Modern legends say that Viking funerals involved setting the deceased onto a boat filled with treasure and pushing the boat out to sea. As the mourners watch it glide away, an archer shoots a flaming arrow that ignites the boats and cremates the body. One can imagine this solemn but enchantingly beautiful affair.
However, this ritual hasn’t been confirmed by many historians despite its popularity today. Boats were expensive and time-consuming to build, so it’s unlikely this practice was used often if it was at all. 
Yet the idea of sending a deceased loved one out to sea is romantic, especially if they had a connection to that body of water. Unfortunately, burning boats like in the myth isn’t practical and would be toxic to the environment. Fear not, this designer created a special urn made of ice created to send the deceased’s ashes out to sea as it is slowly re-absorbed into the environment.
The Flow™ Ice Urn
American designer Diane Leclaire-Bisson created this urn to be eco-friendly since it slowly dissolves as it releases the ashes. It’s an untraditional alternative to the classic vases used. This ice urn is sealed around a large cavity for the cremated remains. She created this model in collaboration with Memoria — a Canadian company driven to develop innovative and sustainable options in funeral practices. 
This urn lowers the carbon footprint that regular vases create, and certainly more than burning boats. It is shaped by a re-usable mold and requires low-energy freezing techniques, while being intended to disperse the ashes into river, lake, ocean, or even the ground.
Cremation is becoming increasingly common in western countries to reduce the amount of land used for burial and to lower the overall effect on the environment. Traditional burial requires resources and can have some negative effects on the environment. As cremation becomes popular, the ceremonies of scattering the ashes have become more creative and more personalized to celebrate the life of the deceased.
“The ice urn is a deeply sustainable object in its essence,” says Bisson. “The concept of making a dissolvable memorial object through the transformation of water into a solid form of ice — while encapsulating cremation ashes within it — is truly innovative.
“It is the most immaterial urn ever created, and it inspires new types of water ceremonies as well as a completely new approach to the idea of burial itself — emphasizing new thinking about the return of the body to the natural environment, and of water back to its original source.”
The urn can also be personalized depending on the ceremony the family desires since it was created to allow a wide range of shapes.
“Many people have a special connection with bodies of water. Some draw pleasure and energy from the beauty of oceans, lakes, and rivers and for others, these bodies of water are a means of support for livelihood and family,” Bisson adds. “It is different than virtually every other liquid and it is these very special properties that make life as we know it possible. When liquids change state from a liquid to a solid, they contract and become denser.”
How the Ice Urns are Made
The urn is made up of two 4 cm-wide sheets that are frozen together once the ashes are placed into the cavity. An extra layer of water is poured over the urn to finish the exterior. The thickness and volume of the ice were calculated to be able to float easily.
“Water expands when it freezes making frozen water less dense than liquid water,” the designer explains. “This odd and critical difference to other liquids prevents oceans and lakes from freezing from the bottom up (and freezing completely) which allows for the continued existence and humans and other large organisms on our planet. this property is also the reason ice floats.” 
The Living Urn Patent
This floating urn was created to change the traditional funeral customs to suit mourning families and the environment better. Biolife, LLC, who develops other eco-friendly urns, has bought the license for this ice urn to produce it in the U.S.
“Our goal is to develop and offer unique cremation urns that help families create memorable and meaningful memorial experiences,” says BioLife’s President Mark Brewer. “We started with The Living Urn®, which has quickly become the leading biodegradable urn and planting system that allows families to plant a memory tree with ashes.“
“We then introduced proprietary eco-friendly BioUrns® including burial urns, scattering urns for both land and water, as well as indoor planter urns. The Flow™ ice urn is a perfect complement to our existing urn line and makes it easy for families to have beautiful ceremonies where the ashes of a loved one can be scattered in the water.” 
The Flow™ Ice Urn is now available for purchase at many local funeral homes. To order one from a funeral home in your area, or to check out other eco-friendly urns, check out the company’s website.
The icy design has garnered many awards, including the Consumer Product Award at the Core77 Notable Design Awards, and the Gold Award for Design Society and Silver Award for Eco-Sustainable Design at the European Product Design Awards. 
- Thad Morgan. How Did The Vikings Honor Their Dead? History. https://www.history.com/news/how-did-the-vikings-honor-their-dead July 20, 2017
- Notable Consumer Product Award. Core77 Design Awards 2016 https://designawards.core77.com/consumer-product/48972/ice-urn
- Kieron Marchese. The ice urn floats on water whilst slowly returning cremated remains to nature. Design Boom https://www.designboom.com/design/the-ice-urn-floats-on-water-returning-cremated-remains-nature-12-11-2019/ December 11, 2019
- PRESS RELEASE PR Newswire. The Living Urn® Receives the Exclusive U.S. License for the Patented Ice Urn. Markets Insider. https://markets.businessinsider.com/news/stocks/the-living-urn-receives-the-exclusive-u-s-license-for-the-patented-ice-urn-1028740335 December 5, 2019
- The Living Urn. https://www.thelivingurn.com/pages/ice-urn