For those with Irish heritage, it’s important to honor this tradition with a Celtic design on one’s cremation urn. Celtic urns are more than just beautiful designs. They represent a rich symbolism and meaning.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- What Elements Make a Cremation Urn Celtic or Irish?
- Types of Celtic Burial Urns for Ashes
- Types of Celtic Keepsake Urns
- Types of Small Celtic Urns for Ashes
With so many creative urns available nowadays, how do you find the perfect Celtic cremation urn for you or your loved one? Not only are urns less expensive than traditional burial caskets, but they’re fully customizable. Many reflect ancient traditions and history, and this connection to one’s ancestors carries a lot of meaning.
From small keepsakes to standard cremation urns, here are the most popular types of Celtic cremation urns for ashes. Whether you’re shopping for yourself or a loved one, this is the guide for you.
Tip: If you're looking for something very unique (think a game, their motorcycle, or instrument of choice), you can custom order an urn from a store like Foreverence. You submit a design idea or sketch, then the company designs and 3D prints your urn, so you get a 100% unique container.
What Elements Make a Cremation Urn Celtic or Irish?
When you hear the word Celtic, it’s centrally referring to the languages and cultures of Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Cornwall, Brittany, and the Isle of Man. These are the Celtic nations, and many people still practice these ancient traditions, languages, and beliefs in modern-day.
People of Celtic origin are found across the globe, particularly in Ireland, the United Kingdom, and North America. These people are proud of their culture, and they like to express this heritage. One way to do so even after death is through the use of a Celtic or Irish Cremation Urn.
Do Celtic people believe in cremation?
Though ancient Celtic people mostly relied on burial, cremation became increasingly common in the Bronze Age. Not only was this a practical option, but it was a way to honor important chiefs and war heroes.
Cremation in Celtic tradition relied on the view of the soul. It was thought that the soul would be unable to go to the afterlife until the body had been destroyed through burning. As such, archeologists have discovered Celtic urns throughout Ireland and beyond.
What sets Celtic urns apart?
The main thing that sets Celtic urns apart from other urns you might see in Europe and North America is the symbolism. There are various Celtic symbols that have specific meanings within the Celtic tradition. You’ve likely spotted many of these in your own life, though you might not have recognized the rich meaning behind them.
In a scattering ashes ceremony, these symbols create greater significance for the family. They’re useful for prayers, reading poems, and just finding peace after the loss of a loved one.
Common Celtic symbols include:
- Celtic Tree of Life: The Tree of Life is a common symbol in many traditions, but few are as recognizable as this. The Celtic Tree of Life forms a circle, representing how life and death are simply a continuation of the same cycle. This is a symbol of wisdom and family tradition.
- The Celtic Cross: This cross draws its roots from Ireland in the Middle Ages, and it’s also a highly recognizable symbol. This image represents the four cardinal directions, elements, and nature.
- Dara Knot or Celtic Knot: The Dara Celtic Knot derives from the word for “oak tree,” and it looks like a complex root system. This is the Celtic symbol for strength.
- Trinity Knot: The Trinity Knot, also called the Triquetra for its three pointed sides connected by a circle, is the oldest symbol of spirituality. It’s the universal sign of family bonds.
- Irish Harp: Though more known for its ties to Ireland, this is commonly associated with Celtic tradition as well. The Irish Harp is a symbol of Irish pride.
- Claddagh Ring: The Claddagh Ring actually draws its roots from Ireland. It’s an image of two hands reaching for a crowned heart, and this is a representation of universal love.
These symbols are what sets these specific Celtic urns apart. Through them, families create a powerful message that relates to their loved one and their legacy.
Types of Celtic Burial Urns for Ashes
There are so many Celtic burial urns (read more about burial urns here) to choose from to honor your loved one. These traditional urns below are the perfect way to honor a Celt’s heritage.
1. Celtic knot burial urn
The most common Celtic burial urn for ashes features a Celtic Knot. These are often handmade, but there are some low-cost options as well.
They’re usually ceramic or made of metal, and they can be any color. The Celtic Knot itself is the main decoration, symbolizing unity and strength.
2. Floral cremation urn
Many people choose a non-traditional option that opts for its own visual imagery. A floral cremation urn is also an acceptable Celtic choice. There are many different flowers representing the Celtic Nations like the Irish Rose.
