Deciding to scatter the deceased’s ashes is an important decision and there are many factors to consider.
Scattering is an irreversible process and some families may regret (at a later date), having scattered all of their loved one’s ashes at the same time.
Consider if you want to have a ‘once only’ scattering, or do you want to keep some ashes to scatter on anniversaries or special occasions. It could be that you are planning to move to a new location and would like to scatter some ashes nearby. You might want to keep some ashes for other family members or friends, or to be placed in an urn or memorial jewellery to keep close to you at all times.
The emotional value of establishing a permanent place to visit is worthy of consideration. Memorialisation is a tribute to the deceased, and also a service to the living. The gesture of visiting a site and seeing the deceased’s name can provide comfort. Memorialisation is not just for family and friends, but for everyone whose lives were touched by the deceased. It is also for the generations that follow who will want to connect with their heritage. Without memorialisation, all traces of the deceased are lost forever.
If your answer to any of these questions is “I’m not sure” or “possibly”, don’t release all the ashes initially.
There are a number of options as to where and how the ashes may be scattered.
Private Land – It is important to get permission from either the owners of private land or the governing body of parks, reserves, waterways and marine, or from a local council for parks, beaches and playing fields. The scattering of ashes may contravene the provisions of your State or Territory’s environment protection laws. Some councils and other government authorities will set a time and place when these activities can be undertaken and can impose other conditions. Regulations usually state that the container which carried the ashes must be disposed of separately, and preferably in a waste receptacle.
Disposal of ashes without consent from appropriate authorities may result in legal proceedings to be initiated against the person disposing of the ashes.
Moving Home and Future Development – It is important to carefully choose the place where you scatter the ashes with regard to any future development. For example undeveloped land may be developed and access restricted, or simply become an unsuitable place to visit to remember the deceased. Consider what your feelings might be if you decide to scatter the ashes on your own property, and then decide to move sometime in the future.
Oceans and Waterways – If you plan to scatter the ashes on a tidal waterway, check beforehand the tide times, so you use the outgoing tide to take the ashes away, rather than have them wash back onto the water’s edge. If you are scattering the ashes on water, it can be comforting to release petals, single fresh flowers or a wreath at the same time. This also enables you to see the location of the ashes as they move away from you.
If you are on a boat, scatter as close to the water as possible, and always empty the ashes from their container and dispose of the container in a waste receptacle. Never throw the ashes container overboard as it will float, with the exception of the purpose designed water burial cremation urns. You can record the navigational coordinates of the site if you want to visit this place again in the future. If you plan to scatter ashes from a boat, you must obtain permission from the master of the vessel beforehand.
At all locations be aware of the wind direction directly before scattering the ashes, and pre-loosen the lid of the ashes container, so there are no hold ups on the day.
Be advised that cremated remains, or as most people call them ‘ashes’, are not like the soft ashes from a fireplace. They are usually white with the consistency of fine gravel, and therefore rather conspicuous in gardens and parks. You may wish to consider the raking or trenching methods outlined below.
Cremation ashes can sometimes be slightly viscous (sticky), so if you are planning to scatter ashes in a location without easy access to water, take a bottle of water and paper towels with you, so you are able to respectfully wash your hands afterwards.
Air Travel – If you are taking cremated ashes by air travel to an interstate or overseas location, it is wise to keep them in your ‘carry on’ hand luggage to avoid the situation of delays with lost luggage. The ashes will have to be in a sealed container and you must have the Death Certificate or a certified copy, together with a statement from the crematorium identifying the deceased person and where and when the cremation occurred. Check with your airline before travelling, as there are different requirements with each carrier. If you don’t know the local requirements for the country of your destination, you can contact their consulate in Australia to ensure you comply with their laws.
Scattering Tubes – Scattering tubes are designed to simplify the scattering process with a removable lid and a perforated ‘push in’ tab that opens easily prior to scattering. They are available in a plain finish where you are provided with a set of marker pens so your family and friends can add messages or drawings to personalise the tube. You can also print a photo and glue it to the top lid. Alternatively, they are available in a range of decorative images.
They are suitable for ‘carry on’ luggage for airline transportation. If family members and friends want to participate individually in scattering, even in multiple locations, mini-size scattering tubes allow for that option.
Methods of Scattering Ashes
Casting: It means that you simply toss the cremated ashes on the wind (cast downwards). Make sure you check the direction of the wind before following this method. You may involve a group in this activity and ask everyone to take turns to partially scatter the ashes.
Trenching: As the name suggests, this method involves digging a shallow trench in soil, pouring the ashes in the hole and then covering them with soil. You may consider lighting candles in the area and decorating it with mementos. Trenching can also be done on a beach so that the tide may wash the remains of your loved one back to the sea.
Raking: In this method, the ashes are poured evenly on loose soil and then raked into the ground. This procedure is usually followed when spreading the cremated ashes in a scattering garden after holding an ash-scattering ceremony.
Water scattering: You may disperse the cremated remains into a waterway, lake, or sea directly, or in a water-soluble cremation urn that floats for a few minutes and then slowly sinks and dissolves. Consider tossing flower petals, single flowers or a wreath into the water as a tribute. You can record the navigational coordinates of the site if you want to visit this place again in the future. Some States do not allow scattering the ashes in a fresh water body. Please check with your State or Territory authority.
Aerial scattering: This method requires a professional to cast the ashes from a private plane at a specific location. You may have to pay an additional fee if you want to board the plane and witness the scattering. Otherwise, most professionals provide photos and certificates listing the date, time, and location of scattering.
Alternatives: There are also options like helium balloon scattering, cremation fireworks, making a memorial reef, creating cremation glass or diamond, and so on.