Cemetery Symbolism Part 3: GEOMETRIC SYMBOLISM
So far we have seen Animals and humans represent all kinds of positive human attributes, religious meaning and general life purpose, but there is also a great deal of symbolism through geometry, squares, triangles, circles and stars can all hold meaning to different people for different reasons
Geometric forms are commonly found on grave memorials:
Circle - The circle is pre-Christian and its original symbolic meaning has been adopted by Christianity. It is universally known as the symbol of eternity and never-ending existence. Extremely common on grave sites, its usual representation is a cross surrounded by a circle. Two circles, one above the other, represent earth and sky. Three interconnected circles represent the Holy Trinity.
Latin Cross surrounded by circle or oval - representing eternity or never-ending existence.
Cross - The ties between all religious beliefs and symbolism have always been strong. To the Christians, the greatest symbolic message is in the crucifix. The crucifix or cross can generate many symbolic messages ranging from love, faith and goodness to terror and fear (e.g. the Ku-Klux-Klan’s use of the burning cross). There are many different types of Christian crosses worldwide, but only a handful are common in North America.
Botonee Cross - So named because of its modified trefoil (three-lobed) ends, represents the Trinity.
Calvary Cross - A Latin cross standing on three steps or blocks, it signifies faith, hope and love. Love is sometimes replaced by charity.
Celtic Cross - The circle around the crosspiece symbolises eternity. Its origin can be traced to the Celtic cultures of the British Isles. There is a legend of how St. Patrick when preaching to some soon to be converted heathens was shown a sacred standing stone that was marked with a circle that was symbolic of the moon goddess. Patrick made the mark of a Latin cross through the circle and blessed the stone making the first Celtic Cross.
Eastern Cross - Used in Orthodox (Russian/Greek) Christian Religions, this cross upper horizontal shoulder representing the inscription over the head of Jesus. The lower slanting shoulder represents the footrest of the crucified Jesus.
Fleurie Cross/Gothic Cross - This flowered cross symbolises the adult Christian by its more opened flared out ends
Greek Cross - It has four arms equal in length and is the traditional symbol of Christian faith. The equal length drawings of the cross are pre-Christian, and in paganism, represented the four elements—earth, air, fire and water.
Ionic Cross - Similar to the Celtic Cross, it ends flair outward. The ionic cross signifies everlasting salvation, love and glory. The circle around the crosspiece symbolises eternity.
Latin Cross - One of the oldest symbols of Christianity and the most commonly used form, it is also the simplest in design. In early times, it was called god's mark
Triangle/Trefoil/Triquetra - In Christianity, the equilateral triangle is the symbol of the Trinity. Other geometric shapes representing the Holy Trinity are the trefoil, the triquetra, the circle within the triangle, the triangle in a circle and the triquetra and circle. To the ancient Egyptians, the triangle was an emblem of Godhead; to the Pythagoreans, it symbolised wisdom. Another use of the triangle is in the symbol of the eye (eye of God) surrounded by a triangle.
Square - It represents the earth and earthly existence. Some monuments have a cube or square inverted to point the corners downward and upward. This illustrates earthly existence and the directions of earth and heaven.
The Eye of God surrounded by a triangle and a circle - symbolic of the eternity of the Holy Trinity.
Pentagram - This is a five-pointed, star-shaped figure made by extending the sides of a regular pentagon until they meet. This figure pre-dates Christianity and was first known to be used by Pythagoras, the Greek philosopher. Later in the Middle Ages, the pentagram was used by magicians and sorcerers. It was believed that the pentagram offered protection against evil. Christianity adopted the figure and the symbolism to suggest the five wounds suffered by Christ on the cross. It is interesting to note that the pentagram is used by both Christianity and Wicca (witchcraft).
Pyramid - Eternity. It was supposed that a pyramid-shaped tombstone prevented the devil from reclining on a grave.
Star - A five-pointed star is symbolic of the life of Christ and may also represent the five wounds of Christ.
Five-pointed pentagram star - This star is drawn with one stroke of the pen. Its exact origin is unknown, and its meaning has changed throughout the ages. The pre-Christian Celtic priests called it the witch's foot. It is also called Solomon's Seal and was known in the Middle Ages as the goblin's cross. Today the symbol is a favourite among graffiti artists and so-called demonology practitioners. Like the Pentagon, it is believed to have protective powers against evil. In Wicca beliefs, it represents protection against demons and a symbol of safety. The ancient Babylonians used the symbol as a magic charm. The five-pointed pentagram star represents the five senses. To the Jews, it represents the five mosaic books. This symbol has also been adopted by Masonic organisations (e.g., the Eastern Star).
The Star of David - Six-pointed star or Star of David, also known as Magen David (Hebrew for a shield of David), it is typically used as a
symbol of Judaism. The star is actually made of two triangles. It signifies divine protection as epitomised by the alchemistic signs for fire and water which are an upward and downward apex triangle. The star is a very ancient symbol, used by several Asia Minor cultures, as well as some Greek city-states. For Judaism, the Star of David came into widespread use at the beginning of the 20th century. Theodore Hertzel, a Jewish activist, adopted the symbol in his writings promoting Palestine as a Jewish homeland.
Menorah or seven-branched candlestick - Jewish symbol for the divine presence of God. The seven branches of the candlestick represent the seven days for the creation of the world by God.Swastika - Exact origin is unknown but it is considered one of the oldest and widespread symbols used. Commonly found on Buddhist memorials, it represents the seal of the Buddha’s heart; the doctrine of Buddha; the round of existence. To the Chinese, the swastika had two forms symbolising the male and female; clockwise and anti-clockwise. Also used by the Romans and later by the Nazi party in Germany during the Second World War.