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Druids and Avebury Reburial
References to genetics support requests for reburial that are based upon ethics and belief.

The idea isn't just mine, it's an idea, borrowed from the US and Australia, and transposed upon a Celic landscape. In doing so, I attempted to articulate as best I could the idea od reburial within a modern Druid/Pagan framework.

As you will note when you log on to the consultation website, all points listed in COBDO's request

Oddie /|\
Reburial Officer

Hi Oddie,
Greetings from the Med. I have to say that I really don`t understand where "references to genetics" can possibly "support requests for reburial" in this particular case. I also find difficulty with the term "Celtic" landscape and the concept of reburial of prehistoric individuals "within a modern Druid/Pagan framework". I would have to say that the First Australian and the First American Nations do have extremely strong ethical/theological and legal cases. These peoples maintain many of their ancient traditions and belief systems passed down from generation to generation. In my view, the "modern Druidic/Pagan" theologies are simply a modern construct with no foundation whatsoever rooted in British prehistory. I don`t understand how modern followers of a modern theology can possibly impose a "reburial" of ancient individuals. As a follower of one particular faith, I would be horrified to find myself being reburied amidst a parody of a 19th century ideology. I don`t mean to be offensive-I do believe this to be an important dialogue- but, there really is no such thing as a "Celtic" landscape and "Druidism/Paganism" really has nothing whatsoever in common with British prehistory. Again, I honestly don`t intend to be offensive, simply to open up the dialogue a bit.:face-thinks:

..knowledge without action is insanity and action without knowledge is vanity..(imam ghazali,ayyuhal-walad)
Hello Oddie and welcome to the thread. I think emphasising genetic links to human remains weakens your argument, rather than strengthens it. Millions of people must be equally related to people from 4000 years ago. Your arguments are surely based on belief, rather than meaningful genetic links. Does this mean that people without north-western European DNA cannot practice as Pagans?

"The issue of Egyptian mummies is directly not part of HAD's remit, which is human remains of British origin. However, because there are many British Pagans for whom Pagan Egyptian religious tradition is profoundly woven into their own religious study and practice, the issue does arise. Above is a recent article which mentions HAD, so we are presenting it here."

So, no genetic claims for mummies. What about for Romans, Anglo Saxons and other incomer populations?

I also think that it weakens your argument to refer to the whole of prehistory as Celtic, and to Avebury as a celtic landscape. The Avebury area is a modern landscape, with a monuments, sites and other forms of archaeology which have been through a complex process of change and reinterpretation throughout many periods.

The requests for 'repatriation' in this case certainly seem to be designed to lend legitimacy to a an organisation, or group of organisations, whose belief systems are largely cobbled together from folklore and Edwardian views of the noble 'Celtic' savage.

What little we know of the druids come from Caesar's writings in 'The Conquest of Gaul', where he is assisted (or aided and abetted if you like) by Diviciacus, a man Caesar describes as a nobleman and a (pro-Roman) druid. There are a handful of other mentions by classical writers, but other than the reference to cutting certain plants with bronze sickles or supposedly recommending 'Druid's eggs' to help you in tricky court cases, there is nothing to go on whatsoever (other than, of course, St.Patrick's writings, and those in the Irish (Celtic) literature, which basically have them down as Lex Luthor style supervillains). About British Druids we know absolutely nothing. Anglesey springs to mind, but if we look at the text written by Tacitus;

"[Suetonius Paulinus] prepared accordingly to attack the island of Mona, which had a considerable population of its own, while serving as a haven for refugees; and, in view of the shallow and variable channel, constructed a flotilla of boats with flat bottoms. By this method the infantry crossed; the cavalry, who followed, did so by fording or, in deeper water, by swimming at the side of their horses." "xxx "On the beach stood the adverse array¹, a serried mass of arms and men, with women flitting between the ranks. In the style of Furies, in robes of deathly black and with dishevelled hair, they brandished their torches; while a circle of Druids, lifting their hands to heaven and showering imprecations, struck the troops with such an awe at the extraordinary spectacle that, as though their limbs were paralysed, they exposed their bodies to wounds without an attempt at movement."

We can see that although a circle od Druids were present, there is nothing to indicate that they were the focus of his Welsh campaign;

"Thus encouraged, he made an attempt on the island of Mona, as a place from which the rebels drew reinforcement" () full text here - Agricola section -

On close inspection, there is also no indication that the black-clad women were Druids either.

There is also a groundless division to be addressed - that you have to be either Christian or Pagan - many people subscribe to neither and would be horrified at the thought of being adopted, post mortem, by either organisation.

