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Cemetery Symbolism

Acorn - Protection, life, immortality
Anchor/ships - Hope, Seafaring profession
Anchor, broken chain - End of earthly life
Anchor, wrapped vines - firm Christian faith
 Angel, flying - Rebirth, Resurrection
Angel, trumpeting - Resurrection
 Angel, weeping - Grief and Mourning
Arch - Victory in death
 Arrow - Mortality

 Bird - Eternal life
 Bird, flying - Resurrection
Book or Bible, open - Deceased Teacher, Minister, etc.
Book (usually representing Bible) - Eternal word of God
 A pair of Holy Books on Mormom (LDS) headstones indicates the Bible and
Book of Mormon
 Three Holy Books on Mormom headstones indicates the Bible, Book of Mormon,
and Doctrine & Covenants - all of which are scripture to the LDS Church
 Breasts - Nourishment of the soul, the church
Bridge - linking between the earthly and heavenly realms
 Bouquets/Flowers - Condolences, grief, sorrow
 Broken column - Loss of Head of Family
 Broken ring - Family Circle Severed
 Buds/Rosebud - Morning of Life or Renewal of Life
 Bugles - Resurrection and the Military
 Butterfly - Short-lived, Early Death, Soul transformation and rebirth

 Candle being snuffed - Time, mortality
 Cherub - Angelic
 Coffin, Father Time - Mortality
 Columns and Doors - Heavenly entrance
Compass and Set-square  - Freemason symbolism
 Corn - Ripe old age
 Cross - everlasting sign of God's suffering love and plan of redemption
 Crossed swords - High-ranking military person
 Crown - Christian righteousness and heavenly reward
Crucifix- usually Catholics, Christ's suffering and death
 Cup or chalice - The Sacraments

Darts, Coffin - Father Time
 Dove - Purity, Devotion, Innocence, Gentleness, Holy Spirit
 Dove, flying - Resurrection
Dove and Olive Branch - Peace
Dove with seven stars above and ribbon with the letters D.O.R - Daughters of the Revolution
 Drapes - Mourning, Mortality

Eye of God, an eye with a tent below it and a three-link chain underneath or often shown in a triangle -
 God, the all-seeing, at the center of the Trinity with the tent representing the house of God, its flaps open to show inner truth. The chain represents both the Trinity and the link that binds the faithful to God

 Flame or light - Life, Resurrection
Fleur-de-lys - Holy Trinity, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
 Flower - Fragility of life
 Flower, severed stem - Shortened life
 Flying birds - Flight of the soul
 Fruits - Eternal plenty

 Garland or wreath - Victory in death
Grapes and Grapevines - Sacrifice
 Grim Reaper- Death personified
Gourds, pomegranates - Nourishment of the soul; the church

 Hand, pointing up - Pathway to heaven, Heavenly reward
 Hands, clapsed - The goodbyes said at death
 Hand of God chopping - Sudden death
Hand touching a book - Word of God is the way to salvation
 Handshakes - Farewell
 Harp - Praise to the Maker, Harmony with the universe and ascent to higher things
 Heart - Love, Love of God, Abode of the soul, Mortality
 Horns - The Resurrection
 Hourglass - Passing of time
 Hourglass with wings - Time flies

 Imps - Mortality
 Ivy - Friendship and Immortality

Key - Mystery, Opening and closing, Solution to a problem

 Lamb - Innocence
 Laurel - Fame or Victory
 Lily or Lily of Valley - Virginity, innocence and purity
 Lion - Courage, The Lion of Judah

Menorah - Jewish symbol of divine wisdom
Morning Glory - Beginning of life

 Oak leaves and acorn - Maturity, Ripe old age
Orb - Celestial body and the reward of resurrection
Orb and cross with V.F.W - Veteran of Foreign Wars member
Orb and cross with dove over - Fourth Degree Knight in the Knights of Columbus

 Pall - Mortality
 Palm branch - Signifies victory and rejoicing
 Pick/shovel - Death, Mortality
Pine Cone - Immortality and Fertility
 Pomegranates - Nourishment of the soul; the church
 Poppy - Sleep
 Portals - Passageway to eternal journey

Ring, broken - Family circle severed
 Rod or Staff - Comfort for the bereaved
Rooster - Awakening, Resurrection
 Roses - Brevity of earthly existence
Rose, Open - Prime of Life
Rosary - Catholic

 Scales - Justice, Balance
Scythe - Death, The divine harvest
 Seashell - Resurrection, Life everlasting; Life's pilgrimage
 Sheaf of wheat - Ripe for Harvest, Divine Harvest, Time
 Skull - Mortality
 Skull/Crossed Bones - Death
 Skeleton - Life's brevity
 Snake, tail in mouth - Everlasting life in heaven
 Spade - Mortality, Death
 Stars and Stripes around eagle - Eternal Vigilance, Liberty
Star, upside down - Order of the Eastern Star (wives of Freemasons)
Star of David - Symbol of Judaism and the State of Israel
 Sun rising - Renewed life
Sun shining - Life everlasting
 Sun setting - Death
Swallow - Hope, Fertility, Renewal of Life, Resurrection

