The fire could be minutes old, with the ashes being fresh, but cold ashes can be anywhere from days to week, to even decades old depending on how long they were left undisturbed. These ashes absorb a lot of meaning over that time that they sit and the more time that are left alone, the heavier handed the meaning becomes. Sometimes when ashes like this show up in your dream and are not coming from a fresh fire, then this means you have been too focused on past events.
Seeing these ashes means that you need to start looking towards the future and forgetting all of the negative things that happened in the past. Even if the things you are thinking about are positive, the ashes show that these times are over now. If you are hindering your forward progress in life by only being able to consider your past joys and sorrows then it is time for a reformation of thought and a reformation of action. You need to take a new path in life, one that does not involve so much backtracking and reflection. This is the only way that you will make any progress as a human being.
Seeing ashes in your dream can also dictate that you are bitter about some change that has occurred in your life. You have gone through a change that was forced upon you or that you never wanted in the first place. Something has happened that caused you to be forced in a situation that you did not have control of, and eventually you had to succumb and make a choice that you had no interest in making, or do something that you did not want to do. The ashes are a reminder that you are still bitter about that, and also act as a reminder that you are still being too focused on the past. You are thinking about how great your life used to be until it changed. Take a new line of thought and start to think about how great your life will be when you change it. You need to change your life again for the better rather than dwelling on memories which cannot be altered. This is a healthier sort of action.
If you see ashes in the fireplace in your dream or ashes in a specific location where ashes would normally be, this is a sign of dissatisfaction with elements of your life currently. You do not appreciate the position that you are in and you want some things to change. The only way that you can enact this change though is if you do it yourself. Nobody is going to go out there and make change for you, and you cannot change your past. Work as hard as you can to get out of the rut that you’ve found yourself in, and you will feel more rewarded and a lot more accomplished when you’ve reached your desired goals.