Symbols on Headstones

Lakisha Lynette Bealer
09.12.22 03:33 PM Comment(s)

Symbols on Headstones

We often see symbols depicted on the front of headstones, many of which have a meaning.   Have you ever wondered what they might mean and why people choose a certain one?

I have compiled a small list of symbols and their common meanings to help you.


Well naturally this is quite a common one and may seem very obvious.  Angels are regularly seen on headstones and symbolise God and 

spirituality. Commonly these Angels are Michael, who has a sword and Gabriel, who is shown with a horn.  Angel Michael is the angel of death who 

helps carry the souls of all the deceased to heaven. He is said to descend at the hour of death and gives each soul the chance to redeem 

themselves before passing, thus keeping them safe and guiding them into gods’ arms. Gabriel is said to be the herald of visions and he helps to 

make gods message understandable to people and to help them in accepting it with a pure heart. These would definitely seem very appropriate

 on a head stone.


Books can depict that the headstone, grave or tombstone is a document holding information on the life of the deceased. An open book is often seen 

as a biography of one’s life and a closed book depicts the ending of the story of the deceased. An open book may also symbolise the religion of 

the deceased, such as a bible and may also show the vocation such as a minister priest, teacher, librarian, author, cook etc.


A butterfly is often associated with the resurrection and rebirth.  Metamorphosis from one life to another, reminding us of the natural cycle of 

life between birth and death.


Candles often represent spirit or the soul in a religious context. The Christian faith associate candles with Jesus Christ, the Light of the World. 

In Catholic burials candles are often left by the grave to represent the ongoing prayers for the deceased.


A key symbol of enduring religious faith - Christianity, symbolises faith, hope and charity. 


A popular symbol used on headstones represents peace, purity, resurrection and also the Holy Spirit.


Hearts are a sign of life love or immortality. Hearts often display love and affection from the living to the deceased, 2 joint hearts can 

represent marriage or a forever bond.

The Scroll 

A scroll depicts the life and times of the deceased as if it unfolded from the rolled ends with the past and future not on display. If a hand is holding 

the scroll this can depict the life being held by Angels.


Signify freedom and connection to god.

Pin wheels on graves

First seen on the graves of children they are now seen commonly also on adult graves. The continual movement suggests constancy, perhaps of 

love and affection. The wind which propels the tiny mills evokes the spirit, living on forever.

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