Traditionally the ashes to be used on Ash Wednesday come from burning the Palms used from the previous Palm Sunday. This is in line with the practice in many countries of burning the remainder of the last season's crops and scattering the ashes on the fileds. This was a pagan festival but the practise is still carried out in some countries, and still a festival.
"The Wednesday after Quinquagesima Sunday, which is the first day of the of Lenten fast. The name dies cinerum (day of ashes) which it bears in
the Roman Missal is found in the earliest existing copies of the
Gregorian Sacramentary and probably dates from at least the eighth
century. On this day all the faithful according to ancient custom are
exhorted to approach the altar before the beginning of Mass, and there
the priest, dipping his thumb into ashes previously blessed, marks the
forehead -- or in case of clerics upon the place of the tonsure - of
each the sign of the cross, saying the words: "Remember man that thou
art dust and unto dust thou shalt return."
The ashes used in this ceremony are made by burning the remains of the
palms blessed on the Palm Sunday of the previous year. In the blessing
of the ashes four prayers are used, all of them ancient. The ashes are
sprinkled with holy water and fumigated with incense. The celebrant
himself, be he bishop or cardinal, receives, either standing or seated,
the ashes from some other priest, usually the highest in dignity of
those present. In earlier ages a penitential procession often followed
the rite of the distribution of the ashes, but this is not now
There can be no doubt that the custom of distributing the ashes to all
the faithful arose from a devotional imitation of the practice observed
in the case of public penitents. But this devotional usage, the
reception of a sacramental which is full of the symbolism of penance
(cf. the cor contritum quasi cinis of the "Dies Irae") is of earlier
date than was formerly supposed. It is mentioned as of general observance for both clerics and faithful in the Synod of Beneventum, 1091 (Mansi, XX, 739), but nearly a hundred years earlier than this the Anglo-Saxon homilist Ælfric assumes that it applies to all classes of men. "We read", he says, "in the books both in the Old Law and in the New that the men who repented of their sins bestrewed themselves with ashes and clothed their bodies with sackcloth.
(i) Is 'Ash Wednesday' Biblical, is it or 'Lent' in the Bible?
For those who don't know what "Ash Wednesday" is: It is a day that marks the beginning of mainly Catholic holiday. On Ash Wednesday, the Catholic layperson receives a mark on their foreheads made of ashes by a priest, they are to where that mark until it wears off (all day).
And NO, Ash Wednesday is not Biblical. Below is a short excerpt we had in our files. The only thing we could add to it is that forehead marking is seen among the heathen. We have all certainly seen the Pagan Eastern Religions marking their foreheads. Women of the Hindu religion for instance wear a Kumkum which is a red or black powdered forehead mark.
Within the Catholic tradition, the forehead is marked by a Catholic priest once a year at the beginning of Lent, and that mark is composed of the ashes of the prior years Palm Sunday palms that are burned. The Bible knows nothing of such a practice but rather it is a tradition of man that much like the Catholic Confessional, necessarily places the Church between you and God. But we as Bible believing Christians know that we do not need to go through a man (priest) to interact with our Heavenly Father for any reason, confession or otherwise. These type of things are just Catholic manipulation tactics by which they control their congregants by supposedly dispensing the graces of God which are not theirs to dispense. After all, they would say, if the people don't need us to get to God who will pay our salary, pensions, and other bills?
Now let us do this little at the beginning of our Lent
that we strew ashes upon our heads to signify that we ought to repent of
our sins during the Lenten fast." And then he enforces this
recommendation by the terrible example of a man who refused to go to
church for the ashes on Ash Wednesday and who a few days after was
accidentally killed in a boar hunt (Ælfric, "Lives of Saints", ed.
Skeat, I, 262-266). It is possible that the notion of penance which was
suggested by the rite of Ash Wednesday was was reinforced by the
figurative exclusion from the sacred mysteries symbolized by the hanging
of the Lenten veil before the sanctuary.
>From the Catholic Encyclopedia, copyright c 1913 by the Encyclopedia
ii ASH WEDNESDAY Is it in the Bible?
No, it is not. Ash Wednesday is actually of pagan origin and was admitted into the church beliefs of the Catholic Church a few hundred years after Christ. This was the era when Constantine was attempting to weld pagans and Christians into a unit within the Roman kingdom.
Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent. Roman Catholic churches of the Latin Rite use this service to prepare themselves for the passion and resurrection of Christ through self-examination, repentance, prayer, fasting, and self-denial. Ashes from the burned palms of the preceding year's Palm Sunday are blessed. With these ashes, the priest marks a cross on the foreheads of those who come forward and kneel, saying, "Remember, man, that dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return." (Genesis 3:19 KJV). From Biblical times, sprinkling oneself with ashes has been a mark of sorrow for sin. Those who honor Ash Wednesday add to this meaning of penance a second point; the need to prepare for a holy death. The churches of the Anglican Communion, as well as some other Protestant churches observe this day. Eastern Rite churches do not. Their Lent begins on the preceding Monday.
Below is an interesting story regarding the marking of the forehead of the Catholic Pope John Paul II by a pagan Shiva high-priestess. Upon receiving the picture from a reader, I verified the source of same. Below is the correspondence I received after I asked for documentation of the story. You will notice in the below that the action was defended by a high Catholic official (Archbishop Foley), who admits that it happened but says that it is not what it appears to be. So since they do not deny it, I feel comfortable posting it. It is truly shocking when you consider the implications!!!
follow above link for the story