The six-pointed star known as the Star of David was not adopted internationally until the late 19th century and has no actual symbolism.
Two Hebrew letters representing Po Nikbar translated as Here Is Buried may be found in the center of the star.
The following Hebrew letters are found inscribed on headstones to represent the phrase: May His/Her Soul Be Bound Up With The Bond Of Life.
A Menorah represents divine wisdom. The nine branch version is commonly recognized in association with Channukah and the miracle of a one day supply of lamp oil lasting nine days. The seven branch Menorah is more commonly found on gravestones and represents the seven days God created the world (Exodus:25).
The image of hands touching at thumbs with forefingers joined represents members of the priestly tribe of Aaron. It symbolizes a benediction or blessing by a Cohayn priest.
The last image depicts a Tzedakah box. In Judaism, Tzedakah refers to the religious obligation to do what is right and just, considered to be one of the three main acts that can annul a less than favorable heavenly decree.
The Sword is symbolic of courage; justice; martyrdom; military or warfare.
Rest my son in thy far off grave.
You died for your country like a hero brave.
In the days when the sword was a principle weapon of battle they were often regarded as magical objects with supernatural properties. Warrior tombs feature swords as a mark of the dead’s profession or as a sign that the deceased was cut down in battle. A broken sword represents a life cut short.
Crossed swords commemorate a high ranking military person; or a life lost in battle. They are often seen on the gravestones of veterans, especially officers.
- An inverted sword is symbolic of death in battle; a relinquishment of power; or victory.
- A sword within its sheath represents temperance.
- Archangels sometimes carry swords as a symbol of God’s Judgement in the life to come.
- A superstition predicts death if a sword falls from its scabbard.
- An oath made on a sword was as binding as one made on a Bible.
Flower buds signify a renewal of life and many types of flowers are engraved on headstones. The symbolism behind the Carnation, Daffodil, Daisy, Passion Flower, Poppy, Sunflower and Tulip has been researched in a previous post.
The less commonly used flowers are identified below.
- Acacia represents the immortality of the soul
- Acanthus is one of the most common cemetery motifs associated with the Heavenly garden.
- A Bellflower is symbolic of gratitude
- A Buttercup represents cheerfulness
- The Cinquefoil is symbolic of a beloved daughter or maternal affection
- The Crocus represents youthful gladness
- The flower, Forget-Me-Not, represents remembrance
- The Honeysuckle is symbolic of devoted affection and generosity
- The Lalla is indicative of beauty and marriage
- The Lotus represents perfect beauty; purity; resurrection and spiritual revelation.
- A Pansy symbolizes humility; meditation; remembrance
- The Violet is a symbol of humility.
And lastly, a flower that seems to cover every aspect of life, the Morning Glory: birth; the brevity of life; departure; farewell; love; mortality; mourning; resurrection and youth. It is also a symbol of beauty.
Like budding Rose or flower of May
Grown up, cut down & wither’d in a day
Early she left this Stage in morning dress
Her hands were clasped upon her breast.
We kissed her loving brow
And in our aching hearts we know
We have no violet now. 1909
A woman clinging to the cross is a symbol of faith. It is often accompanied by the verse Rock Of Ages Cleft For Me signifying that a person’s only hope when lost in a sea of sin is to cling to Christ’s cross.
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Behold the pilgrim as he lies with glory in his view,
To Heaven he lifts his longing eyes and bids the world adieu. 1886
A woman holding a cross represents faith.
Such are as faithful in love shall abide with him.
A very common symbol on gravestones is the winged effigy which represents the deceased soul in flight.
Another winged effigy sometimes seen contains a skull and is known as Death’s head. It is usually depicted without the lower jaw.
The most recognized Freemason symbol is the square and compass with the letter ‘G’ in the middle.
This double-headed eagle symbol represents the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry. With wings spread to give flight, one head looks back to see where you have been and the other looks ahead to see where you are going.
The number 32 inside the triangle represents the 32nd degree of the Scottish Rite known as the Master of the Royal Secret.
The Latin motto, Spes mea in Deo est, means My hope is in God.
A gate engraved on a gravestone represents a Heavenly entrance, the passage from Earth to Heaven and the afterlife.
When the gates are open, it symbolizes the soul entering heaven.