Ash tattoos & ash spliffs: What crazy things have celebs done with human remains over the years?

Ash tattoos & ash spliffs: What crazy things have celebs done with human remains over the years?

James Hetfield, frontman of Metallica, has shared images in tribute to the late Motorhead rocker Ian Kilmister – aka: Lemmy.

How lovely.

He just got a brand-new Ace Of Spades tattoo on his right middle finger – a reference to Motorhead’s biggest hit. Hetfield posted a picture on Metallica's Instagram account, telling the band's 11 million followers the tattoo is "a salute to my friend and inspiration Mr Lemmy Kilmister", adding: "Without him, there would be NO Metallica."

Immensely sensible.

The tat used ink containing ashes from the late Lemmy.


"Black ink mixed with a pinch of his cremation ashes that were so graciously given to me. So now, he is still able to fly the bird at the world."

This Friday night (19 April), the rest of Lemmy’s ashes will be enshrined at the Rainbow Bar & Grill, the West Hollywood watering hole where the rocker used to hang out. The event will also feature the unveiling of Motörhead Whiskey. There are also plans to erect a statue of Lemmy in his hometown of Burslem, UK.

Lemmy died in December 2015, just days after being diagnosed with cancer.

Many fans commented on Hetfield’s tattoo, with one calling the inking "the most badass tribute possible".

Badass and safe, as it turns out, as cremation tattoos are a thing – and popular.

A cremation ash tattoo is a type of commemorative tattoo that is created using ash-infused inks that are made from your loved one’s ashes. It’s a way of honouring the life of a loved one, as losing a person close to you is without a doubt one of the most difficult things that anyone can go through in life. Also, these kind of “ritual” tattoos have been around for centuries, used for cultural and religious purposes as a form of memorializing the dead.

For those of you curious about the process, the only difference with a cremation tattoo is that the ink is infused with the ashes, which need to be of very fine consistency so that it will blend with the ink well. If not, the ink will be too thick to work with.

Before you ask about allergies and hygene, it’s completely safe as a deceased body is cremated at temperatures of up to 980 degrees Celsius, therefore eliminating any risk of infection or disease.

The only parameters you need to consider are:

  • Emotional – a cremation tattoo can help you cope with loss and aid in the healing process, but it can also be a constant reminder you may not be prepared to face.

  • Practical – Not every tattoo artist is willing to work with cremation ink, so you need to find a studio which has prior experience with that sort of thing. Plus, it’s worth keeping in mind that tattoos fade over time. They just do. And when it comes to cremation tattoos, that slow decline can be precipitated by using too much ash in the ink mixture. The concentrated pigment is diluted by the ash, which results in a tattoo that may fade quicker.

  • Financial - Compared to normal ones, cremation tattoos are a bit more expensive.

That’s the tattoo bit done, and congrats to Hetfield on his new body art.

But what other ash tributes have celebrities done over the years?

Here are five favourites:

Dust to star dust – Pt.1

Hunter S. Thompson and Johnny Depp
Hunter S. Thompson and Johnny Depp - AP Photo

Who? Johnny Depp

Whose ashes? Hunter S. Thompson’s.

What? Years after the author died by suicide, many of his famous friends attended his funeral. One of those was Johnny Depp, who had played Thompson in Terry Gilliam ’s 1998 film Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. The actor forged quite the bond with the legendary American journalist and author. A memorial service was held after the funeral, in which Depp ignited a custom-made cannon that shot the late author’s ashes into the sky.

Safe? Aye aye, captain. Just don’t stand in front of the artillery.

Badass or batshit? Badass. But expensive badassery. The homage to Thompson was heartfelt, and in accordance with the writer’s wishes – as Thompson had requested his ashes be shot out a cannon after his death. “All I'm doing is trying to make sure his last wish comes true," said Depp. “We had talked a couple of times about his last wishes to be shot out of a cannon of his own design. I just want to send my pal out the way he wants to go out.” However, the stunt cost Depp a pretty penny. There are conflicting reports as to the exact nature of the sum, but it ranges between $3 million (according to Depp’s ex-managers) and $5 million (according to Depp). So, if you’re an extravagant A-lister with cash to burn, think about this the next time you’re in the mood to send your dearly departed mate off with a bang.

