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Historic Cemetery Symbols: The Acronym “HTWSSTKS” & Its Meaning

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The acronym "HTWSSTKS" on a headstone. (photo by Tui Snider)
The acronym “HTWSSTKS” on a headstone. (photo by Tui Snider)

What does HTWSSTKS stand for on a headstone?

When it comes to historic cemetery symbosl, acronyms are used as a form of shorthand. There’s only so much room on a headstone, after all. (Speaking of acronyms, in an earlier post, I explained the surprisingly upbeat meaning behind the rather dire-sounding acronym, FATAL.)

HTWSSTKS is an acronym with connections to the Masonic Temple, specifically Royal Arch Masons. The letters stand for, “Hiram, Tyrian, Widow’s Son, Sent to King Solomon.” Of course, now we’re left wondering who the heck Hiram is!

As it turns out, all third degree Freemasons study the story of a man named Hiram Abiff (a.k.a. Hiram the Widow’s Son.) According to legend, Hiram was chief architect for the Temple of King Solomon. When bad guys tried to squeeze the secret masonic passwords out of Hiram, he valiantly refused to tell them. As a result, the bad guys killed poor Hiram. In Masonic teachings, Hiram’s story is held up as an example of loyalty.

So, when you see HTWWTKS on someone’s headstone, you know that not only were they a Royal Arch Mason, but that they made it at least as far as the third degree in that fraternal order!

Field Guide to Cemetery Symbolism:

I am currently creating a field guide to cemetery symbolism. Each Tuesday, I share a small snippet from my upcoming book. It’s my goal to create a handy-dandy pocket guide for taphophiles, genealogists, ghost hunters, and anyone else interested in the historic graveyard symbols that have become forgotten over the years.

What symbols are you curious about?

Let me know in the comments if there is a certain symbol that you are curious about. Also, if you would like to know when the cemetery symbolism guide is available for purchase, scroll down and sign up for my newsletter! I look forward to hearing from you!

FREE Cemetery Symbols Guide:

Would you like a FREE guide to historic cemetery symbolism? If so, click the image below:

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Tui Snider having fun on a Texas road trip!
Tui Snider having fun on a Texas road trip!

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Tui Snider

Tui Snider is an author, speaker, and photographer who specializes in quirky, haunted, and downright bizarre destinations. As she puts it, “I used to write fiction – but then, I moved to Texas!” Snider's writing and photography have been featured in a variety of publications, including Coast to Coast AM, FOX Travel News, LifeHack, Langdon Review, the City of Plano, Wild Woman Waking, Shades of Angels and more. Snider’s award-winning books include Paranormal Texas, The Lynching of the Santa Claus Bank Robber, and Unexpected Texas. Snider has several more books in progress, including a Field Guide to Cemetery Symbols and a book about the Great Texas Airship Mystery of 1897. Tui has worn a lot of hats in her life – literally – and is especially fond of berets. She enjoys connecting with writers and readers all over the globe through social media, her newsletter and her website: TuiSnider.com.
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Published inCemeteries & SymbolismHistoric Cemeteries

6 Comments

  1. Randy Randy

    King Solomon had twenty wives some say thirty.

  2. That’s one acronym that I would have never figured out. Those Masonic fellows sure have some strange practices. Interesting revelation.

    Arlee Bird

    • Tui Snider Tui Snider

      Yeah, it’s the strangest acronym I’ve come across. It’s fascinating to me, in part, because it is so clunky and hard to remember!

  3. You’re not going to mysteriously vanish for giving away the Mason’s secrets? ;)

    • Tui Snider Tui Snider

      Haha! I know what you mean, Patty! When I was 14 or 15, I tried to infiltrate the Masons by joining their group for teens called the Rainbow Girls. I’d snoop all over the Masonic Lodge every chance I got, but never found out anything too mysterious. They were pretty patient with all my questions, I must say, although they never would explain by Masonic Lodges never have windows!

      • Jason Jason

        You never got the answers because you didn’t ask the right questions. We masons are not as secretive as people think. There are a few things we don’t discuss, but of everything we do, we don’t discuss maybe 10% of it. The reason is, it is not anyone else’s concern. We are a fraternity with a right to privacy, just like any other organization or individual.

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