Once a body is cremated, the remains, which are often called cremains, are not "ashes" in the usual sense. They are dried bone fragments that have been pulverized. They have a sand-like consistency and often contain small portions of bone.
Ashes from a cremation are not in any way a health risk. They may be kept or released in a variety of ways and in many locations. You may want to consider keeping a portion and letting the rest go. Once the ashes are scattered they are gone forever. Consider keeping a small portion of the ashes just in case you or someone in your family someday wants to have them as a remembrance or use them in a piece of jewelry or other keepsake.
A variety of options for ash scattering have been available in the US for a number of years. In addition to the traditional notion of ashes being placed in a container and preserved in a columbarium or buried, ashes may also be scattered in a chosen place.
The laws governing ash scattering differ between States but as cremation is increasing in popularity, so to are the variable and creative options for how and where ashes can be scattered. The most important factor is to respect the wishes of the deceased, and the scattering of their ashes should be performed as part of their wishes, or as a legacy in tribute to their memory.
How to Scatter Ashes
If you are choosing to perform your own ash scattering there are several techniques you should consider when scattering ashes:
Scatter ashes into the air
Scattering is simply releasing ashes from a container. It is best to have one person at a time control the release from the container while others look on. People can take turns doing a partial scattering one at a time. A group may scatter ashes simultaneously in a toast-like gesture using smaller individual containers for each portion of ashes.
Check the direction of the wind and scatter the ashes down wind. 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 gray cloud.
Scatter ashes into a shallow trench
A shallow trench or groove is dug in the soil. The ashes are ceremonially poured into the trench and at the conclusion of the ceremony the trench is covered with soil. The trench can take the shape of a heart or spell out a word. Some people scatter ashes using the trench technique on a beach and time it so the tide comes, breaks down the trench and washes the ashes out to sea. Like watching a sand castle be taken into the tide.
Scatter ashes into a particular shape
Ashes are poured into a circle, star, heart or other shape. Some like to have the shape surround a collection of candles, flowers or some significant objects. Pouring the ashes into a particular shape will require holding the container close to the earth.
Scatter ashes by raking the ashes into loose soil
Ashes are ceremonially poured evenly on loose soil and raked into the ground. This technique is often used at scattering gardens.
Scatter ashes by burial
A hole is dug at least a foot deep and the ashes can either be poured in the hole or a biodegradable urn can be placed in the hole and covered.
Scatter ashes into a body of water
If scattering into the air on a beach be aware of the wind direction. You don't want the ashes unexpectedly blowing back at you. Remember, some of the ashes are a fine powder and this will become airborne forming a whitish gray cloud. Scattering into a body of water is best from a dock or from a boat where you can make sure and have the wind at your back.
Consider using a scattering urn. Several companies make water-soluble urns specifically designed to float a few minutes in the water and then slowly sink or disintegrate.
At some point in the scattering ceremony, people often toss flowers or petals into the water as a tribute. The flowers or petals float on top of the water as the ashes sink.
Where can ashes be scattered?
Most people will not be unfamiliar with the cultural practice of scattering ashes in the favorite place of a loved one. If the chosen place is somewhere public and part of the natural landscape this can be considered quite normal practice. Many cemeteries are now re-landscaping their grounds to provide additional green space with cultivated trees and benches, as reflective memorial areas where the bereaved can scatter ashes and have a place to return to. If you wish to scatter your loved ones ashes in a public area you should check State laws. Speak to your funeral director for further guidance, but do be sure to adhere to your wish as some funeral homes are more likely to steer you towards scattering or cremation interment within their designated memorial grounds.
It is also not uncommon for someones last wish to involve having their ashes scattered in a favourite or significant place. Many choose a place to have your ashes scattered that is close to home like in 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, perhaps be plowed into their field and a memorial placed at the fields edge. These places are popular because by the home is convenient and it is 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 like, the golf course, hunting grounds, fishing hole, a hiking trail, a mountain or ski trail. There is no limit when it comes to scattering ashes. Remember the phrase, "home is where the heart is".