 Thistle - Scottish descent
 Thistles - Remembrance
 Tombs - Mortality
Torch inverted - Life extinct
 Tree - Life
 Tree sprouting - Life everlasting
 Severed branch - Mortality
Tree stump - Life interrupted
 Tree stump w/Ivy - Head of Family, Immortality
 Tree trunk - Brevity of life.
 Tree trunk leaning - Short interrupted life
Trefoil (similar to a shamrock) - Holy Trinity
 Trumpeters - Heralds of the Resurrection

 Urn - Immortality
 Urn with wreath or crepe - Mourning
 Urn with blaze - Undying friendship
Urn, shattered - Old age

 Weeping Willow tree - Mourning, Grief, Nature's lament
 Willows - Earthly sorrow
Winged face - Effigy of the deceased soul, Flight of the soul
 Winged skull - Flight of the soul from mortal man
 Wreath - Victory
Wreath on skull - Victory of death over life
 Wheat strands or sheaves - The divine harvest

Yew Leaves - Eternal Life
 

The Bible, along with hands, is the most common symbol found in eighteenth and nineteenth century cemeteries on Protestant tombstones.


Common Abbreviations Found on Tombstones or in Obituaries

AOF - Ancient Order Of Foresters
AOH - Ancient Order Of Hibernians
AOKMC - Ancient Order Of Knights of Mystic Chain
AOUW - Ancient Order Of United Workmen
ALOH - American Legion of Honor
BPOE - Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks
BPOEW - Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks of the World
CK of A - Catholic Knights of America
CTAS - Catholic Total Abstinence Society
CBKA - Commandery Benevolent Knights Association
CCTAS - Crusaders-Catholic Total Abstinence Society
DAR - Daughters of the American Revolution
DOR - Daughters of the Revolution
EBA - Emerald Beneficial Association
FAA - Free and Accepted Amerians
FOE - Fraternal Order of Eagles
GALSTPTR - German American Legion of St. Peter
GAR - Grand Army of the Republic
GUO of OF - Grand United Order of Odd Fellows
IHS - The first three letters in the Greek spelling of Jesus are IHS
IOI - Independent Order of Immaculates
IOKP - Independent Order of Knights of Pythias
IOOF - Independent Order of Odd Fellows
ISH - Independent Sons of Honor
IORM - Improved Order of Redmen
JAOUW - Junior Order-Ancient Order of United Workmen
JOUAM - Junior Order-Order of United American Mechanics
KGL - Knight Grand Legion
KM - Knights Militant
KC - Knights of Columbus
K of C - Knights of Columbus
K of FM - Knights of Father Matthew
KFM - Knights of Father Matthew
K of H - Knights of Honor
K of L - Knights of Loyola
KM Knights of Malta
KMC - Knights of Mystic Chain
KPC - Knights of Peter Claver
KP - Knights of Pythias
K of P - Knights of Pythias
KSC - Knights of St. Columbkille
KG - Knights of St. George
KSTG - Knights of St. George
KSTI - Knights of St. Ignatius
K of SJ - Knights of St. John
KSTJ - Knights of St. Joseph
KSL - Knights of St. Lawrence
KSTM Knights of St. Martin
K of STP - Knights of St. Patrick
KSTP - Knights of St. Paul
KSTP - Knights of St. Peter
KSTT - Knights of St. Thomas
K of STW - Knights of St. Wenecelas
KT - Knights of Tabor
K of T - Knights of Tabor
KWM - Knights of Wise Men
KGE - Knights of Golden Eagle
KHC - Knights of Holy Cross
KKK - Knights of Klu Klux Klan
KOTM - Knights of Macabees
KSF - Knights of Sherwood Forest
KT - Knights Templar (Masonic)
LK of A - Loyal Knights of America
MOLLUS - Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States
MWA - Modern Woodsmen of America
OUAM - Order of United American Mechanics
PM - Patriarchs Militant (Independent Order of Odd Fellows)
POSA - Patriotic Order of the Sons of America
IHSV - Red Cross of Constantine (Masonic)
RSTV - Rite of St. Vaclara
RSTV - Rite of St. Vita
RK - Roman Knights
MRA - Royal Arcanum
RAM - Royal Arch Masons
SBCL - Saint Bonifazius Catholic Union
SBL - Society B. Lafayette
SCV - Sons of the Confederate Veterans
SAR - Sons of the American Revolution
SV - Sons of Veterans
TH - Temple of Honor-Independent Order of Odd Fellows
UCV -  United Confederate Veterans
VFW - Veterans of Foreign Wars


Funny or Unusual Epitaphs

Central Burying Ground, Sherborn, Massachusetts

Kinsey Farm, Mt. Pleasant, New York

Phipps Corners Cemetery, Oppenheim, New York

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