All-Seeing Eye – Eye of Providence

October 18, 2006

The all-seeing eye, also called the Eye of Providence or Eye of God, has origins dating back to the Eye of Horus in Egyptian mythology. It has been adopted as part of the Great Seal of the United States, which shows the all-seeing eye floating on top of a pyramid. This can be seen on the back of the one dollar bill. It is often associated with conspiracy theories involving UFOs, the Illuminati or Freemasonry. It is also featured in the 2004 Disney film, National Treaure, and in J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy as the Eye of Sauron.

In cemeteries the all-seeing eye symbol is usually found associated with Freemasonry or the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, like the example here. The letters F, L and T inside the chain links stand for Friendship, Love, and Truth.

All-seeing eye - Eye of Providence cemetery symbol

Photo: Fairmount Cemetery, Denver, Colorado


Dollar Sign – IHS

October 2, 2006

This symbol, which looks like a dollar sign ($), is actually the letters I, H, and S superimposed over each other. These represent the Greek letters Iota (Ι), Eta (Η) and Sigma (Σ), which are the first three letters of Jesus in Greek. See IHS Monogram for more information.

IHS cemetery symbol in the shape of a dollar sign - Iota, Eta, Sigma

Photo: from the grave marker of Atala Blow Noble (1862-1909) and Louis S. Noble (1865-1934), Fairmount Cemetery, Denver, Colorado

Leaving Pebbles or Stones on a Grave Marker

September 26, 2006

The Jewish tradition of leaving a pebble or stone on top of a tombstone signifies that someone has honored the deceased person’s memory with a visit to the grave. A nice example of this is shown at the end of the movie Schindler’s List.

photograph showing stones left on a Jewish tombstone from Fairmount Cemetery, Denver, Colorado

Photo: from Fairmount Cemetery, Denver, Colorado

For more information on this tradition see: Why do we place pebbles on grave stones? by Rabbi Tom Louchheim

Knights Templar – In Hoc Signo Vinces

September 23, 2006

This photograph is of a Masonic Knights Templar symbol showing a cross within a crown inside a Maltese cross, which has the Latin phrase, “in hoc signo vinces.” The phrase means “in this sign you shall conquer” and was used by Constantine as a military motto in the early 4th Century. The phrase was also used by the original Knights Templar military order that was founded during the Crusades. The Freemasons began using Templar rituals and symbols in the late 1700s.

Knights Templar legends and myths are quite popular in movies and books such as The Da Vinci Code, Foucault’s Pendulum, National Treasure, and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Some also see parallels between the Jedi Knights of Star Wars and the Knights Templar military order.

Photo: from the mausoleum of Dr. J.G. Locke, Fairmount Cemetery, Denver, Colorado


September 18, 2006

The menorah is a seven-branched candelabra often seen on Jewish tombstones, especially those of women. The menorah is one of the oldest symbols of Judaism. Instructions for making a menorah are given in chapter 25 of Exodus. On older grave markers you may see menorahs with less than seven branches.

The menorah on a Jewish tombstone.

Photo: from the tombstone of Sam L. Meyer (1877-1961) and Ida L. Meyer (1883-1962), Emanuel at Fairmount Cemetery, Denver, Colorado

Grand Army of the Republic

September 12, 2006

Grand Army of the Republic shield - cemetery symbolThe Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) was a fraternal organization of honorably discharged Union Civil War veterans. Some of their rituals were based on Freemasonry. The GAR was founded in 1866 by Benjamin Franklin Stephenson in Decatur, Illinois. By 1890 they had 409,000 members. The GAR was involved in charity and politics, and they lobbied for soldiers homes and pensions. They also began the tradition of Decoration Day on May 30th, now called Memorial Day. Five presidents were members of the GAR: Ulysses S. Grant, Rutherford B. Hayes, James Garfield, Benjamin Harrison and William McKinley. The last GAR member, Albert Woolson, died in 1956 at age 109 (although census research indicates he may have been 106 or 108). He was also the last undisputed surviving Civil War veteran on either side.

For help finding Civil War records see: Online Civil War Records, Indexes and Rosters of Soldiers

Grand Army of the Republic - Union Civil War veterans - cemetery emblem

Star of David

September 12, 2006

The six-pointed Star of David, a symbol of Judaism, is frequently found on Jewish tombstones. It is also called the Shield of David (Magen David in Hebrew). Sometimes you will see the Hebrew abbreviation “Peh-Nun” inside the star like the example here. This abbreviation stands for either “poh nitman” or “poh nikbar” and means simply, “here lies…”

For more information on Jewish tombstone iconography see: Reading Hebrew Tombstones.

Star of David - Jewish cemetery symbol

Photo: from the headstone of Rose Simon (1906-1934), Emanuel at Fairmount Cemetery, Denver, Colorado