Rossweisse RIP Rossweisse, HellHost and long-time Shipmate.

Robert Armin RIP Robert Armin, Shipmate of long-standing.

How does one prepare Ashes

Someone hereabouts is bound to know:

How does one go about preparing ashes from last year's palm crosses for use on Ash Wednesday?

One of our clergy used to do it, but has now retired and I would not be surprised to find myself needing to prepare them....


  • ArethosemyfeetArethosemyfeet Shipmate
    edited February 2019
    Whether there is an official method I'm not sure, but my recollection is my dad putting a pile of palm crosses in an old biscuit tin, setting fire to them and then mixing the resulting ash with baby oil to form a paste and placing it in a mustard jar. I think I'd be inclined to use olive oil, it seems appropriate somehow.
  • Rosa_GallicaRosa_Gallica Shipmate
    edited February 2019
    It's much easier to set light to them if you dry them thoroughly in the oven first (until they go quite dark) Then burn in a tin in the garden, allow to cool then pour into a strong plastic bag, and roll over with a rolling pin to make fine powder. Use dry or mix with oil. Do not mix them with water (it makes lye which burns)
  • Alternatively you can but the ready made from ecclesiastical suppliers
  • CyprianCyprian Shipmate
    edited February 2019
    When I was a sacristan years and forever ago I just burnt them in a biscuit tin.

    I'll be doing that this year but not mixing them with anything as we use the sprinkling method for the imposition of ashes.
  • Mixed with olive oil, in my (limited) experience.
  • It's much easier to set light to them if you dry them thoroughly in the oven first (until they go quite dark)

    A former rector of ours used this method, and said that it creates a smell similar to that of weed being smoked. Might be a good idea to look out for any law enforcement officers or especially stern Altar Guild types in the area before you start 😁
  • RossweisseRossweisse Hell Host, 8th Day Host
    Oddly enough, I couldn't find anything on the oil. I do think it's olive oil, though.
  • I stand to be corrected, but it’s my understanding that in the RCC, the burned and ground palms are mixed with chrism or holy water.

    We mix them with olive oil.
  • I knew I would find inspiration here. With the help from here & asking the retired preparer of said ashes, I think I'll work something out (and probably buy some as back-up!).

    Local custom is apparently to add a little ground up charcoal so that the ashes actually mark, and nothing more.
  • As advised above, these should be really dry: my papa used to keep them for nearly 2 years before rendering into ash.

    Burn in a container, keep in airtight container until just before AW, then mix with a tiny amount of olive oil.
  • Are the ashes sifted somehow, to remove potentially scratchy bits?
  • Oblatus wrote: »
    Are the ashes sifted somehow, to remove potentially scratchy bits?

    Scratchiness is part of the penance!
  • LeafLeaf Shipmate
    angloid wrote: »
    Scratchiness is part of the penance!

    I amped this up the first time I had to do ashes! I had even less instruction than kingsfold. Thinking I would need to sift the ash, I hit upon the brilliant idea of burning the palms inside a sieve, in a heatproof container, outdoors. I used a bit of newspaper as kindling underneath. Obviously the fine ash would fall through leaving any scratchy woody parts behind, right?

    What actually happened: the sieve bottom burned through and collapsed, leaving bits of fine wire in the ashes. Also the newspaper did not entirely burn, leaving random words floating up in the ash.

    Had I used the resulting mix, the imposition of ashes would have been memorable, and possibly permanent: a sort of scratchy paste tattoo with random words pasted on each forehead, like fridge poetry magnets. I abandoned the effort and borrowed ash from a neighbouring church.

    In the following years I found that simply setting the dry old palms on fire, in a heatproof container outdoors (on a windless day), worked perfectly well. I guess the climate is dry enough here that they dried out fine on their own, not requiring pre-toasting.

    Break up the ash with the back of a tablespoon in a bowl. This will get you fine ash. Get another small bowl and that is where you will do your mixing of olive oil and ash. This is very important for a newbie because if you add too much oil directly into your ashes, you can't easily get more ashes in a hurry. Put a little ash in your mixing bowl, add a little oil, repeat. It's kind of fun. You can imagine you're a monk mixing up your own ink in your scriptorium :smile:

  • What's this with mixing with oil? I've always used dry ash moistened slightly with holy water at the blessing, and it works fine. Sometimes the first few to be ashed get an enormous splodge and the rest just get a token smudge, but Lent isn't about perfection.
  • Gramps49Gramps49 Shipmate
    Supposed to be oil because it is a form of healing.

    Snarky part of me says use cinnamon oil. The mark should last to Holy Week.
  • We found the oil made it particularly messy. We use it dry.
  • The church I attended last night had bought them in, ready made, in little plastic envelopes.
  • MargaretMargaret Shipmate
    Ours were mixed with oil. I don't know what sort of oil it was, but I still have quite an impressive smudge this morning despite attempts to wash it off!
  • We had rather a lot left from last year on closer inspection of the drawers in the sacristy, so it was a bit of a non-problem in the event. I did however discover that a couple of hours in the oven at around 100C turns the crosses nice and crispy....
    Local practice grinds the burnt residue in a pestle & mortar, and maybe add a little charcoal if required to give necessary blackness. No water, no oil.
    And pitta bread & lemon juice to remove residues from priestly thumbs/fingers.
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