Respect & Our Ancestors!
One of the things that many pagans feel strongly about is that we should treat our ancestors with due reverence and respect. This has led to issues and concerns about the reburial of remains, access to and protection of sacred sites. These concerns are such that the Government has started a consultation process to look at these issues.
One of the questions that arise from these thoughts is who exactly are our ancestors? This country has been subject to invasion and migration from many sources over the years, from the Romans in CE 43 to the Vikings and Normans in 1066. It can be argued that given the number and range of influxes into this country just about anybody can, with careful choice of their path through their family tree, claim ancestors in just about any part of Europe.
The history of these islands enables us all to claim a kinship with a vast range of peoples and cultures and should lead to a certain respect for all the diverse traditions and cultures we find both today and in the past. Unfortunately this is not the case as often as it should be! Even within the pagan community!
Given these facts I do find it difficult to understand why many people, including archaeologists, do not feel it appropriate to consider reburial of ancient human remains and even feel it acceptable to put these bodies on open display for the public to gawp at!
Very few people would find it acceptable to show even pictures of bodies of people put to death by the prevailing cultures today so why is it acceptable to exhibit bodies that have undergone a similar process in the past. Lindow man is a prime example of this double standard
One archaeologist is on record as saying that he considers human remains as being an important artefact but no more so than say a few hundred silver coins! This view is common not just in professional archaeological circles but in society as a whole.
A similar picture is found when it comes to the reburial of human remains. It would be considered unacceptable to exhume a body from a church graveyard without, at least eventually, arranging for a decent Christian reburial, such reverence and respect would also be exhibited to Muslims and the bodies of people of other faiths unless, that is, the body happens to be a few thousand years old! In this case a body that has obviously been buried or laid in a tomb with care and reverence, with grave goods and careful orientation can be exhumed, ‘cleaned’ and put on display for all to see.
It is my fervent, but I suspect forlorn, hope that the current review of the rules and guidance regarding the reburial of human remains will bring some measure of respect and reverence to the whole process of the handling human remains recovered from archaeological sites.
There is a balance to be struck between research and learning about our ancestors and showing the respect that is due to them.