Thursday, 6 November 2008
- Popular romances of the West of England : or the drolls, traditions and superstitions of Old Cornwall by Robert Hunt
- Legends and Folk-Lore of Devonshire. Illustrated by Cecily M. Rutley and writen by Mildred R. Lamb
- Devonshire: County Legend & Folk-Lore by Cecily M Rutley (may be the same book, but this one has a chapter entitled "Chagford Pixies"!)
- Tales of the Dartmoor Pixies Glimpses of Elfin Haunts by William Crossing
- Dartmoor Legends by Roberts Eva , C.
- Traditions, Legends, Superstitions, and Sketches of Devonshire by Anna Eliza Bray
or any other nice old books in a simmiller vein...
Also enjoying the music of Joanna Newsome!
If anyone feels like getting me any of these for Christmas I would be very happy indeed, espesially if they where old and battered and smelt nice...
Tuesday, 9 September 2008
Poem (‘In the stump of the old tree...’)
Contemporary Poetry and Prose, 7 (Nov. 1936), 129.
Wednesday, 21 May 2008
Thursday, 1 May 2008
Friday, 25 April 2008
Wednesday, 23 April 2008
Saturday, 19 April 2008
Caricature of a typical British funeral from an animation called ‘The Godson’ (Catlow et al. 2004) – here portrayed as dark, dull and miserable. Originally I wanted this opening picture to be of the inside of a British church funeral service but this proved impossible to find online, due perhaps to the solemnity of the proceedings precluding the triviality of photography. There where however many photographs of the coffin being carried to or from the church (see the discussion on later of the differing importance of the procession verses the church service when comparing Romany funerals to that of the majority in England and Wales.
For this essay I shall use Huntington and Metcalf’s Celebrations of Death –the Anthropology Mortuary Ritual (1980) to discuss the importance of death to Anthropology. The works of Jarman and Jarman (1998) and Okely (1993) shall be my primary sources on Romany burial practices, and finally I shall use my own experiences to inform my analyses of my own cultural practices. I was going to also use information from the local funeral directors, but unfortunately it did not display its opening times, and always seemed to be shut.
In this essay I shall be looking primarily at the differences between the two cultures burial customs and attitudes, and then through this attempt to show that these apparent differences hold many of similarities, especially when looked at through the lens of Van Gennep’s tertiary structure of ‘rites of passage’ ceremonies (Huntington and Metcalf 1998:9).
Death is in some ways the ultimate ‘right of passage’ that any culture or individual can face. It shapes our values within a society (Huntington and Metcalf 1998:5). It is universally applicable – all cultures have to deal in some way with the death of the individuals within that society (Huntington and Metcalf 1998:1). This makes it of particular interest to anthropologists looking for wide pan-cultural themes, as well as having important more local roles in ethnographic studies. The transition of an individual from life to death is accompanied by powerful feelings and reactions and thus the rituals associated with it are usually full of meaning (Huntington and Metcalf 1998:1). Death and the reaction to it seems to emphasize many of the attitudes of the culture involved, casting the participants in a harsh light of loss that brings to the fore the otherwise sometimes hidden world of identity inside. As people pass irreversibly from one state of being (that shared by all the living members of a community) to another separate one the living must do their best to cross this change in group dynamics while holding the remaining society together. Perhaps consequently to this universal and shaking up nature of death, where the edges, distinctions and common values between people are often emphasized, the study of cultures attitudes to it go right back to the origins of anthropology, with anthropologists such as Tylor, Frazer and Durkheim (who influenced the work of Van Gennep, whom I shall discuss later) all focusing on death as a way of understanding the living (Huntington and Metcalf 1998:5-8).
Another important realization (from a rational western point of view) to have about death is that it is primarily a ceremony for the living, no matter what emphasis is put upon the dead. The dead person is now a passive player in society (though many societies might protest this), their only active role being through that of their memory, emotional and cerebral. It is the living who decide what is done to the dead persons body (though their spirit may still in some cases be seen to operate as a free entity – the Ramanys would seek to control this as much as possible (Okley 1993:215-230)).