Scattering By Sea
Scattering ashes can be considered a more natural final disposition, plus it can provide us with a sense of freedom and oneness with nature. This is probably why outdoor settings of natural beauty are often desired. Scattering 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 to be scattered far and wide is the goal, then the sea is appropriate. Many companies offer ash scattering services at sea, especially close to coastal areas. There are a whole plethora of businesses offering unattended or attended scattering at sea packages, chartering a small yacht to full memorial ceremony aboard a large sailing vessel. Prices vary enormously but usually start from as little as $100.
For those who have a passion for the ocean but who are looking for something different than a standard scattering at sea there are now a number of companies that offer memorialized cremation in ocean reefs. If you are looking for something alternative to a ash scattering at sea, then one of these man-made reef memorials may be for you. Prices can start from in the region of $2, 495.
Holyland Ash Scattering
It is possible to arrange to have your loved ones cremated remains scattered in a dedicated memorial park in Israel, in the hills of Mount Beatitudes, which overlook the Sea of Galilee, what some may consider a sacred place. For many this can be a way to offer a uniquely symbolic religious final resting place. The package offered includes - the ash scattering ceremony and a commemorative video, a framed certification of the date and location of the scattering, a lifetime access to the Memorial Garden and all shipping and administration related to the ash scattering service. At present this package is sold for $750, you can contact Holyland Scattering directly, or you may find that your funeral director is an affiliate and can arrange it for you.
Creating a Memorial Diamond or Cremation Diamond
If you have decided, or your loved one requested, to have their cremated remains scattered, you may still want to have some small personalized memorial tribute.
You can scatter their ashes in your/their chosen place, and still retain a small amount of their remains to be converted into a unique memorial diamond.
When an adult is cremated about 2 kg of ashes are produced, usually about 500 grams are required for the process of converting the carbon DNA into a diamond. This means that you can still perform an ash scattering with the remaining ashes.
A memorial diamond is exactly the same in its synthesis as a natural diamond, only the process is performed in a laboratory and is speeded up. But the diamond that is created is essentially a pure gemstone, and absolutely unique that it is a signature of the DNA of the person from which it was created.
A cremation diamond can be kept in a presentation box, or is more commonly crafted into a special piece of jewelry in order that it can be kept close at all times, and handed forward through generations.
Scattering by Air
The other popular choice for those interested in ash scattering is scattering by air, which can be over sea or land. This is usually done by professionals, when the ashes are cast from a private plane. Some of them will coordinate with your ceremony to fly over and scatter the ashes at a specified place and time, and 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 ashes for an extra fee. Prices can start from around $250.
Ascension Scattering Now you can be always in the clouds!
Allows your loved ones remains to remain present in the stratosphere forever
This new service (July 2012) puts a whole new twist on air-borne ash scattering. Somehow I think that they are trying to find a unique means to offer people something more than just an aerial scattering, whilst not taking us as far as the stars!
Ascension Scattering has been launched by a Colorado company named Aerial Tribute. Their new service is provided by using a high performance glider to take cremated remains higher into the global thermal updrafts before releasing the ashes. The result being that instead of just dispersing in the winds, the cremated remains remain in the upper atmosphere forever.
Apparently, the extremely powerful thermals over the Rocky Mountains help provide a natural launch-pad by which to offer this unique scattering service. Aerial Tribute offers a range of customized memorial options, including digital videos, photographs and musical recordings. The price for an Ascension Scattering ranges from $600 to $1, 000. This may seem an expensive way of dispersing ashes and laying to rest your loved one, but obviously far cheaper than a traditional funeral service, and certainly way more unique!
A more contemporary option for ash scattering is to have ashes can be scattered by exploding fireworks. These are special fireworks displays that contain a number of fireworks specially modified to incorporate cremated remains. A nighttime display of firework scattering might be the perfect memorial and the way to say goodbye. Restrictions on firework displays will apply. Some areas, such as national parks in the United States, require a scattering permit and probably will prohibit fireworks. Permission should be sought if scattering ashes by fireworks over areas where people gather, such as baseball stadiums. Cremated remains can be scattered by fireworks over private property with the owner's permission. Check with local authorities to ensure that your fireworks display is legal. Some companies that offer this service also conduct firework displays over the sea. Prices start in the region of $3, 000.
