Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Ashes among the stones

Solstice is passing, but I have one more Stonehenge post, courtesy of the prolific and hardworking Graham Harvey. It is the abstract of a paper he published last year in the journal Mortality, titled "Endo-cannibalism in the making of a recent British ancestor." (Volume 9, No. 3, August 2004, pp. 255-67).

Following his death in 1975, the ashes of Wally Hope, founder of Stonehenge People's Free Festival, were scattered in the centre of Stonehenge. When a child tasted the ashes the rest of the group followed this lead. In the following decades, as the festival increasingly became the site of contest about British heritage and culture, the story of Wally's ashes was told at significant times. His name continues to be invoked at gatherings today. This paper discusses these events as 'the making of an ancestor', and explores wider contexts in which they might be understood. These include Druidic involvement in the revival of cremation, Amazonian bone-ash endo-cannibalism, and popular means of speaking of and to dead relatives. In addition to considering the role of 'ancestors' in contemporary Britain, the paper contributes to considerations of 'ancestry' as a different way of being dead, of a particular moment in the evolution of an alternative religious neo-tribal movement, of the meanings of 'cannibalism', and of the ways in which human remains might be treated by the bereaved and by various other interested parties.

A tip of the pointy hat to Doug Ezzy.


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