Humans have always paid special attention to symbols. We are indeed symbolic thinkers. Throughout history, all human cultures have had their unique system of views and beliefs. We build glorious buildings, write poems, and paint masterpieces that convey symbolic values for us. With the help of symbolism, we express our feelings and emotions. This statement is correct for all human activities. The monument industry is not an exception.
Cemetery monuments celebrate and commemorate the lives of our departed loved ones. Just like life, death is a part of our lives, and there is no hiding from it. For this very reason, cemetery memorials should carry specific symbolic meaning for those who erected them. That is what makes symbols so significant when it comes to headstones and memorials. Symbols are an indispensable part of any monument. They carry meanings for those who lost loved ones and help to deal with grief. Cemetery memorials always convey special symbolic meaning for those who erected them.
Another important fact is that symbols significantly vary from one culture to another. When designing a monument, one should pay close attention to a departed one’s views and religion. Let’s look at the most commonly used religious cemetery symbols in the US.
Christian cemetery symbols:
- Alpha and Omega. This Christian symbol originates from the Greek Alphabet. Alpha is the first letter, and Omega accordingly is the last one. In the Book of Revelation, these letters represented God as the beginning and the end of all.
- Cross. A cross is the most well-known Christian symbol. During the reign of the Emperor Constantine, the cross has become a central symbol of Christianity.
- Triangle. In Christianity, God is the unity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. A triangle on a gravestone represents the Holy Trinity, the central Christian affirmation of God.
- Lily. This symbol has become popular in Victorian times. Funeral lily means innocence, chastity, and purity. Christians believe that a soul returns to innocence after death.
- Angels. Most frequently, one can find this symbol on children’s graves. It symbolizes innocence. Engraved on headstones, Angels often show compassion and point towards heaven, denoting departure into paradise.
- Dove. In Christianity, the dove symbolizes resurrection, the Holy Spirit, love, peace, and purity. Often, people also engrave the Latin word “pacem” beneath the dove. The word symbolizes peace.
- Circle. The symbol of eternity. It symbolizes resurrection as the circle has no beginning or end. Frequently people engrave it together with a cross.
Jewish cemetery symbols:
- Menorah. Menorah has great importance for the Jewish people. It is one of two generally accepted Jewish funeral symbols. By itself, it is a type of candelabrum that holds seven candles. Usually, people engrave lit candles on it. This symbol serves as a reminder of the unity of all Jews. Inscribed on a headstone, it represents a person’s commitment to their faith. Most frequently, one can see the Menorah on women’s gravestones.
- Torah. Engraved on a headstone, Torah represents moral and spiritual growth a person accomplished during their life. Reading Torah for self-improvement is considered a noble practice in Judaism. It also symbolizes a person’s pursuit of God’s wisdom.
- Star of David. It is another universally recognized Jewish symbol. It comprises two equilateral triangles. Together they form three knots. The Star of David represents The Holy one, Holy Land, and Israel. In most cases, one can see this symbol on the tombstones of men.
- Two hands. In Judaism, the two hands separated at the ring and middle fingers but connected at the thumb represent the Cohen. Cohen is a Hebrew word for the priest. Engraved on the headstone, it represents priesthood.
- Kabbalah. This symbol is also called The Three of Life. Kabbalah represents a path one takes through his or her life on their way to God. Most frequently, people engrave this symbol at the very center of a headstone.
As you can see, symbols play a crucial role both in Christianity and Judaism. For this very reason, one should be very attentive when choosing them. By selecting the right ones for a memorial, one can tell a meaningful story of a departed person’s life for future generations.