Placing ashes

In Paul Turner's Blog by Paul Turner

Q: You recommend sprinkling ashes on the crown if the head.  Isn’t one of the purposes of the ashes an outward sign of repentance?  That kind of gets lost if we sprinkle on someone’s head.  And I don’t know that people will be open to that. 

Is there anything to suggest a person couldn’t sign themselves with ashes?  If we made available a small amount of ashes is a very small cup that each person could pick up and administer their own ashes?  Thoughts?


A: Other countries have the custom of placing ashes on the crown of the head. The rubric for imposing ashes actually says “on the head”—not the forehead. And then you’ve got Jesus to deal with. In the gospel for Ash Wednesday itself, he says to wash your face so that no one knows you’re fasting.

I would not advise self-administering ashes. That is way outside the tradition. Ashes on top of the head is well within the tradition—even in the Old Testament.