Another mode of ash scattering by air involves a small portion of cremated remains being placed inside a huge helium filled balloon. After its release, the balloon travels up to an altitude of approximately five miles. At that height the temperature is 40 degrees below zero. When it cools at this temperature the balloon crystalizes and fractures, scattering the ashes. The balloon is biodegradable and therefore eco-friendly.
Ashes Scattered into Space
..From the stars we are born, to the stars we will return..
This was brought to the publics attention by the Memorial Spaceflight of Gene Roddenberry, creator of Star Trek, by launching a symbolic portion of his cremated remains into space. Leaving Earth to touch the cosmos is an experience few have ever known, but many have often dreamed of. Celestis Memorial Spaceflights makes it possible to honor the dream and memory of your departed loved one by launching a symbolic portion of cremated remains into Earth orbit, onto the lunar surface or into deep space. Missions into space that return the cremated remains to Earth are also available. A small portion of cremated remains is taken aboard a commercial or scientific space mission and placed into earth's orbit or returned to earth.
Starting prices between $695 - $12, 500 dependent on services.
Beach Ash Scattering - Lifes a beach and then you die!
Beaching is a term that describes the slow release of cremated remains into the ocean by digging channels in the sand close to the ocean edge, filling these channels with the ashes of your loved one, and then slowly watching as they are absorbed by the ebb and flow of the water. This can often be conducted as the sun sets, making it a very beautiful and tranquil method to disperse ashes and hold a reflective memorial service on a beach of your choosing.
Often people choose to write something memorable in the sand, such as Goodbye Dad. In our hearts Forever.. This kind of ash scattering service is extremely easy to carry out yourself, with no costs and generally no permit required. It is advisable to ensure you choose a quiet beach and avoid tourist spots. You can dress up the beach with candles and flowers, and even make a digital recording of the beaching memorial.
There are some important things to consider to get your beaching ceremony right. You need to know the tides on the beach of your choice you want to be guaranteed the tide will wash over your ash-filled channels! And you want to ensure that the channels are both, deep enough that the ashes do not blow away, but shallow enough that the cremains will wash into the ocean!
Art from Ashes Glass-blown jewelry, vases & sun catchers
This seems yet another novel, yet quite artistic, way to do something to immortalize your loved one with their ashes. A small amount of cremated remains can be used and handcrafted into blown glass during the creation of a unique piece of glass art. The finished piece is then hand-inscribed with a memorial message.
Art from Ashes is a Massachusetts company that works with a number of talented artists who produce these remembrance keepsakes. The process can all be completed remotely or you can visit their workshop site. Only a small amount of cremated remains are required, and you can order anything form cufflinks to a large sun catcher, or even commission a unique sculpture of your choice. Some of their glass bead jewelry and glass key rings made an ideal, and inexpensive, means by which to keep a memento of your loved one with you at all times.
Prices start from around $150, depending on what size and type of glass artifact you chose. The process usually takes about 3-5 weeks, again depending on workloads of artists and type of remembrance artifact you select.
Memorial Body Inking Ashes to ashes, Dust to Tattoo!
Commemorative tattooing is a rather bizarre trend for using a small portion of cremated remains to be mixed in with tattoo ink and then permanently inked under the skin in a tattoo design. Not for the faint-hearted but as tattoos have become so popular in culture today, many people feel that it does make a lasting tribute and something very unusual and personalized to do with their loved ones ashes.
The trend initially started as people choose to have a tattoo to pay tribute and immortalize a lost loved one, and then actually putting some of the ashes into the tattoo became an incremental spin on the tribute. Those who have opted for this claim that it enables them to carry a part of their lost loved one with them at all times!
Although the medical profession have their concerns, stating that putting a foreign substance into the body can cause either rejection or infection, some tattooists claim they have been performing this safely for years.
Niche and Quirky Options for Ash Scattering
As the cremation rate in the U.S. continues to grow, and as we are all seeking unique and personalized alternatives to commemorate our lost loved ones, many new and often quirky, cremated remains industries are emerging.
..Live on from beyond the Groove!
A businessman in the UK who has long worked within the music industry has launched a service and web site that offers to press ashes into a vinyl record. This service may appeal to those of you who can remember vinyl records, but may become a short-lived enterprise in the digital world.
