What’s it mean? The Mes­sages be­hind Sym­bols

Galston, Glenorie and Hills Rural News - - History - By Ker­ron May

Epi­taphs are verses de­scrib­ing the de­ceased in ba­sic form in­form­ing who they were, age, ori­gins and an­ces­try. How­ever some head­stones go a few steps fur­ther, giv­ing hid­den clues and hints through the use of mo­tifs and sym­bols. Apart from the ob­vi­ous mo­tifs de­not­ing the ma­jor re­li­gions that is, the Chris­tian cross, Jewish Star of David and Mus­lim Cres­cent, other sym­bols can eas­ily be read once the code is known.

The sym­bol or mo­tif may be in­spired by na­ture or more fre­quently by the per­son the stone com­mem­o­rates. Most oc­cu­pa­tions can be sym­bol­ised by the tools of the trade. In this carv­ing there is chisel, mal­let and a strip of wood in­di­cat­ing the per­son it com­mem­o­rates was a wood carver or car­pen­ter. sym­bols or mo­tifs may be in­spired by the de­ceased as a way of eas­ily as­so­ci­at­ing them with a recog­nis­able em­blem rep­re­sent­ing the essence of who they were in life.

The an­chor is a sym­bol of hope and stead­fast­ness, and eter­nal life, and may of­ten found on sailors' head­stones. Ma­sons used it as a sym­bol of well-grounded hope. Early Chris­tians used it as a dis­guised sym­bol of the cross.

An­gels are sym­bolic mes­sen­gers be­tween God and man whereas a book sym­bol sig­ni­fies the Bi­ble and faith as well as also rep­re­sent­ing knowl­edge and the Book of Life.

The uses of birds and but­ter­flies are also well known on head­stones de­not­ing peace and free­dom in the case of birds or birth and res­ur­rec­tion within the nat­u­ral cy­cle of life and death in the use of but­ter­flies. But­ter­flies are used to rep­re­sent the soul and are of­ten to be found on the graves of chil­dren.

In­ter­est­ingly, cir­cles are meant to con­vey eter­nity. They are the al­pha and omega but hav­ing no be­gin­ning or end­ing may also sym­bol­ise res­ur­rec­tion.

These are some ex­am­ples of sym­bols used as memo­ri­als on head­stones, and re­main an im­por­tant fea­ture of mod­ern grave­stones too. Al­though some of the older sym­bols have fallen out of favour, many clas­si­cal sym­bols such as the cross and the dove re­main pop­u­lar.

Sym­bols do not need to be carved in re­lief: they can be a sim­ple line carv­ing. Thus

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.