A Recipe for Ashes

Take thousands of pounds of trash and put it into a special incinerator to produce electricity called H-power while creating thousands of pounds of ash (though far less than before).  Perhaps you read the recent article in the Honolulu Advertiser about the disposal of all those ashes in Waimanalo Gulch on Oahu.  That’s a lot of ash!

Here’s another recipe. Take dried palm branches and burn them over high heat to soot, add a small amount of olive oil and you have another recipe for ashes.  These though are not ordinary ashes, not the kind you dispose of but instead ashes with a very special purpose in mind.  Who would ever think that such a simple recipe could have any kind of significance?  Yet these ashes signify the beginning of our journey.  Our spiritual journal begins at baptism.  Ash Wednesday is a reminder of that beginning as we start the journey of Lent – the journey to the cross with Jesus Christ.  On Ash Wednesday the sign of a cross is made on our forehead – it is a cross that tells a story.


  • Take one part palm ash – these palm branches were used on palm Sunday from years past.  Palm Sunday is the day they celebrated Jesus arrival at Jerusalem by waving palms and singing praises.  It was the beginning of the week when Jesus goes to the cross for us.  It is these palm branches, ones of praise, which now become a symbol of Christ’s death on the cross.
  • Take one part olive oil – olive oil was used in healing arts at the time normally applied with prayer (James 5), now it is a symbol of our prayers of repentance and healing through Jesus forgiveness.
  • Mix together and apply to the forehead in the shape of a cross – that cross reminds us of the journey we have begun on the way to the cross of Good Friday, it is a small picture of our journey here on earth.  Thanks be to God that it is not our cross but Christ’s at the end of this journey.


6 responses to this post.

  1. […] foreheads made with ashes from palm branches and olive oil.  Please see my article on the “recipe for ashes“ for more information.  Ashes remind us of our repentance that comes through Christ, it […]


  2. Just the other night at a worship commission meeting I asked about the recipe for preparing the ashes for imposition on Ash Wednesday, and one of the members e-mailed your article my way. I’m still uncertain, however, as to how much olive oil I should start with to mix with the palm branch ashes. Do you have the suggested proportions that would create a “paste” that would last a bit longer on the forehead than the plain ashes I have tended to utilize in the past.

    Thank you for your prompt response.

    Pastor Keith


    • Posted by trinityhawaii on February 6, 2010 at 7:19 pm

      The key is really to just add a little at a time until a paste is formed. Too oily isn’t good. Just test it on your hand until it doesn’t fall off your skin too much.


      • Posted by trinityhawaii on February 11, 2010 at 8:25 pm

        also, I store just at the ashes for another year if you have them left over. Only mix the ashes and oil as you need them, not all at once. Hope that helps.

  3. Thanks so much for the recipe, Went this past Sunday to set up for Ash Wednesday to discover the reserve ash pot had been moved. Looked everywhere. So for the first time in 14 years we are going to make the ashes. THanks for the recipe. dee+


  4. […] symbolism, mourning, repentance, healing, and forgiveness.  For more symbolism see the post “A Recipe for Ashes.”  Also see the Ash Wednesday post at […]


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