Symbols for Memorial and Memory
Whether remembering fallen soldiers in the U.S. for upcoming Memorial day, or honoring loved ones who have passed into non-physical in general...there are a few symbolic elements we can incorporate into our practices of remembrance.
Visiting gravesites, prayers, ceremonies of acknowledgement for those who have passed from this Earth are all fundamental practices for keeping memories of our loved ones alive. We can enhance these practices by incorporating symbols for memorial and memory. There are certain natural symbols we can select to augment our experience in connecting and remembering the souls of the departed. Employing these symbolic energies from Nature speeds our sentiments to transitioned souls, and solidifies our intention to honor our loved ones.
Below are a few symbolic energies that can potentially ease the distance between those of us left behind on Earth while we seek to reconnect with those who have transitioned into a different level of existence. Certain animals, plants, stones, etc. harbor specific energy for remembrance, devotion and peace to those who have passed (as well as assuage the grief of our loss).
So how do we utilize these natural symbols for memorial and memory? The answer to that question deals with energy and essence. Energy is a mysterious and marvelously powerful thing. As conscious beings, we can gently manipulate the energy imbued in Nature; essentially directing it towards a higher purpose. By simply calling upon the energy bundled in a stone, a flower or an animal - we can direct the essence of that energy to underscore our intent to pay respects to our dearly departed. As we dedicate our love and well-wishes to those who are no longer with us, these natural elements augment our sentiments. Transference of symbolic energy can be practiced in many ways. Here are a few ideas:
Consider these natural symbols for memorial and memory in your process of revering beloveds who are no longer here in the physical, but are absolutely with us in spirit...
In numerous cultures (Greek, Roman, Celtic to name a few), the horse is aligned with chthonic symbolism. Chthonic is a funky word that simply means 'subterranean' or underground - which translates to horse connection with the 'underworld' in ancient belief systems. Myth and lore relate the horse as a sort of guardian or guide in the world beyond physical life...essentially guiding the departed through the spirit worlds. Interestingly, the horse eventually ascended from chthonic status and over time became associated with sky gods. The horses' resurrection from ground to sky prompted symbolism of heaven, memory of the deceased and rising above the tribulations of the world. As a sun/sky symbol, the horse was often invoked in countless funeral rites in ancient cultures. This regal beast has an uncanny sense of loyalty, direction and incredible strength. The horse is a powerful liaison, capable of delivering your devotion to your loved ones. Explore more horse symbolism here.
Koala-energy may seem an unlikely bridge between the physical and spiritual realms of life. Its status as an emissary for the departed comes from Aboriginal wisdom. Aborigines have a legend positioning the koala as the first to inhabit the Earth. They were formed from the clay of the land, and were initially ground-dwellers. In time, the koala grew wise and shared many skills and lessons to humans. With increased wisdom, the koala graduated to higher status of being. As they grew more wise, the koala began to leave the ground, and ascend into the trees. This is a metaphor for moving from the mundane into the enlightened realm. With their transition from mundane to spiritual, the koala kept the memories of their lineage, as well as their memories of all humans. This Aboriginal legend places the koala as a symbol of memorial and memory in two ways: 1) Koala are memory-keepers. They are vessels of the spirits of those who have gone beyond the realm of mundane/physical. 2) Koala's are symbolic of transition and ascension. They remind us that while our loved ones may no longer be with us physically, the live on in a higher realm of existence. Learn more about fascinating koala symbolism here.
Just about everybody knows the renowned and staggering memory-capacity of elephants. They have remarkable mental retention, and that makes them ideal symbols for memorial and memory. A lesser known fact is the elephant's elaborate and touching approach to their fallen loved ones. Zoologists have observed elephants actually grieve for the losses in their packs. Elephants express distinct emotions...lethargy, silence, touching their dead, and even weeping tears when facing loss of life. Elephants are known to spend days hovering and mourning over their dead. Further, animal experts have uncovered how elephants display extraordinary funerary processes. When an elephant knows its time on Earth is coming to an end, it will traverse to a special burial site. If unable to rejoin their fallen at the burial site, the pack will actually move a deceased elephant's remains to the site. Elephants are one of the only animals (that we know of) to exhibit distinct rituals revolving around death. This makes them superior symbols for memorial and memory. Elephant energy is grandly generous. They have the capacity to lend their energy of reverence, devotion, love and memory to humans. Invoke elephant energy when honoring your transitioned loved ones. Their power and mammoth heart will offer a blanket of healing and rest in the process of transitioning from physical to non-physical. Get more on symbolic elephant meanings here.
Crows and Ravens:
Countless cultures have identified these birds as guardians of the dead. Like koala's, crows and ravens are also memory keepers. These birds have inherited the role of 'soul-carriers' in many myths and legends...particularly Viking and Celtic wisdom. Their role of carrying souls into the otherworlds was a serious one. They insured fallen warriors would reach their gods and goddesses without intrusion from nefarious forces - hence assuring a peaceful transition. What's more, crows and ravens are purported to keep the memories of the fallen. This makes them vessels for the spirit and essence of many a warrior....essentially databanks for human strength and personality. Crows and ravens are also messengers, capable of carrying your devotions and sentiments to your loved ones. Vice versa, they can send messages from your fallen to you too. More about crow symbolism here, and more about symbolic raven meanings here.
