A handshake symbol on a tombstone usually signifies a welcome into the heavenly world. Sometimes you may see this as a symbol of matrimony on the grave marker of a married couple. If it’s a marriage symbol you may notice that one cuff will look masculine and the other, feminine.
Photograph: from the tombstone of Hugh L. Mitchell, died Dec. 14, 1882, age 34/4/17, Ute Cemetery, Aspen, Colorado.
This is a great website. You should take a look at the cemeteries in Southeastern, PA…especially in Ephrata+. Also of interest are those in the Northeastern Rustbelt…especially in Trinity Church’s graveyard in Manhattan and St Paul’s in New Brunswick, NJ.
it is very good bullet for marriage.
I live near Alexandria Virginia, right outside Washington D.C. There is a cemetery in Alexandria called “Alexandria National Cemetery.” It was the percurser to “Arlington National Cemetary” and was used to bury Revolutionary War Troops until it ran out of room and Arlington National was created. There is even a seperate section for “colored peoples.”
The cemetery has been neglected and forgotten. Homeless people sleep amongst the fallen tomstones and rotting crypts. Beer bottle glass litters the grounds. The tombstones that are legible are incredible.
My wife and I, every year, spend a day cleaning up trash and manage to fill at least 5 black trash bags of garbage.
Deffinately worth some research on your part. I would be happy to take some digi pics and E-mail them to you the next time we are there.
since my brother past away in 2007, i have interested in cemetarys and in short, the afterlife. i was wondering where people who didnt belong to a certain faith are buried, if they didnt want to be cremated.
Recently attended a burial service in Alta Vista, Ks, and saw two tombstones with the clasped hands, Our Pastor found your web site, and since I do family research, I’ll be checking your site out frequently.
When I first started doing monument work, I wondered about this. One hand usually does look masculine and the other feminine, but it always seems to look more like a handshake than 2 people holding hands. The cemetery monuments close to us rarely have this emblem. It must have more than one meaning, since the 2 stones I have seen it on locally were for single graves. Have you anything further on this?
Some contend that the clasped hands indicate the soul of the deceased saying farewell to those on earth. Hands on tombstone do four things: Clasp, Pray, Bless and Point.
I have been studying grave symbols for our historical society and have run across at least 3 obviously different hand clasp symbols. One with the fingers grasping the other hand as in a handshake which references say may represent a welcome or even a goodbye. Second one hand grasping while the other hand has the fingers extended; the cuffs on the hands are different which represents a married couple. The third has me stumped it is of two hands clasped in a regular handshake but the index fingers on both hands are extended as if pointing. is this from a Secret Society?
Aviva Ben-Ur and Rachel Frankel refer to this motif as “presenting hands” and suggest that it is a masonic symbol REMNANT STONES, p. 282. They argue that it symbolizes “a continuum of being, and even interaction, between above and below, between the living and the dead, and between the human and the divine.” Laura Suchan makes a similar claim in “Memento Mori: Bringing the Classroom to the Cemetery,” though she doesn’t identify it as Masonic. Any Masons out there know more about this?
In response to Ken’s comment, from what I have read, this seems reminiscent of a Mason ritual. I am not a Mason, of course, but that was my first thought as well.
The photo is so lovely! I love wandering the cemeteries with my husband who has a website with lists of burials. It’s so interesting to me all of the beauty and tenderness. I’m often in wonder of all the symbolism. I’m so glad to have found your blog!
Thank you very much for a most interesting blog. This particular article came in handy today as I was presented with a somewhat unlikely view about handshakes on tombstones