Ceremony for Scattering Ashes
For families that choose scattering as a method of dispersing ashes, many still like to have a small portion of the ashes or a lock of hair incorporated into a small memorial such as a piece of cremation jewelry or keepsake urn. Others prefer creating a memorial that may include a memorial stepping stone , memorial garden plaque, or a statuary or garden memorial sculpture to honor their loved one.
Garden stones and garden benches can also be used indoors or out, and all create loving touches in your sacred space. Whatever your decision, this is a personal choice that is meant to honor and represent your passed loved one as well as heal, restore, and remember the time and life that your loved one spent on Earth. There are many ways that ash scattering methods can be used to create a personalized ceremony.
For more ideas on planning a cremation memorial see our full line of scattering urns for land or water, cremation keepsakes, memorial stones.
- Casting: 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. I have also seen group scattering where multiple people scattered simultaneously in a toast-like gesture using paper cups.
- Trenching: 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 racked over at the conclusion of the ceremony. You can get creative and dig the persons name in 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: 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: The ashes are poured from the scattering urn evenly on loose soil and raked into the ground, at the conclusion of the 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.
- 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 grave site as long as the remains are buried. If the cemetery requires an urn, the biodegradable 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 scattering it is important to establish a permanent memorial so survivors have a place to continue remember and heal in the years to come.
- Water scattering: When scattering 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. 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 usually have the contacts to set this up in your area or you may find a provider on the resources section of this website.
- Aerial 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 aerial scattering providers in your area. Some of them will coordinate with your ceremony to fly over and cast the 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 for an extra fee.
See all of our urns for scattering and green burial in our biodegradable urn collection.
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