Exploring the Meaning: What Things Symbolize Death?

Do you ever wonder why we use certain things to symbolize death? From black clothing to the Grim Reaper, there are numerous symbols associated with the end of life. Some of these symbols have ancient roots while others have evolved over time. But what do they all have in common? They remind us of the one thing we cannot escape: our mortality.

For centuries, the color black has been associated with mourning and death. A black outfit is often worn to signify grief and respect for the deceased. Similarly, the image of the Grim Reaper, a skeletal figure in a black cloak, is a powerful representation of death. It is a reminder that death comes for us all, regardless of our age, status, or wealth.

Aside from these common symbols, there are other things that we associate with death. Candles, for example, are often lit during memorial services and symbolize the passage from life to death. The chrysanthemum, a flower commonly used in funeral arrangements, is believed to represent death in many cultures. Even the hourglass, with its sand running out, has been used to symbolize the fleeting nature of life. It’s fascinating to think how these symbols have evolved over time and how they continue to impact our understanding of death.

Black Clothing

When one thinks of death, one may picture a somber funeral procession with mourners dressed in all black. Black clothing, often associated with mourning, has been a symbol of death across many cultures and time periods.

In Western cultures, wearing black to funerals has been customary since at least the Roman Empire. The color black represents darkness and the absence of light, which can be interpreted as the absence of life. In Victorian England, black clothing was expected to be worn for a year after the death of a close family member as a sign of respect and mourning. Today, it is still common for mourners to wear black or dark clothing to funerals as a symbol of grief and respect for the deceased.

Things that Symbolize Death with Black Clothing

  • Funeral attire: As mentioned above, black clothing is often worn to funerals as a symbol of mourning and respect for the deceased.
  • Gothic culture: In the gothic subculture, black clothing is a fashion statement and can be seen as a symbol of rebellion against societal norms. However, some may associate gothic culture with death and darkness.
  • Halloween costumes: Black clothing is commonly used in Halloween costumes associated with death, such as vampires, witches, and grim reapers.

Cultural Variations of Black Clothing in Death

While black clothing is commonly associated with death in Western cultures, there are variations in symbolism across different cultures. In some Asian cultures, such as China and Japan, white clothing is traditionally worn to funerals instead of black. White represents purity and a farewell to the deceased’s mortal life. In other cultures, such as parts of Africa, colorful clothing is worn to funerals as a celebration of the deceased’s life rather than mourning their death.

Conclusion: The Symbolism of Black Clothing in Death

Black clothing has been used as a symbol of death and mourning for centuries and continues to be a common practice in many cultures. Whether it is wearing dark clothing to a funeral, embracing gothic fashion, or donning a spooky Halloween costume, black is often associated with death and darkness. However, there are cultural variations in funeral attire, highlighting the importance of understanding and respecting different traditions when it comes to death and mourning.

Culture Color of Funeral Attire
Western Black
Chinese/Japanese White
African Colorful

Understanding the symbolism of black clothing in death can help us better understand the customs and beliefs surrounding death and mourning in different cultures.


Coffins have long been associated with death and are a well-known symbol of mortality. They play an essential role in funerals and serve as the final resting place for the deceased. Coffins have been used for thousands of years, and the design and materials used have evolved over time.

  • Wooden coffins: These were the most common type of coffin until the modern era. They were usually made of plain wood and were often adorned with simple designs or engravings. Different types of wood were used for different coffins, with the more expensive ones using high-quality wood such as mahogany or oak. Wooden coffins are still used today and are known for their natural and classic look.
  • Metal coffins: Metal coffins became popular in the early 20th century and were typically made of steel or copper. They were thought to be more durable than wooden coffins and offered better protection for the body. Today, metal coffins are often used for military burials or for those who want to make a grander statement about their passing.
  • Eco-friendly coffins: A more recent trend is using biodegradable materials such as bamboo or wicker for coffins. These options are environmentally friendly and are becoming more popular as people become more conscious of their carbon footprint.

Aside from the construction and materials used, coffins can also be customized with various features such as handles, interior padding, and viewing windows. The design of coffins helps to provide a sense of closure for loved ones and offers a space to honor and remember the deceased.

Coffin Type Materials Used Features
Wooden Coffins Plank Wood, Pine, Oak, Mahogany Handles, Interior padding, Viewing window
Metal Coffins Steel, Copper Handles, Interior padding, Embellishments
Eco-Friendly Coffins Bamboo, Wicker Embellishments, Handles

While coffins may be a somber symbol of death, they serve an important purpose in our cultural understanding and mourning process. Coffins allow for a final resting place for the body, and provide an opportunity to say goodbye in a meaningful way.


