America's Template & Memorial Superstore

What Are Cremation Ashes?

scattering.ashes.jpgYou may envision going to a beautiful spot and scattering your loved one’s ashes while this can be beautiful and ceremonial, it can pose some challenges. It is healing to the soul to return your loved one’s ashes to nature, especially if it was a place they desired.

The word “ashes” is used to described cremated remains or often referred to as “cremains”, a combination of the two words. You may think the ashes are a light ash similar what remains after burning wood in a fireplace. The reality is, the ashes are bone fragments that have been mechanically reduced by a machine and don’t gently flow in the air. It is more like a heavy mixture of sand, dust and ash. When scattering, make sure to check the direction of where the wind is blowing as you do not want any part of the ashes to blow back into people’s faces or onto an area not intended to be in. There are certain states that have legal requirements on where to scatter the ashes.  No state allows the scattering of ashes on private property without permission from the property owner.  Many state parks have rules and permit requirements that you will need to check as well.  

If you do plan on scattering the remains, many families keep the ashes in a temporary container or eco-friendly urn that is taken to the location. Some families do keep a portion of the ashes with them to keep a part of their loved one with them. If you want to do so, make sure you keep the ashes in a sealed plastic bag or mini urn which your funeral director can help you with. Not only can you place the remaining ashes in a bag or mini urn but you can also make a jewel out of them as well as put them into jewelry. Some companies will take your ashes and create a jewel from them. Each person’s ashes will result in a different color gem. 

Techniques For Scattering Ashes


This is a way of scattering ashes where the remains are tossed into the wind. It is important to check the wind direction when scattering in this way to ensure it goes where you intend it.  Most of the particles will fall to the ground and some of the lighter ashes will blow into the wind in a white-gray cloud. This technique can be done by more than one person. For example, a family of four can each have a turn at casting the ashes until the container has been emptied. Alternatively, you can choose also to place a little ash in a small cup of container and give it to each person to cast.


Trenching is digging a shallow hole in the ground or sand during the ceremony and rake over the hole to cover the ashes. You can write your loved one’s name in the sand or ground inside a heart or stand alone. You can also draw a heart and place the ashes inside of it. Most families take a photo of this and keep it in a memory or memorial book. You can do this ceremony at a beach and time it when the tide comes in and washes it away. You can make an entire ceremony at a beach, holding hands or lighting candles if it is not too windy.


Raking involves pouring the ashes over loose soil and raking them into the ground as a symbolic way to blend the ashes back into the earth. You will want to keep the container urn close to the ground when pouring in case the wind blows it in a different direction. 


This technique is done in a “green or eco cemetery” or any cemetery location. The cremains are placed inside an eco-friendly bag and taken to the gravesite for ground burial. It is similar to a burial but you are burying ashes at the gravesite as the final resting place. 


Water scattering involves places the ashes in a body of water. Ashes should be placed in a biodegradable bag to prevent blowing in the wrong direction. The ashes are then placed and dropped into a body of water and quickly biodegrades into the water or slowly begins to sink. Rose petals are thrown into the water after the urn dissipates.   


Air scattering is done from an airplane and is best done by air professionals such as pilots or air services. A certain type of airplane is specifically used to scatter ashes with the family flying inside the plane. Check your online resources or your local airport to see which airlines offer this specific service.