And Vinyly can press the ashes into a record made from your own voice, or a favorite track of your choice, and they even offer Rest In Vinyl (RIV) artwork to create a sleeve that immortalizes you.
Their basic package starts at just over $3, 000 and includes 30 ash-infused vinyl discs with standard artwork.
Never forget a face!
Cremation Solutions, a U.S. cremation product company has now introduced a rather strange cremation urn receptacle. You can now create a personalized urn made in the 3D image of your loved one! They are constructed using one or two photographs or your loved one, or the company even offers to create one in the image of your favorite hero! The Personal Urn is available in two sizes, both keepsake at 6 tall, costing a mere $600 and full-sized at 11 tall, that will cost you $2, 600.
Holy Smoke .Ashes to Ammunition.
Another new niche ash scattering option has come to market, and one that many American hunters may love, adding cremated remains to shotgun pellets and quite literally creating holy smoke. This could certainly be a way of going out with a bang! Two state game wardens from Alabama came up with the idea after joking about how neat it would be to be able to honor a lost loved one who lived for the outdoors by filling pistol shells with cremated remains, and inviting surviving family and friends to celebrate a life lived, in a unique way.
The cost for their services starts at $850.00. They provide ammunition with your loved ones ashes loaded in each shell or cartridge.
For the shotgunner:
250 shotshells shipped in fifty-round, labeled, plastic shotshell carriers with handles.
For the rifle shooter:
100 cartridges in standard calibers, shipped in labeled, plastic cartridge carriers.
For the pistol shooter:
250 cartridges in standard calibers, shipped in labeled, plastic cartridge carriers.
Carbon Copies Rest in Pieces Pencil Box Project
Artist Nadine Jarvis creates pencils from the carbon in cremated remains. 240 pencils can be made from the average body of ash, and each can be engraved with the deceaseds name and birth and death dates. The box containing the pencils comes with an inbuilt pencil sharpener. It dispenses one pencil at a time and stores the pencil shavings as they accumulate, so creating a memorial pencil box urn.
Portraits from Ashes & Etch-a-sketch with a difference!
A Bay area artist, Raven J. Collins, gained some notoriety by making portraits using cremated remains. Some ashes are mixed into the paint therefore creating a living memorial portrait. A commissioned work costs between $200 and $400.
It has also been known for a sketch to be constructed using cremated remains and then sealed using a polymer or glass.
Suspended in Time Forever .with an hourglass figure!
I like this offering you can have cremated remains encased with an hourglass and made into a unique keepsake urn. The hourglass has existed for centuries as a measurement of time. So this presents an unusual way to suspend time forever for your lost loved one. The structure of the hourglass is beautifully crafted from wood with a measure of cremated remains contained within the glass. It is even possible to have both parents ashes co-mingled in the hourglass the ultimate and ancient symbol for the passage of time. This keepsake urn can become a family heirloom to be passed down through generations.
Prices range from between $350 - $450.
Yes, I know, you are thinking WHAT .. this is the novel new ash scattering option offered from a Kentucky company Mesoloft that enables your loved ones remains to be taken into the stratosphere to a height where they can be released and fall back to earth converting into ice particles as they transgress through the atmosphere thereby falling from the sky as snowflakes ergo a snowflake burial! So its Ashes to Ashes, and Dust to Snowflakes!
The cremated remains are loaded into a weather balloon which is sent 20 miles above earth. The cremation ashes are released into the atmosphere where they drift throughout the upper reaches of the stratosphere for weeks, maybe months, before returning to earth as water vapor condenses on the particles of ash causing them to fall back to the planet.
This is quite an amazing way to co-mingle the base element of a person (carbon) back with the natural eco-system of the planet! As the ashes return to earth as raindrops or snowflakes, you could say that the essence of that person is infused into the living elements of our plant as those raindrops or snowflakes settle onto mountain tops, oceans, lakes, rivers and tropical forests.
Mind you, arranging a snowflake funeral does not come cheap! Launches are available from 3 sites in New Mexico, Indiana and Colorado. A standard launch package costs $2, 800. This includes the launch and release of the cremated remains (at 75, 000 feet), a video of the launch to landing and a commemorative book.
Sara is the Editor in Chief for US Funerals Online and has been researching and writing about the death care industry in the US for the last 5 years.
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