Skeletons have long been associated with death, representing the bare bones and finality of life. They are often used as a visual symbol of death, either alone or as a part of a larger representation of death. Skeletons can be depicted in various forms, from realistic depictions to cartoonish illustrations, but their association with death remains constant.

What do skeletons symbolize?

  • Skeletons symbolize the physical body that remains after life has left it, representing the end of life.
  • They represent the fragility and impermanence of life, reminding us that even our physical bodies will eventually decay and return to the earth.
  • Skeletons can also symbolize the idea of the afterlife or the journey to the beyond, as many cultures believe that the soul or spirit leaves the body at the time of death.

The use of skeletons in art and culture

Skeletons have been used in art and culture for centuries, appearing in everything from religious paintings to Halloween decorations. In some cultures, skeletons are portrayed in a more positive light as a reminder to live life to the fullest and make the most of our time on earth. In others, they are seen as a warning of the inevitability of death and the importance of preparing for the afterlife.

In Mexico, the Day of the Dead celebration is a time to honor and remember loved ones who have passed away. The holiday features colorful skeletons and skulls in various forms of art, symbolizing the idea that death is just a part of life and should be celebrated rather than feared.

The anatomy of a skeleton

A typical human skeleton consists of 206 bones, each with its own unique shape and function. The skeletal system provides support for the body, protects vital organs, and produces blood cells. From the skull to the toe bones, each part of the skeleton serves a crucial role in keeping the body functioning properly.

Bone Name Location
Skull Head
Ribs Chest
Vertebrae Spine
Femur Thigh
Tibia Shin
Ulna Forearm
Radius Forearm

While the skeleton is often associated with death, it is also a vital part of life, providing the structure and support needed for our bodies to function properly.


Crosses are one of the most well-known and widely used symbols in Christianity. They represent the ultimate sacrifice made by Jesus Christ to redeem the sins of humanity. However, in some cultures, crosses can also represent death and mourning.

The number 4

The number 4 is significant in many religious traditions and cultures. In Christianity, it symbolizes the four gospels, which recount the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. However, in some cultures, the number 4 is considered ominous and is associated with death.

  • In Japanese culture, the number 4 is pronounced the same way as the word for death, and is therefore considered unlucky.
  • In Chinese culture, the number 4 is also associated with death because it sounds similar to the word for “death” in some Chinese dialects.
  • In some African cultures, the number 4 symbolizes the four corners of the earth and is associated with the afterlife and the world of spirits.

Examples of crosses and death symbolism

While crosses are generally associated with Christian faith and salvation, they can also be used to express mourning and remembrance. Here are some examples of crosses that represent death:

Cross Description
Celtic Cross The Celtic cross, with its intricate knotwork and circle, represents the interconnectedness of life and death.
Crusader’s Cross This cross, also known as the Jerusalem cross, has five crosses symbolizing the five wounds of Jesus. It was used by the Crusaders as a symbol of their quest for redemption and salvation.
Iron Cross The Iron Cross, used by the German military during World War II, has become a symbol of death and destruction due to its association with the Holocaust and Nazi ideology.

While crosses can have many different meanings and interpretations, they are ultimately a symbol of the enduring power of faith, hope, and redemption in the face of death.

Flowers (such as lilies)

Flowers have been used for centuries to express various emotions. However, some species are more commonly associated with certain meanings than others. Among them is the lily, which is often associated with funerals and death. In many cultures, including Christianity and Buddhism, lilies symbolize the soul’s departure from the mortal world. But why is this so? Let’s explore some reasons:

What makes lilies symbolic of death?

  • Lilies are often associated with purity and innocence. But in many cultures, death is seen as a movement from the impure and mortal world to the pure and eternal one. Lilies can represent the transition from life to death, from mortality to eternity.
  • The fragrance of lilies is said to be soothing and calming. This makes them perfect for use at funerals, where their scent can help calm the grieving and bring comfort to the bereaved.
  • According to Greek mythology, lilies were born from the milk of Hera, queen of the gods, and were sacred to her. It was believed that lilies sprouted from her breast milk as a symbol of her overflowing fertility. However, when Hera became jealous of Zeus’s affair with the mortal woman Alcmene, she decided to kill her and her newborn child. It was then that lilies became associated with both birth and death.