3. Celtic cross urn
The Celtic Cross is often confused for the Christian cross, though there can be some overlap if someone is both Celtic and Christian. However, it’s typically a symbol of nature and the four elements. It’s up to the family to assign their own meaning.
4. Green cremation urn
Another option that keeps things simple and modern is to opt for a green cremation urn. Green is the most commonly used color in the Celtic tradition, especially an emerald or shamrock green. This is a simple, modern touch that is sure to make a statement.
5. Wooden cremation urn
Finally, Celtic urns were traditionally made of wood hundreds of years ago. To this day, wooden urns are still a popular choice. They represent a return to nature, and they also cost less than metal urns.
Types of Celtic Keepsake Urns
There are no boundaries restricting the type of urn you have to use for your loved one’s ashes. Some keepsake urns are very creative, and they allow you to keep your loved one closer than ever.
Tip: Memorial diamonds are created from ashes, and are another beautiful option for keeping a loved one's memory alive. Some companies, like Eterneva, create lab-grown diamonds and allow you to pick from several cuts and colors for your gemstone.
6. Claddagh ring keepsake
The Claddagh Ring symbol is one of the most easily recognized in the Celtic and Irish traditions. It’s also stunningly beautiful, so it’s a natural choice for a keepsake urn you can wear. There are many memorial rings that hold a small collection of your loved one’s ashes.
7. Celtic cross pendant
Necklace urns are increasingly common. By wearing your loved one’s ashes, they’re always resting near to your heart. Honor their religion or their beliefs with a Celtic Cross urn necklace.
8. Clover pendant
For the Irish or the Irish-at-heart, a clover pendant is the best way to bring good luck. Again, this is a type of urn you can wear. It can be worn on a necklace, bracelet, keychain, or any other type of memorial jewelry.
9. Memorial stone
If your loved one loved the outdoors, honor their memory with a memorial stone. This is a large concrete stone that’s decorated with Celtic imagery, as well as your loved one’s name.
Like a headstone, it rests outside in nature. Many include a small storage space inside for keeping the ashes of your loved one safe.
10. Wooden box
Finally, another alternative to a traditional urn is to use a wooden box. These are easy to design with Celtic symbols, but they can also be left intentionally plain. Because they don’t represent typical urns, they’re easy to mask within your existing home decor.
Types of Small Celtic Urns for Ashes
Last but not least, there are a number of small Celtic urns that also serve the same purpose. These are ideal if you plan to split the ashes amongst loved ones or scatter a portion of the ashes. However, before you scatter the ashes with a ceremony, have the scattering ashes laws explained.
11. Picture urn
A picture urn is a type of keepsake that honors your loved one’s life and memory. It’s a place to not only display a favorite photo, but you can also store the ashes within the frame. It’s easy to decorate with Celtic imagery or symbols.
12. Biodegradable urn
If you don’t plan to keep the ashes, you might want to use a biodegradable urn. These are meant to slowly dissolve within the earth, returning your loved one’s ashes to nature. You could have them grow into a towering oak, Irish roses, or another beloved flower.
13. Celtic blessing urn
You have enough space for a classic Celtic blessing on a smaller urn. These are usually square or rectangular so they stand on their own, and they’re designed to be displayed.
14. Cylindrical tower urn
A modern style that’s seen more often recently is known as a tower urn or cylindrical urn. These are usually metallic, making them ideal for carving a custom Celtic design or image. They’re also highly personalizable.
15. Candle urn
Last but not least, candle lighting and incense have a large role in Celtic heritage. A small candle urn allows you to keep a candle next to the cremated remains of your loved one. This is the perfect way to honor their memory.
Celtic Urns and Traditions
Finding the right urn for yourself or a loved one is a highly personal thing. This isn’t always an easy process, but it doesn’t have to be complicated. Luckily, there are more options than ever to choose from. This is especially true if you’re honoring someone who is of Celtic origin.
These Celtic urns above are perfect for capturing the rich symbolism of Celtic and Irish heritage. By capturing this imagery, you honor a part of who they were.
- O’Halloran, W. “Irish Burial Customs.” Library Ireland. 1916. Library Ireland.
- O’Hara, Keith. “12 Popular Irish Celtic Symbols and Meanings Explained.” The Irish Road Trip. TheIrishRoadTrip.com.