Field Guide


The Laurel, usually in the form of a wreath, can represent victory, eternity, immortality, and chastity in funeral art. Its association with eternity and immortality comes from the leaves, which do not wilt or fade. Its link with victory comes from ancient contests where the triumphant winner was crowned with a laurel wreath; which was supposed to bestow immortality. In the Roman world, the laurel wreath was a symbol of military as well as intellectual glory and was also thought to cleanse the soul of any guilt it had over the slaying of enemies. It is also a symbol of chastity because it was consecrated to the Vestal Virgins.

The Chinese also saw the symbolism of immortality in this evergreen shrub. One legend says that while underneath a laurel bush, the Moon Hare distills a drug of immortality made of herbs.

Taken from Stories in Stone: A Field Guide to Cemetery Symbolism and Iconography written and photographed by Douglas Keister, published by Gibbs Smith, Salt Lake City, 2004.

Vestal Virgins

In ancient Roman religion, the Vestals or Vestal Virgins (Vestales, singular Vestalis) were priestesses of Vesta, goddess of the hearth. The College of the Vestals and its well-being was regarded as fundamental to the continuance and security of Rome. They cultivated the sacred fire that was not allowed to go out. The Vestals were freed of the usual social obligations to marry and bear children, and took a vow of chastity in order to devote themselves to the study and correct observance of state rituals that were off-limits to the male colleges of priests... Read on in Wikipedia...

Moon Hare

The Moon rabbit in folklore is a rabbit that lives on the Moon, based on pareidolia that identifies the markings of the Moon as a rabbit. The story exists in many cultures, prominently in East Asian folklore and Aztec mythology. In East Asia, it is seen pounding in a mortar and pestle, but the contents of the mortar differ among Chinese, Japanese, and Korean folklore. In Chinese folklore, it is often portrayed as a companion of the Moon goddess Chang'e, constantly pounding the elixir of life for her; but in Japanese and Korean versions, it is pounding the ingredients for rice cake.... Read on in Wikipedia...