Fieldwork in Religion, Vol 8, No 2 (2013)

Cross Bones Graveyard: Honouring the Outcast

Adrian Harris

Abstract


Cross Bones is an unconsecrated graveyard in south London that is the final resting place of around 15,000 bodies, mostly paupers and prostitutes. These are the outcast dead, unnamed and largely forgotten until construction workers began to unearth their bones in the early 1990s. A local urban Shaman became inspired by one of the spirits of Crossbones and soon Pagans began to honour the outcast dead with simple ceremonies and offerings. I begin with a short historical introduction concerning the origins of the Cross Bones graveyard and then I will briefly outline the significance of the text it inspired, The Southwark Mysteries (1999). I will introduce my ongoing research with a consideration of my methodology, after which I will describe the Halloween of Cross Bones festival of 2007, the monthly Vigils, and the significance of the graveyard gates as a roadside shrine. The second half of this article draws on interviews with numerous individuals who have a close relationship with Cross Bones. These interviews reveal the underlying power of the graveyard as a physical expression of radical acceptance. I close with a brief discussion of my current theoretical approach to understanding this complex phenomenon.

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DOI: 10.1558/firn.v8i2.156

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