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Cremation and scattering ashes can be the simplest and most affordable disposition option. Scattering can also provide a sense of finality and peace for the family, an event filled with meaning and rich symbolism. It is also often done at a loved one’s request, as one of their final wishes. There are a variety of methods for scattering ashes, so here is a brief guide to help you choose which option is best for you.
Here is an overview of the various scattering methods:
- Ground scattering
- Traditional scattering
- Water scattering
- Water burial
- River scattering
- Air scattering
- Green burial
Let’s take a look at each of these in turn.
Methods for Scattering Ashes
This is the classic method for scattering remains. Simply find a place to scatter, and pour out the ashes over the ground.
You can scatter ashes just about anywhere with permission from the land owner or, for public lands, the office that oversees the land. The family farm, a favorite hiking spot, a baseball diamond, the place where he proposed, a secret fishing spot, and many other places that have a personal connection – all these are popular options for a scattering place.
Here are some scattering urns that make ground scattering easy.
This is just another phrase that describes scattering (via pouring) over ground or water. It’s “traditional” in the sense that it is the most commonly understood method of scattering. This is as opposed to other methods such as trenching, raking, and more, which we will discuss below.
Casting is synonymous with traditional scattering. You are “casting” the cremated remains over ground or water. You may choose to differentiate between simply pouring the remains and actively casting them, but that is a minor difference.
This is a method for scattering ashes that invites participation. This is an ideal method to use for dispersing the remains at a beach. To scatter remains by trenching, you will dig one or more small trenches several feet in length. The trench does not have to be very deep; a small, handheld gardening shovel will work easily for most earthen areas. If you are trenching at a sandy beach, participants can even dig with their hands.
After the trench is prepared, pour the ashes into it along the length of the trench. Then, once the service is completed, one or more participants can spread the earth or sand back over the trench using hands, small shovels, or rakes. This method disperses the ashes into the earth in a way that is respectful and contained.
Raking is a popular method for scattering cremated remains in a flower garden or other areas where beautiful plants will grow. It is also the most common method used at cemetery “scattering gardens.” With the scattering urn kept very close to the ground to avoid issues with wind dispersion, pour our the ashes over an area of loose dirt, freshly tilled earth, or sand. Family members and friends can take turns slowly raking the remains into the ground, returning the loved one back to the earth.
Water scattering is a somewhat generic term for any method of scattering or disposing of cremated remains in water. Typically, this means pouring out the ashes from a container into water. Watter scattering can be done from a boat into the ocean or a lake, or it can occur by pouring from the beach or a river’s edge into the water.
You don’t have to actually cast or pour out the remains to have a water scattering. Eco-friendly water scattering urns allow you to place the entire urn into the water, where it will briefly float and then sink to the ocean floor to biodegrade. The ashes will then be dispersed throughout the ocean with the ebb and flow of the tides.
Typically, river scattering looks much like the water scattering method listed above. We’re mentioning it separately because many people will think that a trip to the ocean is necessary for water-based disposition. But river scattering is a great way to honor someone who loved to hike, fish, or boat on the river, and (depending on your location) it could be much closer than the nearest large body of water.
To scatter at a river, you can stand at the riverbank or out into the stream. Pour out the remains into the river as slowly as you like, and then let the current take it away. If you go out into the river, we advise facing downstream.
This is the premier option for extreme sports lovers, pilots, and travellers. Most air methods involve a third party service, such as a helicopter rental, drone pilot, or other specialty vendor. The easiest and most affordable option is to scatter from a cliff or up on a tall mountain; the rest of these methods will involve a third party or specialized knowledge and equipment.
- Cliff / mountain
- Airplane / helicopter
- Shooting fireworks (specially designed fireworks)
- Shooting guns (bullets filled with remains)
This method involves simply burying the remains, to let them be “scattered” throughout the earth over the passage of time. You can dig a hole in the ground and pour the remains directly into the earth, or utilize an eco-friendly urn vessel to hold the remains. These are vessels that hold and protect the remains during the funeral and transportation. Then, upon burial, they will naturally biodegrade and return the ashes to the earth.