Monday, November 20, 2006

Pagan perspectives

Pagan perspectives on the ancient dead vary according to a number of things:
  • interest in archaeology: many Pagans are interested in archaeology and value the insights into our ancestors that it offers. Indeed, many Pagans were interested in archaeology before they started out on their spiritual path, and it may have been what inspired them in the first place.
  • emphasis on timelessness: those who advocate reburial across the board don't seem very interested in history, stories and remembering the dead. They seem to regard the ancestors as a part of the landscape, not as individuals. Their discourse is also characterised by an essentialist view of tradition - the "it's always been this way" school of thought largely derived from early 20th-century folklore studies.
  • emphasis on memory and stories: those who are interested in remembering the ancient dead and connecting with their culture (including Emma Restall Orr, whose position seems to have become more complex and nuanced) want to see respect at the centre of the agenda for handling the ancient dead, and acknowledge that this means different things to different people and in different cases and contexts.
  • beliefs about the soul: those who are more inclined towards animism will tend to see the bones of the ancient dead as still containing spirit in some form. Those who are more inclined towards dualism will tend to see bones as inert matter.
  • degree of holism: the more holistically inclined will tend to see landscape, community and ancestors as aspects of an organic whole; those who are more inclusionally inclined will see these as intertwined but distinct domains.

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