Exploring What Are Things That Symbolize Death: From Black Cats to Raven and Beyond

Black Clothing

Black is the quintessential color of mourning and death. It is a color that has been associated with death across the world in various cultures and religions. The wearing of black clothing is often seen at funerals and memorial services as a sign of respect to the deceased and their grieving family.

In many cultures, black is the color of mourning for an extended period of time. The custom of wearing black for a certain period after the death of a loved one has been in practice for centuries, dating back to the Roman Empire. In Victorian England, black clothing was expected to be worn for at least two years following the death of a spouse or close family member.

Black clothing is also symbolic of the dark and unknown nature of death. Death is often seen as a journey to an unknown place, and the color black is associated with mystery and the unknown. In some cultures, black clothing is worn to help ward off evil spirits that may be present during times of mourning. It is also believed that wearing black can help protect those who are grieving from negative emotions that can arise during such a difficult time.

Symbolism of Black Clothing in Different Cultures

  • Western cultures – Black is the traditional color of mourning in Western cultures and is worn at funerals and memorial services.
  • Chinese culture – The color white is associated with death in Chinese culture, while black is seen as a color of respect and is worn by mourners.
  • African cultures – In many African cultures, black clothing is worn as a symbol of respect for the deceased, while white is seen as a color of celebration for the life that was lived.

Contemporary Use of Black Clothing in Funerals

The use of black clothing in funerals has continued into contemporary times, with many people still opting to don black attire during funerary services. However, there have been changes in recent years, with some people shunning the traditional dress code and opting for brighter colors during memorial services. This has been seen in regions such as Asia and Africa where people now wear bright clothing or even the favorite color of the deceased to celebrate their life rather than mourn their death.


The symbolism of black clothing in death and mourning is both cultural and universal. It is a color that is associated with the unknown, mystery and respect for the deceased. While these traditions have evolved over time, black clothing remains a symbol of mourning and respect in many cultures today.

Pros: Cons:
Black clothing is a timeless symbol of respect and mourning Some cultures view black as a negative color, leading to superstitious beliefs
Wearing black can help ward off evil spirits and negative emotions Wearing black can evoke negative emotions in some people during difficult times
Black clothing is an easy and respectful way to show tribute to the deceased The traditional use of black clothing in funerals can feel too conservative or outdated for some

Overall, the use of black clothing in funerals and mourning will continue to be a symbol of respect and tribute for the deceased.


Coffins are perhaps the most recognizable symbol of death across cultures. These boxes serve as a final resting place for the deceased and have evolved over time and across societies. From ornate and expensive to simple and functional, coffins are a common thread linking the rituals and customs of mourning.

  • Materials: Coffins can be made of a variety of materials such as wood, metal, and fiberglass. Wood is a traditional and common material, with cedar, oak, and mahogany being popular choices for its durability, weight, and beauty. Metal coffins are also an option and can provide greater protection and security. More recently, eco-friendly coffins made of cardboard or biodegradable materials have become more prevalent.
  • Styles: Coffins come in a range of styles, from the traditional rectangular box shape to more unique designs. Some coffins are adorned with intricate carvings or engravings, while others are adorned with simple satin or velvet interiors. Custom coffins can even be built to reflect the deceased’s interests or hobbies.
  • Pricing: Coffins can vary significantly in price, often reflecting the materials used and the level of craftsmanship. A simple pine box coffin may cost only a few hundred dollars, while more elaborate models can cost tens of thousands of dollars. The average cost for a basic coffin in the United States is around $2,000.

Despite the variety in materials, styles, and pricing, coffins of any form serve as a reminder of the finality of death. They provide a physical container for the deceased, offering a sense of closure for loved ones and a sign of respect for the dead.

Below is a table of the most expensive coffins that have sold in recent years:

Coffin Designer Price
The Ghostbed Haldane UK $360,000
The Promethian Casket Furniture $62,000
24-karat Gold Plated Coffin Independent Casket Company $25,000

Coffins, though most often associated with death and mourning, can serve as a celebration of life. Each coffin represents a unique individual whose life has been recognized and honored by their loved ones.


