Scattering Violets

An exploration of funerary traditions and innovations, care of the dead, and pagan perspectives on death

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What To Do With the Ashes? Creative Post-Cremation Memorial Options

Something that I love about cremation, aside from its relative low cost, is the variety of memorial options that are available. In the past, the living just had a few options: burying the cremated remains, keeping the urn at home or in a niche in a columbarium, or scattering the remains. But now, there are a number of creative and heartfelt options for those who want a deeper, more tangible connection with their loved ones' cremated remains.

Cremation Stones

This is a product we offer at the pet funeral home and crematory where I work. While we don't make the stones ourselves, we can send them off for our customers, or they can choose to do it themselves. When the company who creates the stones receives the cremains, they refine the granule remains into a super-fine powder and then add a binding agent that transforms the remains into a clay-like material. The clay is then worked into smooth pebble shapes that fit comfortably into the palm of the hand and heated in a kiln. How many pebbles are created is based on the volume of cremains, which varies from person to person (or animal to animal). One company, Parting Stone, estimates 6-10 stones for cats; anywhere from 5-35 for dogs; and around 40-60 stones for humans.


The stones are dense and smooth, almost like marble, and have an elegant beauty. They vary in color, which is a result of the various natural hues of remains, usually in shades of white, gray, or faint pink. These stones make cremains tangible. While their form has changed, we can touch and hold the remains of our loved ones. We can discreetly place them in their favorite spaces, even outdoors, and sit with them there. They also make lovely additions to ancestor shrines.

Cremation Diamonds

If you want to go more extravagant, you can have some of your loved ones' cremated remains transformed into diamonds that can then be set into earrings, rings, necklaces, and bracelets. Cremated remains are mailed to the cremation diamond company in a package that the company provides to their customers. Unlike the cremation stones described above, only about half a cup of cremated remains are needed to create a diamond. The remains are then purified so that only carbon – the element of which diamonds are composed – is left. This carbon is then combined with generic carbon and a diamond "seed," which according to memorial diamond producer Eterneva, "tells the carbon what form to take." The entire process takes roughly seven to ten months, and some companies (like Eterneva) will include videos of the process along the way so that customers can stay connected to the process and their loved ones' remains.


These are genuine diamonds, albeit lab-created rather than naturally formed. The lab process mimics the natural process, but through careful management of heat and pressure speeds up what would normally take thousands of years into less than a year. The diamonds can be treated to take on an array of colors – your loved one's favorite color, perhaps, or match their eyes.


Diamonds are precious gems, and considering the process, these diamonds do not come cheap. You should expect to spend several thousand dollars at least. Fortunately, cremated remains do not expire – you can certainly wait years, even decades, to save up money for the expense, if this is something you'd like to do. Another thing when considering expense is that traditional burials can cost $5,000 and up. A simple cremation, by comparison, may cost around $2,000, which leaves quite a bit of financial room for splurges like this.


What I love about this practice, while certainly not the greenest or most economical option here, is the idea of heirloom jewelry that contains parts of our actual ancestors that can be passed down for generations, to be worn at special occasions (or anytime at all).

Planted With a Tree

There are a few different programs, like The Living Urn, that incorporate cremated remains into potting soil mix and a sapling in a biodegradable urn. This would be a great choice for someone interested in offsetting the carbon dioxide emissions from a traditional cremation, or as a complement to alkaline hydrolysis cremation (a new, greener alternative to traditional flame cremation).


You can choose to plant your loved one's tree at home, at natural burial grounds, or anywhere else you have permission to plant it. It is, by far, the greenest option available. The tree that grows from cremated remains becomes like a new body for our beloved dead, and not only can we visit them, but we can sit in their shade, reading books or having picnics. Natural, local rocks can be engraved to display their name, dates of birth and death, and possibly a memorial quote. Our loved ones not only rejoin the earth but give back to it: replenishing the soil, converting carbon dioxide into oxygen, and providing shelter for creatures. It's a beautiful legacy.

From Grief to Joy

These are certainly not the only options for memorializing loved ones after cremation. People are coming up with new options all the time. It's even possible to choose more than one: reserve some of the cremated remains for cremation stones or memorial diamonds, then plant the rest with a tree.


Funerary practices and memorialization are extremely personal. What matters most is that, whatever we do, we honor our loved ones and find comfort through the process. It's what I love about being in the death care field: the opportunity to both care for and honor the dead, and to transform the grief of the living into something meaningful and beautiful so that our connections with the dead are not severed, only transformed.


How would you like to be memorialized?

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The Cunning Wife is an animist, writer, diviner, crafter, witch, and spirit worker and traveler. Her work has been published in a number of online and print magazines, including Witches & Pagans and Hagstone Publishing's Stone, Root, and Bone ezine. She gets excited about scholarly essays and books on folklore, magical tales, and ancient spiritual practices, and is passionate about sharing that information. She is also an avid crafter of magical and mundane items. She believes that there is magic in the mundane, just waiting to be remembered.  


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