The different types of lilies and their meanings

While lilies, in general, are associated with death, different types of lilies might have slightly different meanings. Here are some of the most common types of lilies and what they symbolize:

Lily type Meaning
White lilies Symbolize purity, innocence, and peace. They are commonly used in funeral arrangements and represent the soul of the deceased
Calla lilies Associated with rebirth, resurrection, and new beginnings. They are used as funeral flowers to honor the memory of the departed
Stargazer lilies Often seen as a symbol of hope and prosperity. They can also represent the fleeting nature of human life

In conclusion, the association between lilies and death is one that has been around for centuries. Even though different cultures might have slightly different interpretations of their symbolism, the general consensus remains the same. But despite their connection to death, lilies can also represent hope, new beginnings, and the purity of the soul.


Candles have been used in various cultures and religions to symbolize death and mourning. Here are some of the ways they are associated with death:

  • Light in the darkness: Candles provide light in the darkness and symbolize hope and remembrance for the deceased.
  • Life cycle: Many religions view candles as representing the cycle of life and death. Candles are lit during funerals to mark the end of a person’s life and to illuminate their journey into the afterlife.
  • Unseen spirit: Candles are often used in spiritual practices to represent the presence of an unseen spirit. The flame is believed to represent the soul of the deceased, and the smoke carries their spirit to the heavens.

In some cultures, the number of candles used and the placement of the candles are very significant. For example, in Jewish culture, candles are lit for seven days after a death to symbolize the seven days of mourning. In Mexican culture, candles are commonly placed in a circle around a picture of the deceased to represent the circle of life and death.

There are also specific colors of candles that are associated with death and mourning. Black candles are often used to symbolize mourning, while white candles represent purity and the passage of the soul into the afterlife.

Candle Color Symbolism
Black Mourning, death
White Purity, passage into the afterlife
Red Passion, love, and sacrifice

Regardless of how they are used, candles remain a symbol of hope and remembrance, illuminating the path of those who have passed on.


Obituaries serve as a tribute to the deceased, often highlighting important events and achievements in their lives. They are also a way to announce someone’s passing and provide information on their funeral arrangements. In some cultures, obituaries may also include symbols that represent death and mourning. Here are some common symbols used in obituaries:

The Number 7

  • The number 7 is often seen as a symbol of completion or perfection in many cultures, including Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. In some traditions, it is believed that the soul passes through seven stages on its journey to the afterlife.
  • In Hinduism and Buddhism, there are seven chakras or energy centers in the body that must be aligned for spiritual enlightenment.
  • For some Native American tribes, the number 7 represents the seven directions (north, south, east, west, up, down, and center) and is associated with balance and harmony.

Some obituaries may mention the number 7 in relation to the deceased’s life or passing. For example, it may be noted that they passed away on the 7th day of the month or that they lived for 77 years. These references may hold significance for the family or represent the idea of completion and transition to the next stage of life.

Here is an example of how the symbol of 7 may be used in an obituary:

Name: John Smith
Age: 77
Date of Passing: July 7, 2021
Survived By: His beloved wife of 52 years, six children, and seven grandchildren.
About: John was a devoted husband, father, and grandfather who was known for his kind heart and infectious laugh. He served in the military for seven years and later worked as a teacher for 37 years. His love of gardening and playing cards brought joy to his family and friends. We take comfort in knowing that he is now at peace and reunited with his loved ones who passed before him.

The mention of John’s age, date of passing, and the number of grandchildren he had all include the number 7, which could hold special meaning for his family and loved ones.

Mourning Veils

Mourning veils are often worn by women as a sign of respect and grief for the loss of a loved one. These veils can be found in different styles and colors, representing different cultures and traditions. They are usually made of a black or white material and were often worn back in the day by widows after the death of their husbands.

  • Symbolism of the Number 8: According to Chinese tradition, the number 8 is associated with wealth, good fortune, and prosperity. However, in some cultures, it is seen as a symbol of death. The pronunciation of the word for “eight” in Mandarin is similar to the word for “fa,” which means “to prosper.” But the word for “eight” in Cantonese is similar to the word for “death.” Therefore, in areas of southern China, people may associate the number 8 with death. This cultural difference is something to consider when using “8” in any symbolism related to death, mourning, and funerals.

Mourning veils have been used for centuries to represent the sadness and grief people feel after losing someone close to them. They are not only a sign of respect and honor but also a way for people to show solidarity with those who are mourning. Wearing a mourning veil is a way to acknowledge the loss of a loved one, to show support to the bereaved, and to express one’s own feelings of sadness and grief.

