!

RESOURCES:
http://www.alsirat.com/symbols/index.html

http://www.gravestonestudies.org/pdf/symbols%2018th.pdf

http://www.gravestonestudies.org/pdf/symbols%2019th.pdf

http://www.history.org/history/teaching/glossary2.cfm

http://www.alsirat.com/symbols/symbols1.html

http://cemeteries.wordpress.com/category/hands/

http://www.oregon.gov/oprd/hcd/docs/heritage_bulletins/hb_7_cemetery_symbols.pdf