Birds in flight: These are symbolic of the “winged soul.” The representation of the soul by a bird goes back to ancient Egypt. Some older burial art features only wings to convey the symbol of divine mission. Often denote the graves of children, eternal life.
Butterfly: The soul, Although quite rare, it is occasionally seen on graves (most often of children). It is symbolic of the resurrection of Christ. The meaning is derived from the three stages of the life of the butterfly; the caterpillar, the chrysalis, and the butterfly. The three stages are symbols of life, death and resurrection. Short-life.
Dog: Fidelity, signifying loyalty and that the master was worth loving.
Dolphin: Portrays the idea of resurrection.
Dove: An important symbolic animal in Christianity representing the Holy Spirit. The white dove is referred to in the story of baptism of Christ. “And John bore record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him” (Bible, John 1:32). The descending dove is a very common motif on grave memorials. Seven doves are representative of the seven spirits of God or the Holy Spirit in its sevenfold gifts of grace. Purity, devotion, Divine Spirit. When shown with an Olive Sprig it means Hope or Promise.
Dragon: Being defeated by St. George depicts triumph over sin.
Eagle: Suggests courage and possibly a military career, symbol for Saint John.
Frog: Depicts sin and worldly pleasures, or may represent resurrection.
Hart (male deer): Represented either faithfulness, thirsting for God, or Christ slaying Satan
Horse: Courage or generosity. An attribute of St. George, St. Martin, St. Maurice and St. Victor, all of whom are represented in Christian art on horseback.
Lamb: This is the most common animal symbol found on a child’s grave. The lamb appears throughout the ages with great regularity in Christian art and because it is a symbol of Christ: “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world!” (Bible, John 1:29). The use of the lamb in religious art pre-dates Christianity and appears to have been used first by the Egyptians. It signifies purity and innocence. Christ in his sacrificial role and personifies: innocence, meekness, gentleness and humility.
Lion: Symbolises the power of God and guards the tomb against evil spirits. Like other guardians, the lion’s watch is as eternal as the stone of which it is depicted. The lion also recalls the courage and determination of the souls which they guard, they manifest the spirit of the departed. Resurrection.
Peacock: Incorruptibility of flesh, resurrection, beauty of soul, immortality.
Phoenix: Resurrection, immortality, incorruptibility.
Rooster: Awakening, the resurrection.
Serpent: Shown swallowing its own tail it represents Eternity / love, eternity, rebirth, immortality.
Squirrel with a nut: Religious meditation or spiritual striving.
Swallow: Child or motherhood.