Gravestone Symbols

You will normally find gravestone symbols in cemetery and graveyards. But have you wondered what do the symbols signify? Every symbol on a gravestone holds a special meaning, this article talks about a few of them.
We all must have gone to a cemetery once in our lives and whenever we have taken that route it's not been a pleasant one. We have all seen names of our loved ones inscribed on gravestones or headstones. But have you ever noticed that there are also some symbols marked on them. In this world thousands of different religions have their secular symbols and emblems. Many of these symbols have simple meanings which are defined by gravestone scholars, however it often becomes difficult to name and understand all of them. Even a simple symbol may have a deep meaning attached to it.

We can only think and predict what our ancestors were trying to tell us through these symbols. Many scholars have agreed to common interpretations of some symbols. Here are some of the examples of gravestone symbols and their meanings.

Jewish Gravestone Symbols

Jewish gravestone symbols have been in existence for very long. They have different symbols for honoring and respecting the dead. Let's have a look at some symbols.

Kohen: On Jewish tombstones you will notice a symbol showing two hands which are in the form giving blessings. This symbol is called a Kohen. Today many Jewish last names are also inspired by this symbol and they are called Conn or Cohn.

Pebbles or Stones on a Grave Marker: Leaving pebbles or stones on a grave marker is an old Jewish tradition of paying respect. It means that you honor the deceased person's good deeds that he/she has done for you. A good example can be seen in the end of the movie Schindler's List.

Menorah: A very vintage symbol in Judaism, the menorah is a seven branched candelabra which is often seen on Jewish tombstones. On old Jewish gravestones you may see the Menorah with less than seven branches.

Star of David: Star of David is considered as a symbol of Judaism and is one of the common gravestone symbols found in cemeteries. Another name for this gravestone symbol is Shield of David.

Military Gravestone Symbols

For many of our young women and men, introduction to military services begin at a cemetery where our brave men and women have laid their lives fighting for this country. Many tombstones of our soldiers who served in wars include the details of their units and the wars they have fought. However the abbreviations can be sometimes confusing. So let's have a look at some military headstones designs.

Flag: Flag on a gravestone signifies liberty and loyalty and is often seen on gravestones of the soldiers who died in war.

Sword: It indicates military service, if found on the base of the gravestone it indicates infantry.

Crossed Swords: Crossed swords indicate military officers of high ranks who have lost their life in battlefield.

Eagle: Indicates the qualities of courage, faith and generosity. It can also mean a long military career.

Cannon: Often indicates military career. If it's found on the base of the gravestone it may indicate artillery.

Gravestones Symbols and Meanings

After looking at Jewish and military gravestone symbols. Let's have a look at some other gravestone signs which have been existence for a long time.

Angels: It means pure and spiritual.

Bible: The Holy Bible is mainly found on Christian gravestones and it is a symbol of belief in Christ.

Heart: Found mainly in catholic cemeteries. Heart signifies the suffering of Christ.

Figure With Dart: It signifies mortality.

Chalice: It's carved as symbol of Sacraments.

Crescent: The deceased was probably a Muslim.

Broken Column: This represents the death of the head of a family.

Skull or Spade: Death has happened.

An Ax: Symbol for the occupation, for instance he was a butcher or wood cutter.

Anchor or Sextant: An anchor or a sextant on a gravestone signifies a marine.

Colonial Daughters of the 17th Century: One of the most famous colonial gravestone symbols. This symbol is dedicated to women who rendered their valuable service in colonial wars from 1607 to 1699.

Fruits: This means that the deceased lived his/her life to the fullest.

Lily: It signifies, purity and innocence, mainly carved for young children.

Thistle: One of the most popular Scottish gravestone symbols. Thistles represent earthly sorrow and its thorns represent Passion of Christ.

Urn with Flame: The deceased would be remembered forever.

So these were some gravestone symbols and meanings. If you think that I have missed out on some gravestone symbols and descriptions, please feel free to comment.
By Kulbhushaan Raghuvanshi
Published: 7/20/2010
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