Cemetery headstones and gravestones usually feature different types of emblems like animals, flowers, plants, objects, body parts, religious symbols, geometric patterns, etc. These symbols often have deep meanings.
They mostly denote harmony, love, faith, hope, peacefulness, purity, strength, immortality, and so on. Moreover, you can find emblems denoting different fraternal and auxiliary organizations in several historic cemeteries.
Besides, there are symbols like lamb, daisy, naked child, sleeping child, cherub, angel carrying a baby to heaven, a pair of empty shoes, etc. that can be used on gravestones for children.
You can read about infant headstones and the above-mentioned symbols in our article on Ideas for Infant Gravestones. Given below are some common symbols found on tombstones in most cemeteries.
Anchor: It is a Christian symbol of hope. It is also considered as a Masonic symbol and hence found on Masons’ grave. Moreover, in the 18th and 19th centuries, it was used to depict the deceased’s seafaring profession.
Angels: They represent spirituality and rebirth; weeping angels denote lamentation and grief. As angels are regarded as agents of God, they are often carved on gravestones as guardians of the dead.
Ankh: It is an Egyptian symbol that can be interpreted as eternal life.
Arch: It shows victory of life over death.
Book: Open book connotes faith, learning, and accomplishments; often used as the Holy Bible on the headstones of ministers and clergymen. Closed book symbolizes completed life.
Butterfly: it indicates a short life and hence mostly used on graves of children. In addition, it can be taken as a symbol of resurrection of the Christ.
Broken bud: premature death
Broken chain link: loss in the family
Lily: Eater lily denotes chastity and Caila lily denotes beauty.
Acacia: indicates the immortality of soul
Dogwood: represents sacrifice, resurrection, and eternal life
Dove: signifies the Holy Spirit
Column: A broken column depicts the end of life and eventual decomposition, Column with draped means mourning.
Clock: passage of time, death, and mortality
Crown: It represents victory over death
Chalice: the Sacraments
Hands: The hand of God pointing downward denotes mortality or sudden death whereas when it points upward, it signifies life after death.
Furthermore, praying hands denote devotion and clasped hands depict farewell to the earthly existence and a couple’s reunion in death. Besides, Cohanim Hands is a Jewish emblem symbolizing members of the priestly tribe of Aaron.
Figs: They denote prosperity and eternal life.
Labyrinth: It symbolizes the passage of life.
Heart: signifies charity and the love of Christ
Lyre: Lyre is Greek symbol denoting heavenly accord, harmony, and music and song praising God. Being a sign of musical talent, it can be found on the graves of musicians, too.
Wreath or garland: glory, victory in death
Poppy: eternal sleep
Rooster: It represents awakening, the Resurrection.
The six-pointed Star of David: It is a Jewish symbol also known as the Shield of David, thereby signifying divine protection.
Urn: connotes death and mourning
At the United States Department of Veterans Affairs website, you can find a list of available emblems of belief for placement on government headstones and markers.
They include symbols like that of the Christian Cross, the Russian Orthodox Cross, Celtic Cross, Armenian Cross, the Wheel of Righteousness representing Buddhism, the Star of David for Judaism, Landing Eagle, etc.
In addition, you can visit the Association for Gravestone Studies website to get further information associated with gravestone symbolism. Moreover, you can find several other symbols and their meanings at TheCemeteryClub.com.