In mythology, rose meaning is associated with Aphrodite (Greek) goddess of love. We can track down this association when we discover that a rose bush grew within the pool of blood spilled from Aphrodite's slain lover (Adonis). This legend established the rose as a symbol of immortal love, remembrance and devotion. It is a reminder that our unions with those we love will never fade - not even in the face of death. The rose is a symbol of memorial and memory in times of hardship. This deals with the delicate beauty we see in the flower amidst painful thorns. As a symbol, the rose reminds us that beauty can be found, even amidst the painful thorns of loss. Learn more about rose symbolism here.
Pansies have long been flowers of remembrance. Indeed, they have often been placed upon memorial markers and stones to honor and remember those who are no longer on the physical plane. They are also a symbol of togetherness and union, and perhaps this is why they are so appropriate for remembering those who have passed from our lives. Their beauty is the perfect testimony to the love we have shared with others in the past. Keep pansies around you when you wish to remember the fond memories and kindnesses of loved ones who have passed from this earth.
In Christianity, poppy symbolism is purported to represent death as a period of tranquil slumber. This association is seen in metaphor as the red petals of the poppy symbolize the blood of a sacrificed Christ. Themes of resurrection and immortality (salvation of the soul) blossom as the poppy (and the spirit) never really die, just renew and ascend. The poppy is also a symbol of eternal slumber. Hence, it is a symbol of retaining personality, memory and our essence...even after our loved ones reach the great beyond. More on poppy symbolism here.
Emeralds are clarifying agents. When worn or held, they tend to cut through superfluous thoughts and emotions to get down to the core of our purpose and intention. This means the emerald can facilitate clarity of mind so that we may send our best sentiments to our dearly departed. Green emeralds are aligned with the heart chakra, which makes them powerful tools to connecting our hearts with the hearts of those who have transitioned. Emeralds enhance intuition and psychic power. Ideally, these stones may enhance our ability to connect with our loved ones in the spirit realms.
I've always considered stones to be vessels of memories. Amber is the big boss of memory, as it is one of the oldest substances employed by humankind for personal decoration and magical use. In addition to being an elemental symbol of memorial and memory, amber is also imbued with energies such as: Love, devotion, protection and healing. Amber's warm essence can mend wounds of the heart, and mend rifts we may have experienced before our loved ones passed into non-physical. Hold amber close to your heart, and focus on ideals such as healing, peace, mending, nurturing. Amber is closely aligned with the fifth element (aether), which means it is a powerful bridge between physical and spiritual.
Legend has it that firs were markers for important grave sites for the Druids and Celts. It is said that even from a great distance, certain firs could be identified as the markers of great chieftains and heroes among the Celtic people. Thus, the fir is also considered a symbol for reverence and remembrance to brave souls that have passed on to the otherworld. Furthermore, grouped together, firs are a symbol of friendship and life-long connection. This symbolism is furthered by the fact that firs are evergreens. As they never lose their green vibrancy - they are a reminder of the bonds we share with others - never to be extinguished...not even by death. More about the symbolism of the fir tree here.
Apples were highly valued by the ancient Celts because of their ability to keep over a long period of time when stored in a cool dry place. This was symbolic of the presence of love, even long past the time of peak ripeness. In other words, when the waves of passion subside, love lingers even afterwards when simple companionship is the prime comfort. Essentially, the apple tree is a symbol of long-lasting union with our friends and loved ones. It stands stoic as a reminder that our union with those we cherish will not fade, but only grow sweeter with time. More about apple tree symbolism here.
I realize it's a somber topic, but I hope these key symbols for memorial and memory found in Nature offer you solace as you cope with transitioned loved ones.
Please do check out the links at the end of this page for more relevant articles on this topic. Specifically, I encourage you to take a look at my article on the symbolism of death and loss. It includes a video, and many people have told me it's been quite helpful in dealing with loss.
As always, thanks for reading. I sincerely hope your efforts to remember your loved ones provides healing, sweetness and deep connection.
An Important Note About Signs, Symbols and Their Meanings
Signs and symbols cultivate their meanings according to culture, context, passage of time in society as well as mass societal opinion. What's cool and highly important is that signs and symbols earn their most powerful meanings from our own personal perspectives.
This website strives to provide you with the best, time-honored information when defining signs and symbols. However, in the final analysis, "Beauty (and symbolism) is in the eye of the beholder."
Having said that, it's in our best interest to invest the time to do personal research on symbolic events happening to us. This website is just one perspective in an ocean of variety and diversity in the realm of symbolism. So dive in! There is a whole universe of deeper meanings to explore! You can start your research by clicking on the links at the end or to the side of this page. Odds are good I've got a follow-up article about this symbolic topic. ;)
As always, thanks for your willingness to learn more about the language of symbolism. It's a language that is universal and everywhere. It's super-groovy to travel with you on your symbolic path, and maybe offer a little translation along the way. Thanks for reading and exploring!