Skulls have been a symbol of death for centuries, and their use in art and literature continues today. There are many interpretations and connotations with skulls, and different cultures and religions have varying beliefs about their significance. Here are three things that skulls symbolize in regards to death:

  • Mortality: Perhaps the most obvious association with skulls is the reminder of our own mortality. Seeing a skull can remind us that death is inevitable, and can prompt us to focus on living life fully and with purpose.
  • Danger: Skulls are also often associated with danger and warning signs. They can indicate potential hazards or risks, especially in contexts like transportation or hazardous materials.
  • Respect for Ancestors: In some cultures, skulls are used as a symbol of respect for ancestors or those who have passed away. This can be seen in the Mexican tradition of Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) where sugar skulls are used in altars to honor the dead.

Skulls can also be used in fashion and art, with designers and artists incorporating them into everything from jewelry to clothing to tattoos. Some people see the beauty in skulls and appreciate their aesthetic, while others shy away from them due to their association with death.

Overall, skulls are a powerful symbol of death that can evoke a range of emotions and reactions. While they may be unsettling for some, they can also be a reminder to live life to the fullest while we still can.

Skull Symbolism Culture or Religion
Mortality Western
Danger Industrial and Transportation
Respect for Ancestors Mexican

Regardless of their interpretation or context, skulls will continue to be a prevalent symbol of death and the human experience.


Candles are commonly associated with death across many cultures and religions. The burning flame of a candle represents the fleeting nature of life, and its eventual extinguishment symbolizes the end of a person’s life. Candles are often used to create a serene and contemplative atmosphere during funeral services or rituals, and as a way to pay respects to the deceased.

  • In many Catholic traditions, candles are lit as a way to pray for the souls of the departed and to offer hope and comfort to grieving families.
  • In Hinduism, candles are used during the aarti ritual to symbolize the presence of divine light and to guide the soul of the deceased safely to the afterlife.
  • In some African cultures, candles are used to symbolize the continuation of life after death, as the flame is believed to represent the soul of the departed who has moved on to the spiritual world.

One common candle used in funerary practices is the Yahrzeit candle, which is lit on the anniversary of a loved one’s death in Jewish tradition. This candle burns for 24 hours to commemorate the life of the deceased and to bring comfort to the living. It is also customary to light a candle on the grave of the deceased during visits to the cemetery.

Candle lighting ceremonies are often held during memorials and vigils for deceased loved ones, with each candle representing a life lost. Often, a moment of silence is taken as the candles are lit, and the flickering flames are a poignant reminder of the preciousness of life.

Religious/Cultural Tradition Symbolic Meaning of Candles in Death
Catholicism Prayers for the soul of the departed and comfort for the living
Hinduism Aarti ritual to guide the soul safely to the afterlife
African cultures Symbolize the continuation of life after death
Judaism Yahrzeit candle to commemorate the life of the deceased and bring comfort to the living

Candles may evoke feelings of sadness and mourning, but they also serve as a reminder to live life to the fullest and cherish the time we have with loved ones. In their flickering light, we can find solace and hope for the journey ahead.

Funerary Flowers

Funerary flowers have been used for centuries to symbolize death and show respect for the deceased. Different cultures and religions have their own unique flowers associated with death, each with their own respective meanings. Here are five flowers commonly used as funerary flowers:

  • Lilies: Lilies are a popular choice for funerals and gravesites because of their association with rebirth and the afterlife. They also symbolize the restoration of innocence to the soul of the deceased.
  • Roses: Roses have various meanings depending on the color. Red roses symbolize love and respect, while white roses represent purity and innocence. Yellow roses, on the other hand, are often used to represent friendships and happiness, but in the context of funerary flowers, they may represent the deceased’s bright spirit.
  • Chrysanthemums: In many Asian cultures, chrysanthemums are used as funerary flowers because they symbolize death and grief. In Europe, however, these flowers are often associated with positive emotions and are used to celebrate life.
  • Carnations: Carnations come in various colors, each with their own significance. White carnations represent pure love and innocence, while pink carnations symbolize remembrance. Red carnations, however, represent admiration, which can be used to honor the deceased.
  • Orchids: Orchids have a complex and diverse symbolism, with different colors and shapes having distinct meanings. In the context of funerary flowers, white orchids represent the pure spirit of the deceased, while pink orchids symbolize love and understanding.

Meanings of Funerary Flowers

Funerary flowers are not only used to show respect for the deceased but also to convey different meanings. Here are some of the most common interpretations:

Purity: White flowers are often used to symbolize purity, innocence, and new beginnings. These flowers are often used in funerals to represent the deceased’s newfound purity in the afterlife.

