Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Sacred Ground ~ Curiosity and Respect

Thinking about the Lummi Healing Poles and a thoughtful comment to my earlier post about Kennewick Man prompted me to pay a visit to my own sacred burial grounds. My Dad, my Grandparents and my Great Grandparents are buried in the cemetery in San Juan Valley where a classically picturesque white clapboard church & steeple looks out over the valley farmland.

Sometimes I go there when I have a big decision to make, when I am in need of guidance or when I just want to get out of town for a quick break. I’ve also been there on a few memorable occasions laying loved ones to rest. When my grandfather died his Masonic brothers laid fir boughs on his coffin. I was in shock when my father died but I remember thinking how he would have loved it that my Mom found two young girls to play the bagpipes for him. My friend Ben who died so gracefully was laid out organically in his seersucker suit with no chemical additives. There is a finality to lowering a coffin into the ground then hearing the thunk of earth on wood.

The soil that contains the bones of those so dearly loved is indeed sacred to me. I would never want to see this hallowed sod disturbed. Then there is Kennewick Man. Is it wrong to examine his bones? Curiosity is a powerful force. Thoughts of Kennewick Man led me to contemplate an ancestor of my own race, Lindow Man. Lindow Man is a 2,000 year old Celtic Prince found preserved in a bog in Cheshire, England. Scientific inquiry strongly suggests that Druid priests ritually sacrificed him after giving him a breakfast of barley cake and a drink containing mistletoe pollen. I want to know that about my ancestors! Maybe there is something like the 5-second rule for food (if you drop food on the floor but pick it up within 5 seconds its OK). If your ancestor has been dead for 2,000 years or more is it OK to study his remains? Do respect and curiosity have to conflict? Can we study an ancestor’s remains without disturbing their immortal soul?


  1. A dear friend of mine suggests that when you consider research that necessitates disturbing someone's ancestors you consider whether the answer is something you'd be willing to disturb your own grandparents' or parents' grave for or whether you'd be ashamed asking your grandmother to donate blood in order for the answer to be found.

  2. knowledge is as much food as the sides of red salmon are and we have as much right to knowledge as we have to the salmon - ask and we shall receive, says one way of looking - steal and we shall reap that reward too.