How to Scatter Ashes

In choosing cremation scattering some of the questions might include where, when and how to enact the scattering.

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.

You may have a scattering ceremony in a place that is meaningful to you or whatever location will have meaning for your family in remembering you as they knew you in life, not death.

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.


The method of scattering ashes is usually determined by the location and the process can take many forms.

Helen Ashes Hand

Casting Ashes Or Scattering Ashes

Casting is the act of simply tossing ashes in to the wind. Casting ashes can be done in nearly any location with the permission of the land owner or local council. 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.

The ashes can be scattered by one person, or the urn could be passed from hand to hand as the various people cast out a little bit of the content at a time.

For an even greater visual effect, the ashes are divided into many tiny containers, distributed to all the people present. Each person can take a turn scattering the ashes. It is also possible for all the people, using their individual container, to cast the ashes together in a sort of salute to the deceased.

Trenching Ashes

When ashes are "trenched," a small trench (a long, narrow hole) is dug in the ground, and the ashes are placed in the hole. The trench can then be covered with soil (either with a person’s hands or with a garden implement).

Instead of just the ashes being buried, it is possible to place the ashes in a biodegradable scattering urn, and bury the urn with the ashes inside.  You can mark the place with natural elements (such as plantings or special stones), a small statue, or other objects. 

If the day is still, the area chosen for the scattering can be lit with candles prior to the burying of the ashes.

Trenching can also take place on a beach. You can dig a shallow trench in the sand near the water's edge and fill the trench with the cremated remains. You can leave the ashes uncovered in the trench, or you can cover them with sand. As the tide comes in, the ashes will be swept out to sea; you might want to check the tidal schedule to make sure that you're at the beach when the tide is coming in. (If the tide is going out, the water will not come up to reach the trench.)

You can get creative and dig the person’s name into the soil, maybe inside a heart, then fill the void with the ashes. If it is not too windy, candles can go in the ground alongside the trench for a more spiritual feel. 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.

Raking Ashes

Raking ashes is the process of scattering ashes in a garden or in the soil and then using a rake (such as a garden rake) to incorporate the cremated remains into the earth. Raking can be done in a garden at your home, at a meaningful spot or piece of land, or in another location.

At a raking, one person can be responsible for raking the ashes, or everyone present can take turns raking the ashes into the soil.

If you're thinking about raking ashes in a public place, such as in a park, make sure that you have the legal right to do so in that place.

This is often how it is done in the scattering gardens that are now located in many cemeteries. Your funeral director may be able to help you find a scattering garden in your area.

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 favourite tree or shrub or 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.

Ashes Green Burial

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. Some cemeteries have dedicated land for those who wish to have their ashes scattered, such as cremation scattering gardens and ossuaries.

fireworks 1758 200


Aerial Ashes Scattering

Scatterings can also take place in the air. It is usually performed by a professional, from a private plane, the time being coordinated so that the ashes are cast at a time and place where those on the ground can see.

If the day is clear, it may be possible to actually see the ashes falling from the sky.

There are companies that will incorporate cremation ash into fireworks, thus  providing opportunties for a memorial fireworks display.  

Scattering Over Water

ashes over water 200Ashes can be scattered over water in a number of ways. You can scatter ashes over a river, a lake, a pond, or the ocean. If you'll be scattering the ashes over a large body of water, you might want to take a boat out onto the water and scatter the ashes from the boat. If you don't own a boat or have access to a boat, there are many companies that can either rent you a boat or can scatter the ashes over water on your behalf.

You can scatter the ashes over water as you would when casting or scattering ashes over land, by simply tossing the ashes over the water. If you're thinking about doing this, be aware of the direction of the wind; make sure that the wind is blowing away from the boat and anyone on the boat.

You can also scatter ashes over water using a water-soluble "scattering urn." With a water-soluble scattering urn, the cremated remains are placed in the urn and then the urn is dropped in the water, where it will dissolve, leaving the ashes in the water.

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.   To make the moment even more memorable, as the urn floats on the water, those watching it, can toss petals, flowers and flower wreaths near the urn as it slowly disappears.

Helen Ceremonies off beach

 Ceremony- Sunrise Paddle Out

In the quiet stillness of dawn, family and friends, paddle out beyond the waves to join a circle in silence. Family unable to paddle may join in by being brought out in a dinghy. Someone may say a few words.

Everyone may share a breakfast together back on shore.

Ceremony- Off the Beach

Some family members to walk into the water up to their knees and some to remain on beach. Ashes can be thrown lightly into the air and /or handfuls of ashes placed into the ocean and the ashes to float gently away. Little boats could be made in the person’s honour (children could help make) and launched into the water.

People can walk along the beach in remembrance: in silence or share memories of the person.

Could chose a stone or shell from the beach as a memorial stone/shell.  Candles can be lit at the following gathering. 


Last modified on Saturday, 22 June 2019 23:14
More in this category: « Cremations and ceremonies