Scattering Ashes - Where and How
As long as it is permitted by local regulations, you may have a scattering ceremony in a place that is meaningful to you. Some people may find it hard to simply pour the ashes of a loved one out onto the ground or into the sea. If you wish to have your ashes scattered somewhere, it is important to discuss your wishes to be scattered ahead of time with the person or persons who will actually have to do the cremation ashes scattering ceremony, as they might want to let your funeral professional assist in the scattering ceremony. Funeral directors can also be very helpful in creating a meaningful and personal ash scattering ceremony that they will customize to fit your family's specific desires. The services can be as formal or informal as you like.
Another difficulty with cremation scattering of ashes can occur when the remains are disposed of in an anonymous, unmarked or public place. Access to the scattering area may be restricted for some reason in the future, undeveloped land may be developed, or other conditions may arise that could make it difficult for your survivors to visit the scattering site to remember you. What if your survivors relocate sometime in the future? Once scattered, cremated ashes cannot easily be collected back up. So give some thought and discuss specific desires on where the ash scattering ceremony will take place. It is always a good idea to retain some of the ashes to keep or to scatter in a separate location in the future. This is one of the reasons why "Keepsake Cremation Urns" and "Cremation Jewelry" are offered by many funeral professionals.
Grief experts tell us that it is very important to establish a permanent memorial to help survivors deal with the continued cycle of loss. This is especially important to those that choose to scatter ashes. Survivors need a place to go where they can reflect and hold onto previous memories for the years to come; a place that says, "I was here and lived a life!" This can be in a cemetery, the back yard or any other place that will be meaningful to the deceased or the survivors. Some cemeteries have dedicated land for those who wish to have their ashes scattered, such as cremation scattering gardens and ossuaries. The memorial does not necessarily need to be in the same place of the ash scattering. Sometimes the ash scattering location is not convenient for survivors to visit, such as scattering ashes at sea or scattering ashes over a favorite hunting ground.
If you're not sure about an appropriate scattering area, or have questions on what kind of ash scattering ceremony will be a meaningful experience for your family, it is always a good idea to consult with your funeral director. They have experience in planning such scattering events and can be very helpful in creating the kind of scattering of ashes event you desire. Todays funeral directors act as event planners, and have the resources and contacts to get things just right for this final tribute. Keep in mind that whatever funeral services you select, scattering ashes is just the final disposition and that you can still conduct traditional funeral services prior to the cremation.
Cremation Scattering of Ashes Questions
Where should I scatter ashes?
As with cremation, when it comes to scattering ashes there are many options. If the location is on private property you should seek permission of the owner. If scattering ashes is on public land you should check local regulations.
Many choose a place to have cremation ashes scattered that is close to home such as the garden or flowerbeds, or perhaps have ashes scattered around a favorite tree or bush. Some even choose to scatter ashes off the deck or by the patio. A farmer might have ashes scattered over his land, and perhaps be plowed into their field and a memorial placed at the field's edge. These places are popular because near the home is convenient and easy to establish a memorial on your property. Having ashes scattered in place that held special meaning to the deceased is a popular choice. This scattering site might be a place of recreation such as the golf course, hunting grounds, fishing hole, a hiking trail, a mountain or ski trail. There is no limit when it comes to scattering cremation ashes. Remember the phrase, "home is where the heart is". Many consider scattering ashes to be more natural and it gives us a sense of freedom and oneness with nature. This is probably why outdoor settings of natural beauty are often desired. Over bodies of water has been a favorite, keeping in mind the concept that all life began in the sea. It is the sea in which we came, and eventually, life flows back to the sea. Many see scattering ashes over water or water burial as the fastest route to the greatest dispersal. If having cremation ashes scattered far and wide is the goal, then the sea is appropriate. However it is not possible to place a memorial at sea and it does not give us a focal point that we can visit. We suggest that for scattering ashes at sea, a memorial still be placed in a convenient place for survivors to visit, like a cemetery or back on the family property.
