Contrary to popular belief, cremated remains are not ashes as such, but rather tiny bone fragments. Typically, they will weigh in the region of 5 to 7lbs (2.3 to 3.2 Kilos) and are usually ready for collection one working day after the cremation. The ashes are generally placed in an inexpensive container with an option to purchase a more expensive one and are only given to the funeral director or a nominated person on presentation of identification. The recipient will also be given a Certificate of Cremation - a legal document including the name of the deceased and date and location of the cremation. Scattering ashes is a relatively recent phenomenon. In the '70s, only about 12% of ashes were taken away, with the rest staying at the crematorium. However, by 2005 that had risen to almost 60%.
Issues to Consider when Scattering Ashes
No requirement exists in the 1930 Cremation Act that restricts the scattering of ashes on ordinary land or in rivers; however, it is technically illegal to place something on someone else’s land or in rivers, without the owner’s consent.
Furthermore, the mineral concentrations in cremated remains can affect soils and the Scottish Mountaineering Council, for example, has asked relatives to avoid scattering ashes on popular sites in the Scottish mountains.
Spreading ashes should be avoided in the following situations:
- less than half a mile upstream of any drinking water supply;
- in any water used for commercial, agricultural or recreational purposes;
- from a bridge over a river;
- around anglers' sites;
- in windy weather;
- near buildings.
No charge is made for the scattering of ashes at any of the sites mentioned below.
There is a range of options for disposing of the ashes. These include:
in special gardens of remembrance;
- In a place that holds significance or fond memories, such as a cherished haunt, e.g. in woodland, on a mountainside, hillside, coastal spot or harbour, or a place of recreation, e.g. a golf course, hunting grounds, a favourite walk, path, ski trail, etc;
- in their own garden (although the possibility of a future house move needs to be considered); scattered at sea;
- trenching ashes in a shallow trench in the soil or in wet sand beside the incoming sea, (the trench can be dug in a variety of shapes and even in the form of the deceased's name); raking ashes into the ground, (the most common practice in remembrance gardens);
- over water: here a water-soluble urn can be used to disperse the ashes gradually back to the sea, avoiding the problems with ashes blowing back at the boat, (professionals with boats can be hired to conduct private water scatterings);
- casting can be performed by an individual or as a group, with attendees either taking turns to offer a partial scattering, or simultaneously.
A scattering urn that is specially designed to disperse the ashes can ease the task and add dignity to the service.