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Death and Graffiti

What is it with our desperate need to cling to this life?

Just so everyone knows…..”I was here”

On a recent trip to the Orkney Islands, I was astounded by the need for ancient artifacts to be repaired after thoughtless people’s need to carve out their names in the sacred stones, or memorialize the fact that “RC loves PJ.”

It seems like we have come such a long way from the Neolithic times (4000-2000 BC), where sites that are still visible such as Maeshowe and the ring of Brodgar provide an unpreceded view of life and death. But have we? There are always it seems people who just don't get it.

Here, henges such as Brodgar and Stenness are ancient ceremonial sites that anyone can walk around free of charge. Henges are circular ditches that are defined by an external earthen bank The standing stones are designated as world heritage sites and their soft sandstone form is easy prey for thoughtless individuals who think it is cool to engrave something on them. At the moment, anyone can wander around the stones free of charge but alas I expect that in years to come, like Stonehenge, they will be caged off from the public. What a shame.

The Neolithic burial sites are also a part of the landscape and are comprised of a tomb with a central stone chamber, reached by a low, short passage. Clay and turf cover the mound so externally, the site looks like a rather misplaced hill. Bones of the ancestors were interred here which probably helped to create a sense of place within the community.

Passage way into the burial site at Maeshowe Orkney. Around the winter solstice as the setting sun shines down the passage it illuminates onto the rear wall of the chamber where it illuminates the back cell for a few days. Pretty impressive even by today's standards.

There are several places where ancient runes have been carved into to the wall as latter people stumbled upon the chamber.More ancient graffiti rather than deep and profound insights as they just state who 'was'ere'

The burial rites are thought to have consisted of the bodies being defleshed and set upon platforms outside to tomb for birds to remove soft tissue from the cadaver. The human bones it seems had a lot of reverence for the people and may have been thought of as a spiritually preserving their ancestors.

Within the chamber there are ancient runes carved into the walls which I suppose is some sort of ancient graffiti in that the message is rather nonsensical. Ie….. so and so was here and found treasure within.(probably not true. Possibly a bit of a wind up for those who came later)

So, maybe this human need we have to make our presence known is an important part of being remembered when we are gone, be it through death or moving from one place to another. We need to come to terms with this in our own way as individuals, but for now on Orkney periodically a man with a bowl of crushed sandstone will be filling in the modern day graffiti in the ancient standing stones.

Have you thought about what you can leave behind for other to remember you by?

  • A piece of land dedicated to conservation

  • A memorial bench in an open space

  • A book

  • Sharing memoirs and storytelling about your life to younger generations

Maybe you have some other ideas. Please feel free to share them.

In the Kriya Dharma


camella will be presenting the Kriya Ritual of forgiveness, Yoga Nidra and death and insight cards at the DEATHOK conference in Portland this October.

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