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3 Commonly Misunderstood Cemetery Symbols

Part Two: Witch’s Tombs & Misunderstood Cemetery Symbols 

Throughout the year, and especially as Halloween approaches, well-intentioned people forward me articles about alleged Witch’s Tombs that have no basis in fact. This is the second of two blog posts in which I explain why you should be suspicious of alleged Witch’s Tombs.

Part One: In my previous post, I explained the problem with Witch’s Tombs, gave two examples, and explained how I think they are created. (Here’s a link to Part One.)

Part Two: In this post (which you are currently reading) I describe the three cemetery symbols most commonly misconstrued as having ties to witchcraft and/or satanism. I also talk about a real witch’s grave and the symbol that appears on its headstone.

3 Commonly Misunderstood Cemetery Symbols

Since publishing Understanding Cemetery Symbols, people often email me questions. From the queries I get, three symbols in particular, are often wrongly assumed to be associated with witchcraft and/or satanism: Torches, pentagrams, and angels with stars. 

Inverted torch symbolizes eternal life. (c) Tui Snider

Torches

Modern graveyard visitors sometimes misunderstand the image of torches on headstones, especially when the torch is inverted. I’ve heard people speculate that an upside down torch means the deceased was secretly an atheist, or that they were involved in dark magic.  

In truth, torches have long been associated with death. The word “funeral” comes from funeralis, the Latin word for a “torchlight procession.” That’s because ancient Romans buried their dead after dark and needed torches to lead the way.  

As a Christian symbol, inverted torches stand for eternal life. When the flames are shown continuing to burn while upside down, it represents how the soul continues to live after the body dies. When the torch is upside down, but snuffed out, it simply stands for death.

(photo by Tui Snider)
FATAL (c) Tui Snider

Pentagrams

Although pentagrams are a common sight in historic cemeteries, I often get frantic emails saying things like, “There’s a pentagram on my grandma’s headstone! Was she a witch?” It doesn’t help that these five-pointed stars often have the word “fatal” inscribed in them. 

I blame movies and TV shows for this one. After all, when a pentagram is scrawled on the wall at a murder scene, we as viewers instantly know witchcraft or satanism will be part of the story’s plot, right? 

While it’s true that pentagrams have become Hollywood shorthand for “evil,” there’s no reason to be scared when you seen one on a tombstone. For one thing, FATAL is an acronym. It stands for “fairest among ten-thousand, altogether lovely.” Pretty nice, eh? 

Yes, pentagrams are symbols that can be used in magical practices. However, when engraved on a headstone, the type of pentagram you see depicted in the photo above tells us that the deceased was a member of the Order of the Eastern Star, which is the women’s branch of the freemasons. 

Look closely and you will notice that there are symbols in each ray of the star, as well. Each of these symbols represents one of the five Biblical heroines (Adah, Ruth, Esther, Martha, and Electa) as they fulfill the many different roles that a woman can have throughout her life. 

In short, there is nothing satanic or witchy about this type of pentagram. (I will describe another type of pentagram later in this article, so hang on!)

Virgin Mary statue in Jefferson, Texas. (c) Tui Snider

Angels with Stars

You might wonder why the women’s branch of the freemasons is called “The Order of the Eastern Star.” In this case, the “eastern star” refers to the biblical star of Bethlehem, the star that guided the Three Wise Men to Christ’s birthplace.

Speaking of stars, some female statues in cemeteries feature stars on their foreheads. Yet again, there’s nothing “witchy” about this. It is simply shorthand for the Virgin Mary. 

(c) US Dept of Veterans Affairs – This emblem of belief is for Wiccans.

Finally: A REAL Witch Grave – Wiccan Symbols 

It’s beyond the scope of this article to delve into the intricacies of modern witchcraft, nor am I qualified to do so; however, there are people living today who describe themselves as witches. Some, but not all these witches, are Wiccans. 

Today, if you are truly searching witch’s graves, one place you may encounter them is on military markers! 

A different pentagram

The US Veterans Administration (VA) offers military headstones to those who have served in the armed forces. These markers include space for an “emblem of belief.” For decades, the only options were a Latin cross for Christians, and a Star of David for Jews.  Since then, the VA has added dozens of new emblems of belief, everything from Thor’s Hammer, to a symbol for atheists. 

It took a lawsuit to make it happen, but in 2007 the VA added a new emblem of belief to its roster: a pentagram for Wiccans. As you can see, it is different from the pentagram used by the Order of the Eastern Star.  

I don’t know if there are any Wiccans buried in Texas with such a military marker, but if/when I do find one, I will know that I have finally seen an actual witch’s grave.

Is there a Witch’s Grave near you?

What about you? Are there graves near you that are mistakenly called Witch’s Tombs? Or have you seen any Wiccan graves that are marked with a pentagram or other symbol? Let me know in the comments below.

And in case you missed the first part of this article, follow this link to read Part One: Witch’s Tombs are not what you may think.

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4 Comments

    • Glad you enjoyed it! :) Thanks for stopping by.

  1. Kay Drescher Kay Drescher

    Nice job on explaining the symbol for The Order of The Eastern Star! I am a 50 year member and get exhausted explaining why we use “an upside down star” as our symbol. If it didn’t point downward, how could it ‘point’ the way for the Wise Men to find the baby Jesus?
    Nice to ‘talk’ to you again!

    • Wow! You’ve been a member for 50 years? Now I know who to ask when I have more questions about the OES. It surprises me how many people are frightened by Eastern Star symbols. I saw a video recently where a guy claimed that the OES symbol stood for witchcraft. Thanks for dropping by, Kay!

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