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Clasped & Pointing Hands


Glossary of Tombstone Symbols & Icons
© 2002 Kimberly Powell

Gravestone Symbol:

Hands & Pointing Fingers

Time Period:

1800s to mid-1900s

Interpretation & Meaning:

Seen as an important symbol of life, hands carved into gravestones represent the deceased's relationships with other human beings and with God. Cemetery hands tend to be shown doing one of four things: blessing, clasping, pointing, and praying.
  • A hand with the index finger pointing upward symbolizes the hope of heaven, while a hand with the index finger pointing down represents God reaching down for the soul.

  • Hands holding a chain with a broken link symbolizes the death of a family member. The hand of God plucking a link of the chain represents God bringing a soul unto himself.

  • A hand holding an ax means a life cut short; sudden death.

  • A handshake represents a farewell to earthly existence and God's welcome into heaven. If the sleeves of the two hands are masculine and feminine, the handshake may symbolize holy matrimony.

  • Two hands, with middle and ring fingers separated, are the symbol of a Jewish blessing — this signifies a Kohen, a descendant of Aaron.

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