No to opera houses; yes to rivers the dos and donts of scattering ashes

When an opera buff sprinkled his friends remains in the orchestra pit of the Met, it caused a terror scare. Heres a quick guide to ash-scattering etiquette

If dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return, the Bible offers little guidance about how and where this final reconstitution should occur in the modern age of cremation. The proportion of deaths in the UK that were followed by cremation tipped over half in 1968, according to the Cremation Society. Today three-quarters of us end up in an urn.

Roger Kaiser recently triggered an inadvertent terror scare when he scattered ashes into the orchestra pit at the Met. The Texan opera buff had done it before. The ashes were those of his mentor, his Facebook page later revealed. It was just part of our deal that I would leave bits of him in all the houses I visit, he wrote.

Police said that Miller perhaps breached health regulations, but there were no charges to be brought. And while sprinkling white powder in a prominent venue in New York is, perhaps, inadvisable, it can be hard to know when scattering is OK (never if youre Catholic; the Vatican ruled last month that ashes must be stored in a sacred place).

Anywhere inside, such as an opera house, is crazy, says Richard Martin, who runs Scattering Ashes, an online advice centre and shop based in Devon. Martin, a former pollution consultant, started the company with his wife, Karen, in 2010 after a bad experience while scattering his fathers ashes on a golf course.

There was no information out there and we were made to feel unwelcome, he says, adding: Funeral directors dont want much to do with you after they give you the ashes, so too many people end up with them in a wardrobe not knowing what to do.

Martin advises restraint. According to a recent survey, almost 80% of those of us who wish to be cremated want to be scattered. That would equate to about 750,000 tonnes of ashes a year (each adult produces at least two kilos). If you leave a big pile in a beauty spot, its not great for the next person who wants a picnic, he says. So just scatter a little bit that wont impact on anybody but fulfils the wishes of your loved one.

And check with the landowner. The Martins catalogue the advice of several locations, including the National Trust (no policy, but get permission) and Royal Parks. (We would prefer that you dont.)

Sports grounds are popular choices, but bans have been put in place at Newcastle United and Aston Villa, among others, while others happily accommodate requests. Considerate scatterings in waterways are generally OK, the Environment Agency says.

Terror alerts are rare but not unheard of. In 2013, a man caused a Florida shopping mall to be evacuated when he scattered ashes outside an opticians. In 2009, another Texan sent his wifes ashes to embassies in Rome, Paris, London and Paris with instructions for them to be spread because the couple had had a nice holiday in the cities. One of the packets caused an anthrax scare in Rome, where Barack Obama was visiting.

Above all, dont risk your own life to honour someone elses. People have died in air accidents while scattering ashes and more commonly after being washed away while scattering at sea.

Martin has noticed a big rise in the popularity of alternatives to conventional scattering, meanwhile, including the increasingly popular loading of ashes into <a href=”” title=”” data-link-name=”in” body link” class=”u-underline”>fireworks or the pressing of ashes into gemstones. You can put a tiny amount of ashes into tattoo ink now, or you can even get yourself pressed into a vinyl record and play your own soundtrack, he says. But I prefer the more traditional approach.

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