The Death-Mask taken from Ishi after he had died. This along with his brain and most of his possessions were kept without his consent or prior knowledge after he had died. It was considered by his white American friends there was “no objection” (Kreober 1961:234) to the creation this mask, though they had agreed Ishi’s body should be “touched and handled as little as possible” (Kreober 1961:233) out of respect for him.
This binary division of Life from Death was part of the study of ritual by Van Gennep in 1909 (Huntington and Metcalf 1998:8). Van Gennep, later developed by Turner, realized that in transitional rituals such as funerary rites (rites of passage) three stages where involved (Huntington and Metcalf 1998:9,11). In between the two states involved with a rite of passage (e.g. life/death) was a third transitional stage that he christened a ‘liminal’ stage, where the individual involved (and to some extent the community around them) where neither of one state or the other. Prior to Van Gennep’s study very few anthropologists had looked at any cases of rites of passage with thought given to this liminal stage, Hertze and his 1907 study into secondary burial being a notable exception (Huntington and Metcalf 1998:13). This development has been crucial in the development of the discipline of anthropology, as has other insight gained from the special nature of death in human societies as discussed above.
In order to apply this idea of liminality to Romany culture I shall first take a brief look at one of the principle beliefs picked up by those who have studied them, and which has a baring upon their death ceremonies. This is the concept of an inside world / outside world binary division and the possibility of polluting the inside with the outside that permeates through many aspects of Romany culture, be it from a cat polluting its body by licking its fur, to the outsider Gorgios (non-Romany) inherent Mochadi (polluted) nature compared to those of the insider Romany culture (Okely 1993:80-83,95-96).
The liminal period of the dead person in the Romany culture begins even before a person is dead. If possible the dying person is taken outside the living area, often to a hospital, not (according to Okley 1993:217) for the possibility of healing but because the place is seen as mochadi enough already not to have the living Romany world disrupted by the event. In the past a special tent would have been set up outside the camp to serve this purpose (Okley 1993:217, Jarman & Jarman 1998:26) This is the first in a long line of ritual practices designed to prevent the mixing of the living and the dead worlds, of ensuring the mulo, or ghost, (Okley 1993:193) remains apart from the living Romany’s.
A caravan burns at Brecon at the funeral of an old Welsh Romany man. Before setting it on fire the caravan was beautifully decorated inside with white cloth (Online BBC News (b) 2007).
In mainstream English and Welsh culture (at least outside the local community level) graveyards are not beyond redemption back into the world of the living, as is shown in the decision (being one such case among many) to build flats over a cemetery in Wrexam (Online BBC News (a) 2007). Here a similar theme to the removal of the dead from the seniority world at a funeral can be observed, for the flats where deemed as acceptable to be built so long as the bodies beneath them remained ‘undisturbed’. This probably is not the entire picture in this case, it is also a way of letting money exchange hands without letting its flow be disturbed by the relations of the dead, or by other non-fiscally-inspired groups, who can be told that these ancestors have been ‘respected’ – despite the fact they have now been built upon.
This in the Romany world could be seen as another example of the morchadi nature of the Gorgio. Here the world of Outside/Inside (in this case Dead/Living) has been violated to such an extent that people are now living in a realm reserved for the dead. Okley (1993:220,222) suggests that it is precisely because of the hegemony’s preserved greater respect for the sanctity from development of these places that they are chosen as sites for Romany burial, with all the church-based paraphernalia that has to be endured to insure burial. It is also suggested that the burial is also seen as the removal of the mulo from the vibrant, fluid, inside world of the Romany camp to the morchadi, dead, settled, outside world of the Gorgio, for being dead the person must stay forever in one place (Okley 1993:228). I do not hold this view, as the grave is treated with the same respect for cleanliness and beauty as the inside of a caravan, and visited often, with generations being buried in the same areas of the same graveyard (Okley 1993:226-227). This suggests to me that the dead are simply entered a different realm, still possessing a separate nature from that of the Gorgio, and have not become assimilated into the Gorgio society, despite their now sedentary nature.
