The Wanton Green – Contemporary Pagan writing on Place
is out now.
Just like it says in the subheading this is a book rooted in the landscape but finding expression in many different voices. This is yet another gem from Mandrake of Oxford who are keeping it real by continuing to publishing a wide range of quality esoteric writing. The diversity of contributors in this volume brilliantly exemplifies this. Find out more here.
The proceeds form this volume will go towards supporting the work of Honouring the Ancient Dead. I have to be honest and admit that, as someone who works in a museum, the idea of having a banner-headline Pagan organisation getting involved in the care of British pre-historic bones, sounded like a nightmare. I’ve known Pagan people adopt a fairly antagonistic position with regard to archaeological investigation and sometimes science in general. But it’s also fair to say that some archaeologists just can’t deal with characters like Julian Cope and his mytho-poetic reading of the British landscape in his best selling Modern Antiquarian. I’d already received a letter from HAD at the museum in which I work and did groan inwardly that a missive intended to ask if we had any human remains in our collection was signed ‘Bright Blessings’. Museum staff not infrequently need to work with people who have, shall we say, a radically different interpretation of the past. So rather than feeling ‘Blessed’ an employee might instead feel rather bemused. I’m reminded of an occasion when a friend, who worked in museum near Stonehenge, came into the gallery to find a woman weeping in front of a display case. She was deeply distressed that one of the sacred stones of Salisbury plain had been uprooted and was now cruelly locked inside a glass box. So, to help heal the energy of the damaged stone, she’s been kneeling and summoning the spirits. My friend, very gently, had to point out that the stone in question was a replica.
So the point is that Pagans sometimes look askance at archaeologists and equally archaeologists may well sneer at Pagans. This is supremely odd since, without blowing anyone’s cover, there are plenty of people out there, including in fairly senior positions in academia, who are both.
So it was with some relief and the pleasure that, after visiting the HAD website, I got a far more well-rounded sense of that organisation. The approach, quite rightly is of trying to find common ground, of working together. Of not automatically assuming that any ‘Pagan’ bones need reburial but also, importantly, pointing out that the bones of our ancestors are not automatically the sole property of the archaeological community either.
The main thing for me, and from what I’ve seen this seems to be where HAD are coming from, is the narrative which is linked to the bones. So although I don’t think re-burial is necessary in most cases there are a few situations where it does seem to me to be the right and proper thing to do. A good example of this was the reburial of the bones of Ursula Kemp who was hanged for the crime of witchcraft in 1582. Having been through the hands of the Witchcraft Museum there was a sense of responsibility on the part of people involved with that organisation and others in the community to do the right thing with her mortal remains and so in 2011 she was re-buried.
If HAD can be a reasonable voice in discussions about how we, as a whole community, handle the past and help in making a fair space for Pagan sensibilities to be be heard, then I’m pleased to support them.