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The Celtic Cross Cremation Urn

A Timeless Symbol for Urns and Keepsakes

Image: Graceland Cemetery - McClurg by fitzgene *

The Celtic cross can be found across Ireland, Scotland, Wales, England, Europe and beyond. As a design for cremation urns and keepsakes, it is highly favored. But what do we know about this symbolic relic? To understand its roots is to understand the era and a glimpse of the people from which it originated.

What is a Celtic Cross?

A Celtic cross is a symbol that combines a cross with a ring formed in the center, also known as a nimbus. The Celtic cross cremation pendant incorporates this design in an elegant and functional way.

The early Celtic cross was inscribed into rock. Eventually, the cross was popularly carved from stone. The arms of the cross are joined by a perfect circle. The circle may be an indication of radiant light, which is widely found in art forms of the fifth century. However, other theories purport its significance.

The website Irishfireside describes the cross as follows:

The even-armed cross within a circle has been ascribed many meanings by many groups and cultures. One such meaning is that of the stages of the day: morning, noon, evening, midnight. Another possibility includes the meeting places of the divine energy, of self, nature, wisdom and divinity. Of course, obvious relations such as east, north, south and west; or earth, air, water and fire can also be derived from the shape. Even the Native Americans used this as a symbol for their Medicine Wheel. The sun wheel has also been called Odin’s Cross, a symbol in Norse Mythology.

History of the Celtic Cross

History shows us that the Celts, considered Britain’s indigenous people, are descended from a tribe of Iberian fisherman 6,000 years ago. So states an article in the Independent titled, "Celts descended from Spanish fishermen, study finds."

During the medieval period, there was a great effort to convert pagans to Christianity. Legend has it that St. Patrick, a fifth-century Christian missionary, took a Latin cross and drew a circle in the center of it to represent the Celtic goddess of the moon. The unification of the cross with the circle was an effort to convince the pagans that they could co-exist with Christianity.

Rise of Christianity and the Catholic Church

After the fall of the Roman Empire, the Catholic Church was the only church. It dominated the lives of the people of that era. In fact, the church is credited for preserving civilization. This was also a time when there was tremendous activism to convert pagans to Christianity.

The Artistic Influence of The Celtic Cross

The online Encyclopedia of Irish and Celtic Art states that the Celtic High Cross has been identified as an important free-standing sculpture, generally created between the fall of the Roman Empire and the rise of the Renaissance. It stands as one of the great contributions to Ireland’s visual arts. Well known examples include:

  • Muiredach’s Cross (Monasterboice)
  • the Cross at Castledermot, and
  • the Ahenny High Cross.

Between the fourth and ninth centuries, the Celtic cross appeared throughout Europe. After that time, its popular use began to wane until a Celtic Revival period in the nineteenth century.

Celtic Revival, Graves and Cremation

Between the nineteenth and twentieth century, there was renewed interest in Celtic art. This period was known as the Celtic Revival and its influence is very popular today. As Celtic art expanded, the Celtic cross became a well-recognized symbol of Celtic heritage.

The Irish Celtic cross has long been used as a marker of Irish graves. Its supposed religious reflection of Catholicism, coupled with its international recognition as an Irish symbol has made it a very common symbol used on Irish graves.

For those who choose to be cremated, a hand stamped Celtic cross in leather on black walnut serves as the lid to a wooden cremation urn. The Celtic cross cremation keepsake heart holds a pinch of a person’s ashes as a lasting tribute to someone’s memory.

There is no question the symbolism of the Celtic cross is powerful. A poem titled “Celtic Cross” by John F. McCullagh goes:

In the hills above Strabane
in a little churchyard there
stands a Celtic cross of stone
That marks my father's parents' grave.
The Day is raw, a spit of rain
The wind sweeps low across the plot
In time their names will disappear.
The forces of nature serve to blot.
Still the Celtic cross endures
long after the inscription fades,
to be a sign of what they were,
when of their names, no trace remains.
~ John F. McCullagh

As the poem illustrates, the abrasive winds tend to smooth a rugged stone over time, and with it the memory of the person who is buried at the foot of the cross. But for those who want a permanent symbol where Mother Nature cannot erase the memory of the past, perhaps the Celtic cross urn or Celtic cross necklace urn would serve as an enduring symbol.

* Image: http://bit.ly/1Mqkwzp

Jerri Haaven is a freelance writer, and a certified Grief Recovery Specialist and Celebrant. When caring for her dad, who suffered from dementia and COPD, Jerri struggled with the negative side effects of his illness. She developed positive outlets to express herself and recover from her loss. Today as a certified Grief Recovery Specialist and Celebrant, she uses her skills to help people who are in the midst of their own personal story of grief and loss. 

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