How to scatter cremation ashes?
Location will help determine the method of scattering ashes. Using an urn that is specially designed to disperse the ashes, called a "Scattering Urn", can ease the task and add dignity to the services. Memorial services that are designed to play tribute to the deceased and support the survivors are enhanced when the urn is displayed. This gives people a focal point and a sense of reality at the service.
Cremation Urn Scattering Methods and Locations
- Casting Ashes: is the act of simply tossing the ashes to the wind. Usually done by one individual while others look on. Care and consideration of others should be used when casting. Check the direction of the wind and cast down wind. The ashes are mostly made up of a dense sand like matter and will quickly fall to the ground but some of it will be a fine powder and this will become airborne forming a whitish grey cloud. Casting can also be done as a group. People can take turns doing a partial scattering one at a time. Also, group scattering where multiple people scattered simultaneously in a toast-like gesture using paper cups is common.
- Trenching Ashes: This is done on land when a shallow trench or groove is dug in the soil. A hoe works well. Then the trench is filled from the scattering urn and usually raked over at the conclusion of the ceremony. You can get creative and dig the persons name into the soil, maybe inside a heart, then fill the void with the ashes. If its not too windy, candles can go in the ground alongside the trench for a more spiritual feel. Imagine filling a trenched name in beach sand and having the group form a ring around it. You can place and time it right so the tide will come up and wash the remains back to the sea while you all wade in the surf and share memories.
- Ringing Ashes: This is when we form a ring on the ground around an object or even a group of objects, it can be with or without a trench. The scattering urn will need to be held close to the ground when pouring the ring. Some ideas include a ring around a favorite tree or shrub. How about a ring around a group of candles or a memory table? The survivors can be the outer ring and take turns entering the ring to share words of remembrance.
- Raking Ashes: The cremation ashes are poured from the cremation scattering urn evenly on loose soil and raked into the ground, at the conclusion of the ashes scattering ceremony. This is often how it is done in the scattering gardens that are now located in many cemeteries. Your funeral director can help you find a scattering garden in your area.
- Cremation Ashes Green Burial: A hole is made in the soil and the ashes can either be poured in or a biodegradable scattering urn can be placed in and covered. Many cemeteries will let you scatter on the gravesite as long as the remains are buried. If the cemetery requires an urn, the biodegradable scattering urn style is often permitted. Multiple scatterings or green burial can be done on one grave even if a casket has been buried the ashes can go on top. As with any ash scattering it is important to establish a permanent memorial so survivors have a place to continue to remember and heal in the years to come.
- Scattering Ashes Over Water: When scattering ashes over a body of water a water-soluble urn can enhance the experience. These urns are specifically designed to gradually disperse the ashes back to the sea. Ashes can be cast directly into the water, but will often blow back at the boat and cling to the sides of the boat. This can be both frustrating and unsightly. A water-soluble urn will usually float for several minutes then slowly sink where it will degrade or melt back to the sea, scattering the cremation ashes. The survivors will often toss flowers or petals as a final tribute as the urn slowly drifts away. There are professionals with boats available that will do either private water scatterings or create an event were the survivors may voyage and participate. Your funeral director will have the contacts to set this up in your area or you may find a provider on the resources section of this website.
- Aerial Cremation Ash Scattering: Usually done by professionals, this is done when the ashes are cast from a private plane. See the resources section of this website for Arial Ash Scattering providers in your area. Some of them will coordinate with your ceremony to fly over and scatter the cremation ashes at a specified place and time. On clear days a cloud of ash can be seen from the ground. Most professionals will provide a certificate of the place and time and even photos. Some will allow passengers to attend the scattering of cremation ashes for an extra fee.
See our "Resources" section for other professional ashes scattering services such as:
- Cremation ashes scattering profesionals in your area at Sea-On Land-By Air
- Underwater cremation reefs
- Cremation ashes fireworks displays
- Cremation ashes scattering by balloon