Nose candy for the Rolling Stone

Keith Richards
Keith Richards - AP Photo

Who? Keith Richards

Whose ashes? His father Bert Richards'.

What? The Rolling Stones guitarist snorted his late father’s remains. In an interview with NME in April 2007, Richards pondered the strangest thing he had ever snorted. “My father,” he said. “I snorted my father. He was cremated, and I couldn’t resist grinding him up with a little bit of blow.” He added: “My dad wouldn’t have cared. He didn’t give a shit. It went down pretty well, and I’m still alive.”

Safe? No. But we here at Euronews Culture believe that Keith Richards will outlive us all, and that if he were to die, he’d only come back twice as powerful.

Badass or batshit? It’s slightly cannibalistic, but we’re just going with “on brand” for this one. Richards has been up to some crazy shenanigans over the decades, and while he later denied mixing his father’s cremated remains with cocaine, he described the experience more accurately in his 2010 memoir ”Life”, in which he details how he had kept his father’s remains in a box for six years, spread them among the roots of a freshly planted oak tree. He some got on his finger. “So I wiped my finger over it and snorted the residue,” Richards explained. “Ashes to ashes, father to son. He is now growing oak trees and would love me for it.” Better when you hear the story in context, right?

Burnt to a crisp

The inventor of Pringles had wishes
The inventor of Pringles had wishes - Pringles

Who? Larry Baur

Whose ashes? Frederic Baur's, the inventor of Pringles.

What? While not a celebrity to some, everyone’s had Pringles at some moment in their life, so it counts. The inventor of Pringles requested for his ashes to be stored in a Pringles can. Frederic Baur's eldest son Larry told Time: "When my dad first raised the burial idea in the 1980s, I chuckled about it." But Larry realized his father was serious, so they followed through with the request when he died. "My siblings and I briefly debated what flavour to use. Spoiler: they went for the original.

Safe? By all means.

Badass or batshit? Badass. It makes perfect sense, and urns are expensive. And on the subject of crisps, Arch West, the creator of Doritos, was cremated with his famous chip. No one mention anything about salsa, please.

Dust to star dust – Pt.2

Gene Roddenberry
Gene Roddenberry - Everett Collection

Who? Majel Barrett-Roddenberry and NASA

Whose ashes? Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry's.

What? In October 1992, NASA astronaut James Weatherbee carried a portion of Gene Roddenberry’s ashes among his “personal effects” to orbit on board Space Shuttle Columbia. Majel Barrett-Roddenberry had asked NASA Administrator Dan Goldin to help her fulfill her husband’s lifelong desire for space travel. Goldin approved an “unofficial” flight - hence the use of an astronaut’s allotted personal space aboard a shuttle.

Safe? Affirmative.

Badass or batshit? Badass. Spock would be proud.

Roll me up some Pac

Tupac “2Pac” Shakur
Tupac “2Pac” Shakur - Getty Images

Who? The rap group Outlawz

Whose ashes? Tupac “2Pac” Shakur's.

What? The iconic rap star Tupac Shakur, who died in 1996 after being shot, was memorialised by members of the rap group Outlawz when they admitted that they smoked Tupac’s ashes on the day of his memorial service. They apparently put his ashes in a joint and smoked him... So to speak. Rapper Young Noble confirmed the rumours: “(We) had a little memorial for him with his mum and his family. We had hit the beach, threw a lot of shit he liked at the beach. Some weed, some chicken wings, he loved orange soda… Pac loved that kind of shit, so we were giving him our own farewell.” EDI Mean, another member of Outlawz, claimed that the ashes idea was taken from one of his songs. “If you listen to ‘Black Jesus’ it says, ‘Last wishes, niggas smoke my ashes’. That was a request that he had. Now, how serious he was about it? We took it serious.”

Safe? Probably not. But ‘Hit Em Up’ and all that.

Badass or batshit? We’re going with batshit on this one, as it’s some powerful symbolism, but highly impractical - and actually all wrong. As discussed earlier in the tattoo segment, the high temperature of cremation means that ashes are what’s left after combustion. So, Tupac’s ashes fell with the blunt’s ashes... Ashes to ashes, Pac to ashtray.