Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Cemetery Symbolism Part 5: Plants

Cemetery Symbolism Part 5: Plants

 Plants, especially flowers beautify our lives and are often used as a symbol of mourning, love, friendship, hope or thanks in the living world, and these same meaning can be conveyed to the dead. They are also used for religious purposes, such as a rose representing the Virgin Mary.
 Trees and hedges also make appearances in cemetery symbolise, as sometimes do fruit and vegetables, and in Australia quite often we see wheat wreaths on our graves in rural areas.

Flowers convey love, grief, happiness and other emotions. These symbolic connections of flowers with emotion are cross-cultural and their origins are unknown. During the 1800s, the use of floral symbolism became so popular that almost every flower known had a symbolic gesture attached to it. The following are some symbolic references to common plants and flowers:
Acacia - the immortality of the soul
Acanthus - heavenly garden. One of the oldest cemetery motifs, acanthus is associated with the rocky ground where most ancient Greek cemeteries were placed. It is the most common motif found on memorials.
Bamboo - the emblem of Buddha. The seven-knotted bamboo denotes the seven degrees of initiation and invocation in Buddhism. On Japanese memorials, symbolic of devotion and truthfulness.
Buttercup - cheerfulness.
Calla lily - symbolises marriage.
Cinquefoil - maternal affection, beloved daughter
Corn (Garbe) - it was a country custom to send a sheaf to relatives on the death of a farmer. It may be used as an occupational symbol.
Crocus - youthful gladness
Cypress tree - designates hope
Daffodil - the death of youth, desire, art, grace, beauty, deep regard.
Daisy - the innocence of a child, Jesus the Infant, youth, the Son of righteousness, gentleness, purity of thought.
Dead leaves - sadness, melancholy
Dogwood - Christianity, divine sacrifice, the triumph of eternal life, resurrection.
Fern - sincerity, sorrow
Figs, Pineapples - Prosperity, eternal life
Fleur-de-lis - flame, passion, ardour, mother
Flower - Frailty of life.
Broken flower - a life terminated, mortality.
Forget-me-not - remembrance
Ivy - memory, immortality, friendship, fidelity, faithfulness, undying affection, eternal life.
Grapes - represent Christ
Grapes and Leaves - Christian faith.
Hawthorn - hope, merriness, springtime
Holly - foresight
Honeysuckle - bonds of love, generosity and devoted affection
Lalla - beauty, marriage
Laurel Leaves - Special achievement, distinction, success, triumph
Lily - majesty, innocence, purity, and resurrection. Often associated with the Virgin Mary and resurrection. Often used on women's graves. The use of lilies at funerals symbolizes the restored innocence of the soul at death.
Lily of the valley - the return of happiness, purity, humility.
Morning glory - resurrection, mourning, youth, farewell, the brevity of life, departure, mortality
Mystic rose - Mother
Moss - merit
Mulberry - I will not survive you
Oaktree - hospitality, stability, strength, honour, eternity, endurance, liberty. It is believed to have been the tree from which Jesus Christ's cross was made. In smaller pioneer cemeteries, it is common to place children's graves near oak trees. The oak tree was the tree of life in pre-Christian times. The Druids worshipped the oak. The oak, oak leaves and acorn can stand for power, authority or victory. Often seen on military tombs.
Passionflower - the elements of the passion of Christ: the lacy crown—the crown of thorns; the five stamens—the five wounds; the 10 petals—the 10 faithful Apostles
Pineapple - hospitality, a good host
Palm - spiritual victory, success, eternal peace, a symbol of Christ's victory of death as associated with Easter.
Pansy - symbolises remembrance and humility.
Pine - fertility, regeneration, fidelity
Poppy - peace, rest, sleep, eternal sleep, consolation

Rose - love, beauty, hope, unfailing love, associated with the Virgin Mary, the "rose without thorns." A red rose symbolises martyrdom and a white rose symbolises purity and virginity.

  • Whether the rose is a bud, flower or somewhere in between indicates how old the person was at the time of death:
  • Just a bud - normally a child 12 or under
  • Partial bloom - normally a teenager
  • Full bloom - normally in early/mid-twenties. The deceased died in the prime of life
  • Rosebud, broken - a life cut short, usually found with a young person's grave
  • Rosebuds, joining - a strong bond between two people (e.g., mother and child who died at the same time
  • Rosebuds, several on the same branch - secrecy
  • Rosette - the Lord, messianic hope, promise, love.
  • Wreath of Rose - Beauty and virtue rewarded
Shamrock - Ireland as a country of origin
Thistle - earthly sorrow, Christ's crown of thorns, Scotland as the country of origin.
Tree - The all-covering love of Christ. Life, The Tree of Life.
Severed branch - Mortality
Sprouting - Life everlasting.
Vine - The sacraments, God's blood, God
Weeping Willow - Nature's lament, a symbol of sorrow and mourning.
Wheat - resurrection, bread and wine (Christian), fertility
Bushel - the body of Christ
sheaves - The divine harvest, Often represents the aged.
Wreath or Garland - The use of garlands, wreaths and festoons dates back to ancient Greek times and it was adopted into the Christian religion as a symbol of the victory of the redemption.
The laurel wreath is usually associated with someone who has attained distinction in the arts, literature, athletics or the military. The ivy wreath is symbolic of conviviality (gaiety or joviality). The wreath and festoon together symbolise memory.
An ancient symbol of victory. memory passed to eternal life.
Bridal -  may signify the grave of a young bride or groom.
Maiden's Garland -  A garland of white paper or linen, embellished with streamers and a single white glove, which was carried at the funerals of unmarried women of blameless reputation. The garlands were hung in the church after the funeral and allowed to decay. Then the pieces would be buried in the graveyard.
Yew tree - sadness, eternal life

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