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Last Updated: Thursday, 5 April 2007, 12:27 GMT 13:27 UK
Where can't you put human ashes?
WHO, WHAT, WHY?
The Magazine answers...

Fireworks holding the ashes of Hunter S Thompson
The ashes of Hunter S Thompson had a colourful send-off
Keith Richards joked that he snorted his father's ashes. So can you put cremains anywhere you like?

A green field, a favourite hilltop or a football pitch.

Across the UK, the remains of loved ones are being discreetly scattered in private ceremonies, usually in a beauty spot with some personal meaning to the deceased.

But up a son's nose? Keith Richards' drug-taking past has been well-documented but his apparent admission that he snorted his father's ashes gave his reputation for excess a new dimension. His agent later said the guitarist had been joking.

THE ANSWER
Someone else's property without permission
Parts of the North Sea governed by EU rules

So are there any places out of bounds to mourners?

There are no banned areas enshrined in law, and that includes the nostrils, says a spokesman at the Department for Constitutional Affairs.

"There's nothing in the Cremation Act 1930 to restrict people in disposing of the ashes," he says.

"There are physical environmental concerns, so if someone dies and his house is under new ownership and his loved ones spread the ashes on the vegetable patch, there would be an issue.

WHO, WHAT, WHY?
QM
A regular feature in the BBC News Magazine - aiming to answer some of the questions behind the headlines

"But that comes under the same legislation as if litter was thrown on someone's property."

People can deposit them where they wish, says Leonie Kellaher, a professor of anthropology who is working on a study of the scattering of ashes.

"But there are warnings about not putting them on private land without the owner's permission, and people are expected to be 'sensitive'. But no-one is watching, or censoring this activity with ashes."

Some clergy are opposed to the remains being divided up among family members, she adds.

And although not backed by legislation, some popular locations have moved to warn bereaved relatives off their sites.

Football fans

Last year, the Mountaineering Council of Scotland said the soil on some of the summits was being damaged.

And boaters who cruise along the River Soar in Leicestershire have said if mourners continue to sprinkle ashes in the water - particularly popular among Hindu and Sikh mourners - the river will become unusable.

Some football clubs have opened special memorial gardens for the ashes of fans, to stop the pitch being used.

Tighter regulations exist in other parts of northern Europe, says Prof Kellaher. And there are some EU rules restricting scattering in the sea, especially along the North Sea coast.

Ben Nevis
Scottish mountains are popular

The scattering of ashes is a relatively recent phenomenon. In the 1970s, only about 12% of ashes were taken away by loved ones, the rest staying at the crematorium. But by 2005 that had risen to nearly 60%.

Over that time cremations have risen sharply, but the figure is now pretty steady at about 70%.

Most are buried or scattered in a garden at the crematorium but personal ceremonies are becoming more off-beat as people think ahead to plan their own funerals.

The ashes of gonzo journalist Hunter S Thompson were put in fireworks and launched from a 150ft tower in Colorado. And in 1997 the remains of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry were fired into outer space aboard a Spanish research satellite due to orbit the Earth for six years.

CREMATORIUM'S ROLE
Procedures are in place to ensure ashes are correctly allocated
Coffins/caskets put in cremator one at a time
No staff shift changes allowed during process
Extractor machine takes out dental fillings etc
It's even possible to get a loved one's remains made into a diamond, or even a vase, says Caron Staley of the Centre for Death and Society at the University of Bath.

"People are talking a little bit more about it and TV programmes like Six Feet Under and Desperate Housewives means it's more in the minds of people."

Richards' snorting claims may have provoked outrage, but Professor Kellaher says ingesting ashes is not entirely unheard of.

"A few people had looked at, and touched the ashes and remarked on the texture. One or two had tasted them - inadvertently, or deliberately - but we are talking about a finger tip of ashes - not ladles!"


Below is a selection of your comments.