I personally have strong feelings about re-burial - I think the whole matter should be treated with more sensitivity - but the demands and credentials of the Druids are adding an air of pantomime such a serious subject could well do without.
Hi everyone,

I have focussed upon ethics as it is a thought process not currently considered within DCMS guidelines when considering a case for reburial. After writing a rough draft of ideas for reburial back in 1997, I spent the next 9 years contemplating various issues I came across while studing native american and australian aboriginal ideas. These tribes had a very strong case for reburial - the ancestors exhumed / displayed / researched did not belong to those who appropriated them. In England, the ancestors are indeed genetically linked to both Druids and archaeologists / curators allike. They are our ancestors - everybodies. My arguement for genetics (that simply supports ideas of ethics and belief - see the consultation on EH website for details), is important because it embodies within the self the idea of ancestry, and through belief, locates the ancestors within landscape familiar to us all. Genetics can be argued either side of the 'fence', but becomes meaningful when linked not only with place but with self. DNA is the physical link, and rebirth the spirityual. While genetics are physical proof of identity, rebirth is a system of belief we either understand / do not understand / agree with / disagree with. No one system of thinking should claim sole ownership or dominate another, and this point refers to my references to the Human Rights Act (articles 9 and 10 if I remember correctly), and these laws are much more powerful than guidelines, or the poorl;ly considered Human Tissues Act that permits retention and display.

I this way, my request for reburial is inspired from North America and Australia and the polemic is firmly balanced within modern thinking, and not an imagined past. The term Celtic can be taken as meaningful to many Druids (it is certainly romantic) or disregarded as imagined. I prefer the term 'imaginative processes through wich we create our own sense of identity in the world (Amy Remensynder 1996 speculum.) It's social and religious anthropology.

My articulation of reburial does not belong to me, CoBDO or any other group. It is an idea that should be shared equally, that no one group, individual or ego can ever own. (Keep a carefull watch to see who else tries to claim the ancestors as their own!) I seek only to promote eveness in such matters which is why I placed this idea in the public domain. My crucafix awaits, I'm sure. Excuse typos folks - im working from expensive internet cafes

Paul Davies /|\
Reburial Officer
Council of British Druid Orders
Modern not prehistoric
Our ancestors

Can someone more me from digger level to reburial?


If and when groups/individuals from Egypt begin repatriation requests to museums in England, and if these people request our support, this will be given. Personally, I find mummioes facinating, but remain disturbed at their relocation - education aside, the poliltics of the matter demand the burying of the remains of post colonialism. The display of mummies is an issue for local egyptians to initiate, and not CoBDO. Perhaps we should ask the ancestors what they think... One day, someone will speak for them, and when they are given a voice, I strongly recommend we all listen

Odds /|\

The question remains... what rights do modern religious groups have in determining that they 'speak' for the dead. It is all a matter of respect... which is a different debate.. to me it is no different from Being christened after death, which mormans do (which is why they have such a good geneology record)

If I was a bronze age person, and some 21st century pagans cam along and reburied me.. using their ceremonies.. I might say (in whatever language I spoke) Bggggggggrr Offf.. that is disrespecting my original beliefs as much as anything.?

?When a sinister person means to be your enemy, they always start by trying to become your friend.?
William Blake
When we are dealing with human remains whose religious affilliations can be determined, then the reburial of such remains can be done with the relevant ceromonies and by the relevant religious groups.
But for those (such as Neolithic or Bronze age etc) where we simply do not know what their Religion was, then we should just accept that they have already had whatever religious burial customs performed and re-inter the remains in the ground without any modern religious ceremonies being used. Plus,being buried in non-consecrated ground would also cut out any possible disrespect to the original religions.
if i can put my two penneth in here:

Whilst I have no problem with the druids or their religious affiliation, they're making out that these dead are THEIR ancestors yet at the same time, EVERYONES. And surely, they can't know that?! If these bodies that they want reburied ARE everyones ancestors then surely everyone should have a say instead of them getting all funny over it. At least the bodies are being looked after and treated with respect. We have no right to rebury these prehistoric bodies using religious rituals or whatever, when we cannot know what religion these people were! It just seems stupid to me.

And, the argument I gave in a discussion over this in my later prehistoric wessex class:

They're MY ancestors too and I want to go and look at them in a museum! If I were a prehistoric person in a museum, instead of being reburied by a group of people who think they know best when clearly they don't, I'd be pretty danged proud that people were coming to look at me and learn about me!

Archaeology is just history with the gloves off

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