Other precautions are taken to ensure that mulo remains separate from the living once the person dies. The dieing person’s (smart) clothes are turned inside out in order to help their mulo away from the body (Okley 1993:218, Jarman & Jarman 1998:27-28) symbolically turning the persons inside/outside roles into reverse, expelling them from the living world. The night before the burial the Romany’s body is then taken back to the camp where an all night wake is held, with friends and families gathering around communal bonfires. All rivalries are forgotten for the period of the funeral. This gathering could be seen as a way of re-establishing community bonds, of ensuring stability at a difficult time. Within my own culture this bonding period seems to usually take place after the internment, when everyone returns to the persons house. I can remember in particular at the funeral of my 14 year old cousin my family gathering together and the older generation telling family stories that we in the younger generation knew by heart, even being prompted by us to tell stories we all knew. No mention was made of my cousin until right at the very end before we said goodbye. The family have been in much closer contact ever since. Thus the gathering of family and a reaffirming of these bonds at a time of crises such as at a funeral can be inscribed into the rituals associated with it.
Large procession preceding the burial of the man mentioned in the preceding photograph (Online BBC News (b) 2007)
One major way that the two cultures differ is in the gathering attending the burial. In my own culture even if the individual who has died is known quite well unless the family (or maybe close friends) have invited you you would not turn up to the funeral. In Romany culture importance is attached to how many as well as who is present. In the procession from the camp to the graveside (maybe via the church) the more people of Romany origin who attend the better, with importance also being attached to Gorgio onlookers. The numbers attending is seen as an indicator of how important a role the person played in Romany society, and thus how good a Romany they were. This indicates to me the strong identity of the Romany culture, and the importance of ensuring its cohesion in the face of a much larger society.
Another difference lies in the different importance given within the two cultures to the church/crematorium ceremony and the actual burial/cremation. Romany funerals are focused more towards the procession to and gathering at the graveside (Okley 1993:220, 218), the place which henceforth shall become an inside area for the dead person. It is here the grief of the family is expressed most strongly (or even acted out – a practice to elevate the importance of the dead person, and consequently the remaining family as well) as well as symbolic gestures given towards the locking out of the mulo from the living world. These might include floral ‘gates of heaven’, not seen as keeping the evil out of heaven, but on keep the dead in (Okley 1993:226). Within my own culture, at least in the more traditional settings, the church ceremony is seen as the important component, with the actual deposition treated almost as an afterthought. In my own experience of cremation ceremonies the actual placing of the body in the place where it is burnt and its firing up is removed entirely, being replaced instead with an electronic curtain.
This division could be thought of as symbolic of the Christian importance associated with the soul over that of the body. However, as Romany culture is also broadly Christian (Okley 1993:216), I would associate another meaning to it. I would see it as a hangover from a time when the church was a very powerful political and spiritual force within mainstream society and this level of importance would be reflected (and actively encouraged) by a focusing on the church at a time when people are at their most fragile. It also serves to connect with the other important rites of passage within a persons life, their christening and marriage.
Finally there is an interesting division between the treatment of the belongings of the dead within the two cultures. In traditional Romany culture the belongings would be burnt, along with the caravan or tent within which a person lived (though they could also be sold to Gorgios if they where considered very valuable) (Okley 1993:222, Jarman & Jarman 1998:27). Even their animals may have been destroyed in the past (Jarman & Jarman 1998:26). This was seen as a fear of the mulo being drawn back to their belongings (Jarman & Jarman 1998:27) (see ‘Into The West’ (Newell 1993) for a filmic example of this happening when a husband fails to burn his wife’s caravan). Small keepsakes such as photographs where kept, though not on display, and money was also kept by the family (Okley 1993:222,225). Any relation made homeless by the destruction of the van was give money by the community (perhaps another effort to ensure unity within the society). If a caravan was particularly valuable then before the person died they could be given a cheaper one to live out the last of there life in, and this would be later destroyed. In my own culture the valuable belongings of a person would typically be shared out according to their wishes as set down in their will, with other objects being taken as a keepsake. In a way, the ‘polluting’ of an object with a persons spirit is seen as what makes it valuable, and what affords it special treatment above that accorded to it by its utilitarian or monetary value.