It is important to note that mourning veils are not just a thing of the past. In many cultures, they are still used today to show reverence and respect to those who have passed away. Whether it is a long, flowing veil or a more modern, shorter style, the message is still the same – mourning veils are a way to show that one is grieving and to pay respect to the dead.

Country/Culture Mourning Veil Tradition
England Worn by widows for 1 year after their husband’s death. Black crepe veil worn over the face during the funeral and then replaced by a black mantilla or bonnet veil.
Italy Widows wore a black veil for up to 4 years after their husband’s death. Black clothing was also worn during this time.
India Widows in Bengal wear a white sari without any ornaments or make-up. They often shave their head as a symbol of mourning.

Overall, mourning veils are a symbol of respect, reverence, and grief. They have been used for centuries to show solidarity with those who have lost loved ones and to express one’s own feelings of sadness and mourning. These veils and their traditions may vary in different countries and cultures, but they all share the same message – that loss is painful, and our hearts go out to those who are suffering.


In many cultures, funerals are a way to honor and remember the deceased. They are often held with certain customs and traditions that may vary from region to region. Funerals can also have symbolic meaning attached to certain items or actions.

The Number 9

The number 9 is a significant symbol for death in many cultures. In Chinese culture, it is considered the most inauspicious number because it sounds similar to the word for “long-lasting” or “eternal” in Chinese. In Japan, the number 9 is associated with funerals and considered unlucky. This is because the Japanese word for nine sounds like the word for “pain” or “suffering” in Japanese. In some Hindu traditions, the body is typically washed with a total of nine utensils or items, while in some South American cultures, nine meals are prepared and offered to mourners during the nine days following the death of a loved one.

  • In Chinese culture, the number 9 is often avoided when choosing phone numbers, license plates, and addresses.
  • Japanese hotels may skip the ninth floor or offer discounted rates for rooms with the number 9.
  • Some people believe that wearing or carrying items with the number 9 can bring bad luck or even hasten death.
Culture Symbolic Meaning of 9
Chinese Inauspicious, associated with death or eternal suffering
Japanese Unlucky, associated with pain and suffering
Hindu Used in the preparation of body for funeral rites
South American Nine meals prepared and offered to mourners

The number 9 can have different symbolic meanings depending on the culture. However, in many cases, it is associated with death and may be avoided or considered unlucky. Understanding the cultural significance of this number can help us understand and respect the beliefs of others during funerals and other important occasions.

Grim Reapers: What They Symbolize

When it comes to death symbolism, the Grim Reaper is perhaps the most recognizable figure. A hooded, skeletal figure, the Grim Reaper is often depicted wielding a scythe and is believed to play a role in the transition from life to death. Here are some of the things that the Grim Reaper symbolizes:

  • Death: The Grim Reaper is quite literally the personification of death. His appearance is meant to evoke feelings of fear and uncertainty, as he is a reminder of our own mortality.
  • Judgment: According to some traditions, the Grim Reaper acts as a judge, deciding when a person’s time on Earth has come to an end. He is said to weigh a person’s soul and determine whether it is good or evil.
  • Reaping: The Grim Reaper’s scythe is a symbol of the harvesting of souls. He is said to cut through the ties that bind the soul to the body and release it into the afterlife.

While the Grim Reaper is often depicted in a negative light, some people view him as a symbol of acceptance and peace. Here are some additional things that the Grim Reaper can symbolize:

Transformation: In some cultures, the Grim Reaper is seen as a harbinger of change. His presence represents the transition from one phase of life to another.

Protection: In certain mythologies, the Grim Reaper is considered a protective figure. He is believed to escort souls safely to the afterlife and keep them from harm along the way.

Eternity: The Grim Reaper’s role in deciding who lives and who dies can also be seen as a metaphor for the cyclical nature of life and death. He can represent the idea that although our physical bodies may die, our spirits (or souls) live on forever.

Country/Region Grim Reaper Equivalent
United States The Grim Reaper
Mexico La Santa Muerte (Saint Death)
Japan Shinigami

Overall, the Grim Reaper is a complex symbol that can represent many different things, depending on the context. While he is often feared and associated with death and mortality, he can also represent transformation, protection, and eternity.

That’s a wrap on what things symbolize death!

Thanks for taking the time to read through this enlightening article. It’s natural to ponder the symbolism of death, given that it’s a universal human experience. Whether you found this piece intriguing or eerie, we hope it brought about a new understanding of this topic. But don’t say goodbye just yet–come back again soon for more lifestyle content that’ll keep you in the know!