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Headstone-Symbols

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					 Meanings of carvings, compiled from several sources (see
    also images mentioned in the paragraphs above) :
arches                         victory in death
arrows                         mortality
*bouquets or flowers           condolences, grief, sorrow
*buds, rosebud                 morning of life, renewal of life
*roses                         brevity of earthly existence
portals                        passageway to eternal journey
bugles                         resurrection; also, the military
crossed swords                 high-ranking military person
flying birds                   flight of the soul
fruits                         eternal plenty
garlands                       victory in death
imps                           mortality
shells                         pilgrimage of life
clouds                         veil which conceals God from His worshipers
sun or rays                    the presence of Christ; the sun connotes resurrection
*Celtic cross (has circle at   from Ireland -- It is said to serve as a double symbol of
the intersection of the        eternity and unity, both that of the Son with the Father and
crossbar and the upright       the Holy Spirit and that of the believer with the Trinity. That
shaft)                         was a common theme of St. Patrick's preaching
                               a Jewish symbol indicating the deceased was a Cohen, a
                               Temple Priest
two hands, palms facing
the viewer, with the four
fingers on each hand
positioned as two sets of
two fingers


                               on a Jewish man's gravestone, signifies a Levite, who was
                               responsible for cleaning the hands of the Temple Priest
                               before he performed his priestly duties
a pitcher
star                        guidance for the soul
thistles                    remembrance
*tombs                      mortality
                            symbolize life or death, depending on whether they appear
*trees
                            alive or felled
trumpeters                  heralds of the resurrection
morning glory               beginning of life
butterfly                   short-lived, early death; resurrection
full-blown rose             prime of life
palm branch                 victory and rejoicing
ivy                         friendship; immortality
*laurel                     fame of victory
**oak leaves, acorn         maturity, ripe old age
***weeping willow, often
with urn, tomb, and/or   emblem of sorrow
mourner
corn                        ripe old age
*sheaf of wheat, perhaps
                            ripe for harvest; divine harvest; time
with scythe
poppy                       sleep
*lamb                       innocence -- usually on a child's gravestone
dove                        innocence, gentleness, affection, purity
cherub                      angelic
*cross                      emblem of faith
anchor or ship              hope, or seafaring profession
broken ring; chain forming
a near-circle, perhaps with
                            family circle severed
one broken link dangling
in place
broken column               loss of head of family
torch inverted              life extinguished
urn with blaze              undying friendship
harp                        praise to God
*hand with index finger
                            hope for / awareness of heaven, God, eternal destiny
pointing upward
*handshakes / clasped
                              farewell; often shown on spouses' stones
hands
heart                         love for the deceased; soul in bliss, or love of Christ
                              swiftness of time; short life. Its use associated with
                              personified figures of Death and Father Time comes out of a
                              long tradition of mortuary symbolism. Rarely used alone;
                              usually appeared along with hearts, stars, leaves and sacred
hourglass, perhaps with
                              flowering vines. It was also the frequent companion of
wings of time
                              winged death's-heads and bones. Though the hourglass is
                              commonly thought of as a symbol of passing time, I have
                              discovered few gravestones featuring hourglasses in all
                              my exploring . . . but each is lovely
*open book / Bible            knowledge; possibly, deceased teacher or minister
lily, or lily of the valley   innocence, purity
                              deceased was the head of family; immortality; life cut
tree stump, sometimes         short. The Millious family marker at Elbridge Rural
with ivy                      Cemetery (see photo in virtual tour), about ten feet tall, is
                              an extraordinary example of this style
*pall, wreath, crepe
                              mourning
draping
Stars and Stripes around
                              liberty; eternal vigilance
an eagle
candle being snuffed          time; mortality
coffin, Father Time, picks
                            mortality; the passing away of the flesh, items used
/ shovels, darts, palls,
                            surrounding its entombment, and the inevitability of death
skulls, skeletons and bones
hand of God chopping          sudden death
winged effigies               flight of the soul
*American Flag on stone,
or small flag placed beside usually, military service; patriotism
stone
Christ, Virgin Mary, a        devotion to that holy figure; desire for their aid to attain
saint, an angel or the like   heaven
                              honors glorified souls and angels, or points to the triumph of
                              death, when it caps a winged skull. Sometimes juxtaposed
crown
                              with cross; indicates that earthly life includes suffering, and
                              the afterlife, victory.
*geometry compass, in      Masonic affiliation (Freemasons; Free and Accepted
open position, often shown Masons)
over open book, with letter
"G" within angle of
compass
star with letters
                              affiliation with the Order of the Eastern Star, a women's
"O.E.S." between its
                              group within the Masonic organization
points
A.E.F.                        American Expeditionary Forces
D.A.R. / S.A.R.               Daughters / Sons of the American Revolution
                              Friendship, Love, and Truth. It is the symbol of the
                              Independent Order of Odd Fellows, a fraternal organization.
The letters F.L.T.in three
                              In this day and time, its name may sound like, well,
links of a chain; I.O.O.F.
                              something it isn't. This organization takes care of widows
                              and orphans, and in general, does good works.
                              Grand Army of the Republic; the Union Army during the
G.A.R.
                              War Between the States
P. of H.                      Patrons of Husbandry; a grange affiliation
relict                        widow

*æ;Æ
                              an abbreviation for "aged", as in "died May 13, 1864, æ 54
"a" and "e" next to one       yrs 1 month & 6 days"
another or touching
                              while some sources state that the following meanings are
                              NOT uniformly intended by the monument craftsman, other
                              sources state that if the horse has both front hoofs in the air,
soldier on horseback
                              the person died in battle. If one hoof is raised, the person
                              died as a result of wounds; if the horse has all four hoofs on
                              the ground, the person died of natural causes
                              signifies devotion to Jesus Christ; variously interpreted as an
IHS Occasionally seen         abbreviation for His name as spelled in ancient languages, or
as IXC                        of the Latin phrase Iesu Hominum Salvator (Jesus,
                              mankind's Savior)

Headstones offering several lines of verse -- of mourning, remembrance,
tribute, encouragement and inspiration, or prayer -- were also common in the
mid-19th century.

				
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posted:1/21/2012
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