Monday, 20 July 2009

A member's response to Arthur's picket

Another response to Arthur's protest at Stonehenge, from Dianne Green (quoted with permission):
I do not enjoy the new demobcracy which appears to take more notice of a vociferous minority than the quiet majority is my response to the Stonehenge protest by Arthur Pendragon. But those who disagree do need to speak up and this is a useful avenue.

I have been very concerned over the insistence on reburial for some time. I, and those whom I have chatted with, mainly Pagans, think that it is acceptable to display human bones in museum settings, respectfully and in context. The human being has gone on and only a shell remains. This argument also applies to ancient remains, which can give us so much information, now and in the future, about these people. It does gives them some vicarious immortality as their lives may be, partially, reconstructed. I loved the making faces part of Meet the Ancestors.

Pagans do not all believe that same things; that is almost a definition of being pagan; individuality and free thinking. Many share their spiritual beliefs with an great interest in their heritage and do support the archaeologists in their search for knowledge. Ancient remains are not personal; great, great, great great ancestors are within, say, a few hundreds of years. I noticed this recently when I felt uncomfortable about seeing the body of a large pigeon, which it was not practical for me to rebury. (Distance and a bird phobia.) When I went by after a few days the bird had been reduced to a partial skeleton, recognisable as it resembled the carcase of a chicken. This did not bother me; the bird, as a living and dying entity, had gone. Remains were just that, remains. I wonder if our ancestors felt the same. It was acceptable to carry around and deposit bones from times past, generalised ancestors, but a known person could be buried under the house where they had lived or in a grave. We just do not know their beliefes, societal or personal.

Reburial also brings many problems in its wake. Who has to pay, where should the remains be placed, how and by whom should any ceremony be conducted? So far I think that neo Druids have claimed the right to interpret the beliefs of the long dead, but no one knows. If any group were to be preferred over others as instruments of reburial it could cause controversy. Christian ministers have reburied those found in Christian contexts; there are no practitioners around to speak for the long dead and, without their name being intoned, or a familiar language spoken, who can say if the spirit, called back by the energies of reburial, might not linger.

It is a terribly complex topic and rouses many heartfelt passions.
Context: Arthur's 7-month protest at Stonehenge is mainly in response to the excavations of human remains by the Riverside Project, but also about the re-siting of the visitor centre.

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