My father's ashes were buried not quite in a local beauty spot, but an area my mother found peaceful and tranquil. We did not ask the permission of the farmer at the time (as there was a right of way on the land). The family dug a hole, buried the ashes and replaced the turf afterwards, followed by a "remembrance picnic"... the only sign of us ever being there were some bluebells we'd planted on top. Subsequently, my mother met the farmer and informed him what she had done. The response was that where my father was "buried" was of no concern to him, and moreover, the spot on his land was a far better place to reflect on someones life than a crowded remembrance garden. The only issue now is that a precedence has been set and my wife was pretty much non-plussed with my assumption that I'd eventually be placed under that same old tree. All-in-all, everyone was very happy with the alternative to the local crematorium.
RicTS, Manchester, UK

One needs to be careful. A deceased colleague was a private pilot. Touching ceremony on the ground and then two friends took him for a last flight over the Essex countryside. At 2000ft, the window was opened and his ashes were tossed into the slipstream...whereupon some attached themselves to the fuselage and the rest blew into the backseat. His final resting place was a Dyson.
Mike, Colchester

Some railway enthusiasts have had their ashes shovelled into the firebox (from whence they go up the chimney to be distributed along the lineside) of a steam engine running on their favourite line.
Ken Ricketts, Wokingham, UK

I was at a drag race meeting in New Zealand two years ago at which the ashes of a recently deceased driver were packed into the folds of a braking parachute. When the car popped the chute while doing 200 mph at the end of the run the deceased's ashes were scattered.
Gordon, London, UK

I find an idea of allowing fish and sealife to eat remains fascinating. The dead are replenishing the sea, but of course may eventually end up being served as part of a crispy cod fishcake at a chip shop in Bridlington. My father asked if human ash be turned into fabric? He would love to be made into a womans dress, perhaps for the Oscars as he will likely never go in his lifetime. I still do not know the answer!
Amadeus Anwar, London

Keith Richards' idea isn't quite as original as it sounds. According to the Roman writer Valerius Maximus, a woman called Artemisia drank the ashes of her husband in order to become his living tomb. At least it is space-saving!
Mazza, Oxford

I once heard of a widow whose recently deceased husband had always been very lazy. All of her efforts to get him to work had failed during their marriage so she decided to put his ashes into a home made egg timer. She was reportedly delighted to finally see her husband working!.
Simon Ricketts, Isle of Man

Eugene Shoemaker the astronomer's ashes are on the moon. Which makes him the 13th person to reach it.
Stephen Hollinshead, St. Ives, England

A friend of mine died tragically in his early 30's, and in accordance with his wishes, his ashes where also made into 12 firework rockets and launched from the garden of his local pub It was a fantastic remembrance of him
Jay Seldon, Surrey, UK

I once heard someone say that if she died before her dog, she would want some of her ashes scattered in his food, that way she could "live on" through him. I kind of liked the idea of that...
Kerry, New York, NY, USA

Umm, do people not realise ashes are not fertiliser? They are actually toxic and will kill pretty much any plant life you scatter them on. Still going to put them on your favourite golf hole or picturesque mountainside...?
JG, London, UK

In Ontario, under provincial legislation you may dispose of cremated remains only in an authorized cemetery or your own private property. Anywhere else is illegal, although people do it. To sniff the ashes up your nose would bring a charge by the police under the Criminal Code of Canada, (federal), "Of suffering indignities to human remains".
David Skene-Melvin, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

My husband was once held up on a golf course, while a group of middle-aged men walked onto the green and scattered their dead mate's ashes. 'It was his favourite hole,' they said. 'Don't mind us, play on.'
Kath, Bournemouth, UK

I have asked that my ashes be scattered in woodland so that my physical remains can help the growth of something beautiful. I hope that, when the time comes, there will be appropriate advice available to my executors.
Tony, Watford UK

Funeral homes ship ashes to relatives, but they arrive by registered mail at the local post office. People in the queue tend to back away from you when you exclaim "Oh I know what it is now, it's Aunt Thelma!"
Candace, New Jersey, US

What are the EU restrictions about ashes and the North Sea coast? We scattered my father into the sea just off Bridlington in May of last year and no one told us of any restrictions. In August we scattered his mother into the sea at Shotley, where we had scattered her husband five years before. Again, no one told us of any restrictions. I have also asked that should anything happen to me, I am to go into the sea after cremation, although the problem there is the fact that I converted to Judaism and the wife might just bury me. Hope not, I want to get wet with the rest of the family.
Andie Riley, Leeds, England

Cremation is clean, saves space and avoids the sad look of neglected burial plots. The body is only a carrying facility for what makes us 'us'. If the loved one wants to be scattered in a special place so be it. After all it is there wish. Volume is another matter. If the 'coffin' was reduced by using wraps or simple cardboard the volume of ash would be reduced. If people find that offensive, remember the dead aren't aware of the funeral and showing them love and respect in life is more important than wasting money on something to be destroyed. The actual Christian form of burial service does include the word, dust to dust, ashes to ashes. Not embalmed or buried.
Sandra, Ontario, Canada




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