Art and Symbolism

Symbolism abounds in an old burial ground like Edgar Cemetery...

Cemetery art  and meaning represent various aspects of life, death and afterlife, according  to gravestone scholars. These symbols can be categorized into numerous reference topics –  body parts, animals, plants, and objects, among others.

Some of the most common  meanings are listed below. However, scholars also advise that a particular item  may have been used by someone merely as a personal preference, unassociated  with traditional meaning.


praying hands                Eye (sometimes in triangle, surrounded by circle) – Eye of God, all-knowing, ever-present                 holiness

                Hands – praying, asking God for Eternal Life; clasped - bond of marriage or farewell

                Heart – love, mortality,  courage, intelligence



monument with lamb

                Birds in flight – winged soul

                Butterfly – the soul (quite  rare)

                Dog – loyalty

                Dove – Holy Spirit;  resurrection, innocence, peace

                Fish – faith

                                                  Lamb – purity and innocence  (child)

                                                  Lion – guardian of tomb;  courage, bravery of the departed


Symbolic connections of flowers  with emotion are cross-cultural and their origins are unknown. Floral symbolism  peaked in the 1800s and became so popular that almost every flower known  had a symbolic meaning attached to it. Some of the most familiar are below:

marker with ferns branches                Calla Lily –marriage, majestic  beauty, resurrection

                Daisy – innocence of a child,  youth, purity, the infant Jesus

                Dogwood – Christianity, divine  sacrifice, triumph of eternal life, resurrection

                Grapes – Christ

                Ivy – memory, immortality,  friendship, fidelity, faithfulness

                Laurel – victory, distinction,  heroism, eternity

                Morning Glory – youth, farewell,  beginning or brevity of life, mortality, resurrection

                                                   Oak tree, leaves, acorns –  strength, power, honor, longevity, steadfastness

                                                   Olive branch – peace; soul  departed in peace of God

                                                   Rose – beauty, hope, unfailing  love; bud or full bloom indicates age at time of death

                                                   Tree – tree of life; tree trunk  – brevity of life; severed tree – mortality

                                                   Wheat – divine harvest


Not all cemetery symbolism is  readily understood, and is open to interpretation.  A list of the most common interpretations follows.

monument with anchor and cross                Alpha  and Omega  –  Christ, the beginning and the end

                American Flag – military veteran;  courage, pride

                Anchor – disguised cross; hope;  steadfastness in Christ

                Angel – spirituality; agent of  God; guardian of the tomb; flying angel - rebirth

                Bible – religious person

                Book – book of life, Bible

                Celtic or Irish Cross – eternity  (cross with a circle at its center)

                Circle – eternity, never-ending  existence

                Chain, broken – cessation of  life

                Column, broken – life cut short

                Cross – love, faith, goodness

                Cross and anchor – Christ  anchors the soul

                Crown – the soul’s achievement  and the glory of life after death

                Drape – sorrow, mourning

                Flame, light, lamp – immortality  of the spirit, resurrection

                Furniture, empty – unfulfilled lives  of children

                Urn – immortality

                Horn – the Resurrection

                Horseshoe – protection from  evil; passion involved horses

                Hourglass – time ran out

                Inverted torch – life  extinguished; life in the next realm

                Scroll – life, time, honor

                Scythe – death, final harvest

                Star – life of Christ, five  wounds

                Triangle – the Trinity

                Trumpets – victory, resurrection

                Wheel – cycle of life,  enlightenment, divine power


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