Love: Red and pink flowers are often associated with love and affection, making them a common choice as funerary flowers. These flowers represent the love and respect that the living have for the deceased.

Respect: Funerary flowers are also used to show respect for the deceased, with different flowers representing different degrees of admiration. White carnations, for example, represent pure love and respect, while red carnations represent admiration and respect.

Flowers and Their Religious Significance

Aside from representing different meanings, funerary flowers also have religious significance. Here are some of the most common religious associations with funerary flowers:

Flower Religious Significance
Lilies Christianity – associated with the resurrection of Christ and the eternal life of the faithful
Lotus Buddhism – represents the rebirth, purity, and enlightenment of the soul
Mums Eastern cultures – symbolizes grief, death, and the cycle of life
Cherry Blossoms Japanese culture – signifies the fleeting nature of life and the beauty of impermanence

Funerary flowers play an essential role in the grieving process by symbolizing death and the emotions associated with it. These flowers allow us to express our respect, love, and admiration for the deceased and celebrate their life and memories.


Vultures are often associated with death in many cultures. They are scavengers that feed on the flesh of dead animals, often circling around their prey until it dies. Here are some of the ways vultures symbolize death:

  • Vultures are often depicted in movies and literature as circling above a dying or dead person, waiting to devour their body.
  • A flock of vultures is called a wake, which is a term commonly used in reference to a funeral or mourning period.
  • In some cultures, vultures are seen as a messenger between the living and the dead, carrying the souls of the deceased to the afterlife.

Despite the association with death, vultures play an important role in the ecosystem by cleaning up the remains of dead animals. They also have unique adaptations, such as their ability to digest bacteria and toxins in decomposing flesh.

If you’re interested in learning more about vultures and their importance in the ecosystem, check out the table below:

Vultures Fun Facts
Black Vulture Has a bald, red head to prevent bacteria buildup from feeding on carrion
Turkey Vulture Has a highly developed sense of smell to locate carrion from long distances
Andean Condor One of the largest flying birds in the world, with a wingspan of up to 10 feet

Overall, while vultures may seem like symbols of death and decay, they play a vital role in keeping our planet’s ecosystems healthy and functioning.

Tombstones: The Symbol of Death

Tombstones have been used for centuries to mark the final resting place of the deceased. They come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and designs, but often have similar symbols and imagery to represent the finality of death.

Number 7: A Symbol of Completion

  • Seven is a number that appears frequently in many cultures and religions. It is often associated with completion, as in the seven days of creation in Christianity or the seven chakras in Hinduism.
  • In the realm of death and tombstones, seven is often used to symbolize the completion of a life. It represents the end of a journey and the finality of death.
  • Some tombstones feature the number seven prominently, while others may have seven objects or symbols engraved, such as seven stars or seven candles.

Other Symbolism on Tombstones

Aside from the number seven, tombstones can be decorated with a variety of other symbols and imagery to convey a message about the deceased or provide comfort to their loved ones.

Common symbols include:

  • Crosses or other religious symbols
  • Angels or cherubs
  • Flowers, such as lilies or roses
  • Animals, such as doves or lambs
  • Epitaphs or quotes
  • Family crests

Tombstone Design and Material

The design and material of a tombstone can also convey a message about the deceased. For example, a simple, unadorned tombstone may suggest a person who lived a humble or minimalist lifestyle, while an elaborate, ornate design may indicate a person who was influential or wealthy.

Material Symbolism
Granite Durable and long-lasting
Marble Traditionally associated with nobility and refinement
Fieldstone Simple and rustic, often used for unmarked graves

No matter the design or symbolism, a tombstone serves as a tangible reminder of a person’s life and death. It provides a place for loved ones to visit and remember the deceased, and serves as a symbol of the finality of death.


The hourglass is an ancient symbol used to represent the passage of time and the inevitability of death. Its consistent flow of sand, unimpeded by any external force, symbolizes the unstoppable march of time towards its ultimate end. The hourglass is often depicted in conjunction with the Grim Reaper, which further reinforces its association with death.

  • The hourglass’s distinct shape, with its elongated, narrow middle and two rounded bases, has been interpreted to represent the transition from life to death.
  • The hourglass’s sand, which serves as a visual representation of the diminishing seconds of life, is often colored in various shades of black or grey to further accentuate the morbidity of the symbol.
  • Hourglasses were also used historically to mark the duration of a death sentence or the time left for someone to live, further cementing their association with impending doom.

