Friday, March 30, 2007

Cremation, public lands, and commerce

Ladies in White, from the left, Catherine Goodman, Pat Cross-Chamberlin and Fran Coover, in the Rattlesnake Wilderness in Montana.Ladies in White, three women in Missoula, Montana, tried to start a business scattering human ashes--what the funeral industry calls "cremains"--on national forest land.

The U.S. Forest Service doesn't like the idea, because they see a "slippery slope" towards permanent monuments:

But the Forest Service has long had a firm policy against commercial scattering, said Gordon Schofield, the group leader for land use here in Region I. If ashes are scattered “the land takes on a sacredness, and people want to put up a marker or a plaque.”

The Ladies in White say their practice is environmentally benign, although they do accept that like other public-lands commercial users (guide services, for instance), they need a permit.

Currently, the official position on private scattering is "don't ask, don't tell." (Some of us writers do tell, however.)

What a wonderful tangle of American religious issues: "nature religion" in the broadest sense, the change in funerary practices, representatives of some Indian tribe sticking their oar in, the organized environmentalists, and the bureaucrats in the middle of it all.

Take a look at Catherine Goodman, the woman on the left. What is that on her head--antlers? a crescent crown?

Via Ann Althouse's blog, where there are lots of comments.

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