Helpful Hints from Our Guide


Before you set off to rub your favorite gravestone…there are a few things you must understand about old graveyards and cemeteries. First they are places to commemorate the dead and you should be respectful of this. Old graveyards are also outdoor Museums and contain vast amounts of historic, artistic, and architectural information.

Rubbing does Not harm gravestones…if done properly and will actually help remove dirt, lichens, and acid rain residue. Rubbing gravestones can be an educational family activity and encourages people to conserve and preserve old graveyards. However, not all graveyards allow stones to be rubbed. Check local rules and regulations to make sure it is permitted.

Check with the cemetery superintendent…or with the local Historical Society, If you are still unsure whether it is possible to rub a gravestone or at the Town Hall to receive a permit.

When selecting a gravestone to rub… avoid rough stones, eroded or damaged stones, or densely lichened stones. Rubbing a stone that is deeply engraved or has a high relief will tear the rubbing paper. If the stone is flaking or has been damaged, avoid it. It’s hard to get a good rubbing from a damaged stone. Use only paper recommended for gravestone rubbing, such as our “Aqaba” brand rubbing paper which is malleable and not does rip or tear easily.

Knowing What the Symbols Mean

New England Graveyard Haunting Symbols

  • Angel ~ Symbolize the Heavenly Host
  • Arch ~ The Victory of Life
  • Arrow ~ Death Threat posed by Indians
  • Bird in Vine ~ Soul partaking of Celestial Food
  • Breast ~ Divine Milk needed for Nourishment
  • Candle ~ Life, Work, Activity, Extinguished before Sleep
  • Candle Snuffer ~ Put Out the Light of Life
  • Clerical Trappings ~ Occupation of Deceased during Lifetime
  • Coat of Arms ~ Genealogical Family of Origin
    Mark of Status & Wealth
  • Columns ~ Supporting the Roof of Heaven or Sky
  • Crossed Bones ~ Showing that Death Now Occupies
  • Demon ~ Humanization of Death ~ Influence from
    Forces of Death
  • Dove ~ Devotion ~ Christian Constancy
  • Earth ~ New Life ~ Life
  • Father Time ~ The Passing of Time; the Inevitability of Death
  • Flame from Urn ~ The Essence of Christian Life
  • Flower ~ The Life of Man, Frailty of Life
  • Fruit ~ The Product of Growth & Production :
    The Result of Living Righteous
  • Garlands ~ The Victory of a Pure Life
  • Gourd ~ Indicating Scriptures, Church Ministry
  • Heart ~ Soul’s Love of God
  • Hourglass ~ The Inevitability of the Passage of Time
  • Moon ~ Renewed Life
  • Palm ~ Victor: Righteous Man
  • Peacock ~ Fabled Incorruptibility of the Flesh, Resurrection,
    Beauty of Soul
  • Pomegranate ~ Resurrection
  • Rooster Crowing ~ Calling All to Attention of Passing of Life
  • Scallop Shell ~ Man’s Earthly Pilgrimage,
    Used as a Utensil Decorative Border
  • Scythe ~ The passing of Time
  • Skull with Crossbones ~ Mortality of Man
  • Skull with Wings ~ Death Figure
  • Stars ~ The Hope of New Life
  • Sun ~ The Renewal of Life
  • Sun Rising ~ Resurrection
  • Sun Setting ~ Death
  • Torch Elevated ~ Resurrection
  • Torch Lowered ~ Death
  • Tree ~ Tree of Life, God’s Family in a New Land
  • Tree Springing from Tomb or Urn ~ Rebirth
  • Trumpet ~ A Call to the Glory of Resurrection
  • Vines ~ God’s Seed Replanted in the Soil of The New World
  • Weeping Willow ~ Natures Lament for Departed Soul

Information gathered from
"Memorials for Children of Change"
by Dickran and Ann Tashjiam
Wesleyan University Press, c. 1974