Although the hourglass is no longer commonly used in funerary rites, its widespread recognition has made it a popular symbol in contemporary death-related artwork and literature. The macabre nature of the hourglass lends itself well to Gothic-inspired imagery, where it is often paired with other symbols of death and decay, such as skulls and bones.

Below is a table showcasing the various interpretations of the hourglass:

Interpretation Description
Passage of time The hourglass symbolizes the unrelenting progression of time towards its end.
Mortality The hourglass represents the finite nature of life and the inevitability of death.
Sentence Historically used to mark the duration of a death sentence or the time left for someone to live.

Overall, the hourglass remains a potent symbol of death, reminding us of the fleeting nature of life and the importance of making the most of our time while we still have it.


Scythes are often associated with death as they are commonly known as the tool of the grim reaper that brings an end to life. It is an ancient tool that has been used for harvesting crops, but its association with death dates back centuries. In medieval times, it was customary to depict Death as a figure wielding a scythe.

  • One of the reasons why scythes are associated with death comes from their sharp and pointed blade. This is supposed to represent the abrupt end of life that death brings.
  • Another reason behind the association is the way scythes are used to cut crops. The sweeping motion of the scythe is similar to the way that death sweeps through a community or family.
  • Scythes are also associated with death because they are a tool that is used to harvest grain. This harvest represents the end of life for the crop, just as death represents the end of life for a person.

In some cultures, scythes have specific symbolic meanings related to death. For example, the Irish tradition of Mower Death highlights the importance of not looking back or turning around while using a scythe. This is because it is believed that Death will be standing just behind the person, waiting to take them away.

In more recent times, scythes have been used in popular culture to represent death and the coming of the end times. The iconic image of the grim reaper holding a scythe is often featured in movies, TV shows, and video games.

Symbolism Meaning
The blade Abrupt end of life
The sweeping motion Death sweeping through a community or family
The harvest End of life for a person

In conclusion, scythes have been an enduring symbol of death for centuries. Their association with the grim reaper, the sharp blade, and the sweeping motion all contribute to this symbolism. They are a powerful reminder that death is a natural part of the cycle of life and that everything must come to an end.


Crossbones are a popular symbol of death, often depicted in white on a black background. These two crossing bones can be seen on tombstones, warning labels, and even pirate flags. Here are ten interesting facts about the infamous crossbones symbol:

  • The crossbones symbol dates back to medieval times and is often associated with the Black Death. It was used to mark mass graves and to warn people of the danger of coming into contact with infected bodies.
  • It was believed that the symbol was so powerful that it could ward off evil spirits and protect the living from being infected by the dead.
  • In the 16th and 17th centuries, the crossbones symbol was often associated with pirates, who were among the worst offenders when it came to spreading deadly diseases. The symbol became a popular motif on pirate flags, in part because it was a warning to those who might seek to engage in battle with the pirates.
  • Today, the crossbones symbol is often used in warning labels on hazardous or toxic substances. It is also used in medicine to warn of the dangers of certain drugs or to indicate that a particular substance is harmful if ingested.
  • The symbol has a powerful association with death, and is often used in tattoo art and as a design element in gothic and alternative fashion.
  • The skull and crossbones, an image often associated with the crossbones symbol, has been used by various military organizations throughout history. It is often seen as a symbol of bravery, as it represents the willingness to face death.
  • In some cultures, the crossbones symbol is used to represent the end of a cycle of life and death, or the passing from one world to another.
  • In other cultures, the symbol is seen as a reminder of the fragility of life and the need to live each day to the fullest.
  • The crossbones symbol is often depicted with other symbols associated with death, such as the Grim Reaper, crows, or spiders.
  • Some believe that the crossbones symbol represents the crucifixion of Jesus, with the two crossing bones symbolizing the cross upon which he was hung. However, this theory is debated among scholars.

Despite its often ominous connotations, the crossbones symbol can also be seen as a reminder to live life to the fullest and to appreciate the time we have on this earth.

Say Goodbye to Death Symbols

So there you have it – a list of things that symbolize death. While some of them might seem creepy or unsettling, they’re all just expressions of the natural cycle of life. Remember that death is a part of life and nothing to fear. Thanks for reading, and be sure to check back for more interesting articles! Until then, embrace the beauty of life and all it has to offer.