It was a deepseated thing, this duty we felt we owed our dead. A sacred duty – literally. It goes back to the beginning of time. Throughout human history the dead body has always been treated in accordance with sacred diktat, its valedictory hullabaloos performed by shaman or sorcerer, soothsayer or priest. For the full extent of human memory the bodies of the dead have been disposed of in places held sacred – demarcated patches of ground, rivers.
We’re getting much too evolved for all that rannygazoo and mystery-making juju now. Too sensible, too pragmatic. Oh yes, we can see a dead body for what it is. A dead body. A waste disposal matter after it’s had its corneas and other useful stuff taken out. The growth of cremation may well have hastened this thinking. Brutal. Rapid. Get your head around that and you’ll get your head around anything.
Well, that’s one way of looking at it. It’s the way of unemployed librarian and blogger Amy Campbell in the US.
It set me thinking. We don’t yet dispose of our dead by direct cremation as they increasingly do in the States. But what of our secular rituals, the ones performed by those possessed of no shamanic attributes – everyday unsanctified civvies like our own dear Gloriamundi? Are these ceremonies mere sentimental vestiges ripe for replacement by less formal, body-free celebrations of memory in restaurants, at tea parties, on picnics, over a couple of beers?
I wonder where we’re going. Take away the sacred and… Does that make all the difference?