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Visitors to cemeteries in America and in much of the world often leave plastic or fabric flowers in lieu of real flowers. In France the artificial flower of choice is the immortelle. Flower shops near cemeteries almost always sell them. While they cost more than other artificial flowers, they are virtually impervious to the ravages of time and weather and are also very easy to clean.

The primary symbol of the Freemasons is the square and compass. Often, inside the symbol is the letter G, which some say stands for geometry while others say it stands for God. Sometimes the symbol also contains clasped hands. The square and compass represent the interaction between mind and matter and refer to the progression from the material to the intellectual to the spiritual. The Freemasons have a gift for clouding the origins of their organization, but historians say the roots of Freemasonry were among the stonemasons who built the great cathedrals in Europe. Since they went from job to job and were essentially self-employed, they were free masons. When they worked on a large job, they banded together to form lodges. The Masons have grown to become the largest fraternal organization in the world. They are noted for their wide use of symbols and secret handshakes. The oldest jurisdiction on the continent of Europe, the Grand Orient de France (GOdF), was founded in 1733.

Hebrew Symbols

Jewish people have been memorializing their dead far longer than Christians. Jewish tombstones do not have nearly the vocabulary of symbols as Christian tombstones, but their brevity is deceiving. On some Jewish tombstones, the father of the deceased person is written on the tombstone. This piece of information gives genealogists a step back one generation.

Hebrew symbols, Pere-Lachaise

The menorah is a seven-branched candelabrum It is usually seen on the tombstone of a righteous woman Its roots go back to the destruction of the Temple of Solomon.

The most vivid account of the menorah in the Bible is in Exodus 25: 31-40, where the Lord explains the furnishings he wants Moses to make for the tabernacle. Interestingly, the seven-branched menorah is rarely seen on European headstones (usually three or five branches are seen) because the seven-branched menorah was a symbol of the temple and its use was prohibited as a headstone symbol.

The Star of David, a symbol of divine protection, is probably the most well-known Jewish symbol, although it didn’t become a major symbol until the late 1880s, when it was used by Zionists to identify themselves. Ironically, the Star of David symbol became a permanent identifier of Jews when Hitler ordered Jews to wear the symbol on their arms. When Israel put the star on its flag, the transition from minor symbol to the universal Jewish symbol was complete.

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