Anyway, here is some interesting background history on this ritual from an Allyn Gibson:
Today is Ash Wednesday. I hadn’t realized.CLICK HERE TO READ THE REST OF THE ENTRY!
A few years ago on Ash Wednesday I was out somewhere–a Barnes & Noble, I think, probably the one right near my house–and I saw a woman with the ashes marking her forehead. “Praise Odin,” I said to her. She looked at me oddly, said nothing, and walked away quickly. I couldn’t blame her; she was probably unaware of the pagan origins of Ash Wednesday. Christianity has pilfered virtually every practice and belief from non-Christian sources, enough so that it’s not unreasonable to ask if there’s an original bone in the Christian body, and Ash Wednesday came from the Norse.
Ash Wednesday is a relatively late addition to the Christian liturgical calendar, first surfacing in the tenth century according to accounts written in the eleventh. (To put things in perspective, Ash Wednesday is older than the Crusades or the Norman Conquest, younger than Charlemagne and Islam.) At least, its Christian practice dates to only a little more than a millennium ago. The Norse practice of Ash Wednesday goes back several hundred years earlier, when it was done to celebrate the deeds of Sigurd, the hero of the Volsung Saga, a character perhaps better known as Siegfried from the Ring of the Nibelung.
Or you could just go around punching people in the forehead!