Ancestor Worship

by Henry Farrell on September 24, 2004

Graham Harvey, “Endo-cannibalism in the making of a recent British ancestor,” _Mortality_ 9:3 (August 2004) pp: 255 – 267


Following his death in 1975, the ashes of Wally Hope, founder of Stonehenge People’s Free Festival, were scattered in the centre of Stonehenge. When a child tasted the ashes the rest of the group followed this lead. In the following decades, as the festival increasingly became the site of contest about British heritage and culture, the story of Wally’s ashes was told at significant times. His name continues to be invoked at gatherings today. This paper discusses these events as ‘the making of an ancestor’, and explores wider contexts in which they might be understood. These include Druidic involvement in the revival of cremation, Amazonian bone-ash endo-cannibalism, and popular means of speaking of and to dead relatives. In addition to considering the role of ‘ancestors’ in contemporary Britain, the paper contributes to considerations of ‘ancestry’ as a different way of being dead, of a particular moment in the evolution of an alternative religious neo-tribal movement, of the meanings of ‘cannibalism’, and of the ways in which human remains might be treated by the bereaved and by various other interested parties.

Hat tip: “David Glenn”:



perianwyr 09.24.04 at 4:57 pm

Ah, damn. By the time I find that in dead trees I’ll have forgotten about it.


bob mcmanus 09.24.04 at 7:26 pm

I would mention Heinlein, but that was a strange book in a strange time. Was incomprehensible to this 60’s teenager, and presumed simple deliberate provocation. Perhaps not.

Gotta worry about them prions nowadays. Drag.


Doug 09.24.04 at 9:38 pm

Very naughty, Henry, posting footnotes from the manuscript of the sequel to Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell.


Jason Kuznicki 09.25.04 at 4:04 am

Are there any ways of speaking to dead relatives that are both effective and still leagal in the United States?


Jason Kuznicki 09.25.04 at 4:06 am

Bah… fingers got ahead of me…


bad Jim 09.25.04 at 9:21 am

In California you can volunteer to be an organ donor by putting a tiny pink sticker on your driver’s licence, so that when your mangled body is wrenched from a crash scene your most easily recycled parts might be harvested. With each license renewal you’re reminded how much less desirable your organs have become in the meantime.

Nobody wants my 50-year-old lungs or liver, but I continue to believe I’m edible, at least from the point of view of the pigeons and seagulls I see around town, or the doves and crows in my back yard.


ruralsaturday 09.26.04 at 10:11 pm

Those geometry conundrums? Where the set can’t be a subset of itself?
You can’t eat your own species without becoming something other. The viciousness that rises everywhere around us finds a quiet expression in the logic of autophagic necessity but it’s pure cowardice, on a roll toward species-separation, the insect logic overtaking mammalian heart and soul.
There are ways of utilizing the nutrients freed up by death that don’t involve dehumanizing cannibalistic consumption. The same logic gave us Wal-Mart and the automobile’s poison exhaust. That logic is what led us to this stark cliff. Jumping is just more weakness – panic’s adrenalin standing in for the strength of courage.
It’s cowardice that needs to be rejected, not squeamishness.

Comments on this entry are closed.