Anthropology can learn a lot from the burial customs of individual cultures, especially to highlight the similarities and differences between two cultures. For example, in relation to the Romany funeral components like the all night wake, ban on rivalries and mass inclusive procession all serve to show and emphasize strength and separate (unified) identity of a minority culture in the face of a majority. This pattern of constantly reaffirming cultural identity, and creating clear boundaries between those inside it from outside it is not so clear in the mainstream English and Welsh funeral, indicating the less immediate threat to cultural identity. However, the many-faceted division of modern funeral rights in both cultures may indicate a growing sense of individualism (or conversely a collapse of monolithic cultural identity) throughout England and Wales, and probably, though beyond the scope of this essay, across the western world. In addition to this role of individual cultural insight the study of burial customs can and has also been used to look at some fairly universal components of human cultures, for instance Van Gennip’s rites of passage theory.
Catlow, B., C. Catlow & L. Catlow 2004 The Godson 3 bear animations. Available from: http://www.3bears.co.uk/btsgodson/btsgodson.html [Accessed:2/28/2007]
Humanisim.org 2007 Humanist Funerals British Humanist association. Available from: http://www.humanism.org.uk/site/cms/contentviewarticle.asp?article=1176 [Accessed:2/28/2007]
Huntingdon, R. & Metcalf, P. 1980 Celebrations Of Death – The Anthropology Of Mortuary Ritual Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
Jarman, A. O. H. & E. Jarman 1998 The Welsh Gypsies – Children of Abram Wood Cardiff: University of Wales Press
Kroeber, T. 1964 Ishi – In Two Worlds – A Biography Of The Last Wild Indian In North America Berkley and Los Angeles: University of California Press
Newell, M 1992 Into The West Miramax Films
Okley, J 1993 The Traveler-Gypsies Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
· Online BBC News (a) 2007 Graveyard flats 'morally wrong' British Broadcasting Association. Available from: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/wales/6335935.stm [Accessed:2/28/2007]
Online BBC News (b) 2007 Respects paid as caravan burns British Broadcasting Association. Available from: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/wales/mid/3031922.stm [Accessed:2/28/2007]
Friday, 18 April 2008
Thursday, 17 April 2008
Wednesday, 19 March 2008
What comes to mind when you read the word Chagford?
Any comments greatfully received while I think about how this dissertation thing might work....
Wednesday, 12 March 2008
There once was a man
Though you wouldn’t know it
He sat in the corner
But only when the crowds where thin
When the music suited his skimming mind
When the light cast no shadows
When the earth was closed
And the sky was all there was
And in his dark corner he sat,
The beer blundered through his fingers
And dragged down his fractured mind
And on that day she saw him
She was the Goddess of the floor
The Goddess of the sky
The Goddess of the brightest light
AND SHE SAW HIM
And he looked up
There was no lightning
No thunder cracking bolt
But when the dancers looked around
The dark corner was grey
In the pub the burnt out people
Pirouetted to a halt
Their frames where lead
Their feet soft clay
They drew in
No one left to prop up
The dark corner
That placed them in the light
They went home
They left the womb
As they trundled back
A few looked up
At the burnt stars
Cinders of distant suns
They saw her light
She was there
She was there
But at her back
The black flamed,
In velvet blossomed sky
And she stood proud
She stood bright
For the moon was
Than on the