Field Guide

Weeping Willow

Although the form of the weeping willow tree certainly suggests grief and sorrow, in many religions it suggests immortality. In Christianity it is associated with the gospel of Christ because the tree will flourish and remain whole no matter how many branches are cut off. The willow and urn motif was one of the most popular gravestone decorations of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The willow is also frequently paired with other cemetery symbols such as lambs and crosses.

The center of some lodges in the Far East is known as the "City of Willows", which is an abode of immortality. In Taoist folklore, graves of mythological figures are dug beneath willow trees.

The urn and the weeping willow tree were two of the first funerary motifs to replace death's heads and soul effigies when funerary symbolism started to take on a softer air after the Revolutionary War

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.

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