Headstone Symbols is a website for those who have wondered what the symbols on headstones and tombstones mean. Not only does it contain an alphabetical list of symbols found on gravestones, it contains information and stories on how to decipher the true meaning of headstones that contain many symbols.
Headstone Symbols – The Beginning
Back in 2004 when I visited St Peter’s Churchyard in Heysham to take some personal photographs, I never for one minute thought that my fascination with graveyard photography would keep on growing and growing. The personal photographs were simply for me to look at to bring back cherished memories of a place where I used to play at as a child. I must have always been strange as I honestly did go and visit the graveyard on my own to spend time reading the various headstones and be at peace. My personal favourite headstones are my great granddad’s grave and a young couple who died together as their photograph was on their headstone. I remember asking my mother about the young couple and I don’t remember what she said exactly, but I could tell that it was hard hitting for the community when it happened. Little did I know that this was the start of my fascination.
Not many people hang out in churchyards and if you do come across people tending to a grave, they are always polite and friendly. I would spend many times in the churchyard and up on the Barrows, because it was like an adventure, going that little bit further than the park at the bottom of the street. It was exciting and different!
Unfortunately, this fell apart for me at the age of 9 as my mother married a cruel and horrific wife beater who was also an alcoholic. I was ripped away from my childhood, both physically and mentally, hence returning after nearly 24 years away to take some personal photographs, which turned out to be absolute rubbish that held no emotions whatsoever. This was the turning point when I realised that photography for me was about capturing emotions and not just a picture.
My photographing of graveyards began in 2004 and over the years I’ve been to some wonderful places, favourites being Ireland and Edinburgh, both of which have started my new fascination with photographing Memento Mori headstones. Each symbol on a Memento Mori headstone has a meaning, but generally, all mortality symbols remind us to live life for today as tomorrow it could be over. The various skulls, skeletons and cadavers remind us that no matter what our status is in life, we will all become this.
In 2013, I met Mark and our first holiday together was to Glasgow Necropolis to photograph the cemetery. Mark has always had an interest in symbolism and he has suggested for a few years now that I look more at the headstone symbols and their meanings, especially in Victorian cemeteries.
Lately, I’ve been suffering from extreme anxiety to the point that it’s making me ill. Mark suggested that it’s now time to create a website to reference all headstone symbols, that will preoccupy my mind with something I enjoy doing, hence this new beginning. I hope you enjoy it and please feel free to contribute.