NOTES ON A RITUAL BURIAL AND EXHUMATION

This is a ritual for completion of the transition from boyhood to manhood, as carried out by the Glastonbury Men’s Group, May 1995.

Preparation

The evening before, the ritual to take place should be described to those taking part, and they will be asked to remember theor childhood and adolescence; and particularly those areas that are wounded, and which cause negative behavior patterns to be carried over into adult life.

Consider the traumas, the times when we were hurt so badly that we never fully recovered, and which now have control over parts of ourselves which have not been able to fully grow up. Consider also the happy child, the essential self that has grown through childhood and adolescence to adulthood, and be prepared to meet that child and to love him.

Any discussion or process which arises from these considerations should be carried through to the fullest possible conclusion. Then retire for the night, each one alone; sleeping in simple shelters which each has built himself is recommended.

In the morning, go to the place where the ritual is to take place. This should be a quiet spot, a few minutes walk away from the main camp or gathering place. There, form a circle and meditate; ask for the wisdom of the elders to guide and watch over the ritual.

Burial

Dig the grave together. Tis should be wide and long enough to accommodate the largest men taking part, and about three feet deep. Pile the soil next to the grave, and put aside a few large stones.

Coverings should be available; a few branches and a small tarpaulin will do. The inside of the grave should be dark and free from obstruction. Some foliage can be laid in it on the bottom.

All should return to the main camp, and the first to take part should prepare himself by making personal prayers, removing any or all of his clothing as feels appropriate, and collecting any objects which he wishes to take with him to the underworld.

This person should then be led in quiet procession to the place of burial. He should down next to the grave, and completely relax.

A facilitator will say: ”Here we have the body of a dead child. Was he a happy child? Was he a sad child? Would he have grown to be a happy man?”

Then the body will be lifted and lowered into the grave. This will require five people. The covering swill be quickly laid over the grave, and everyone should leave quietly and solemnly.

Re-Birth

After about thirty minutes, a joyful procession should make its way back to the graveside. Drums, musical instruments, singing and chanting are appropriate. The sound should be heard approaching from the place of burial.

When the procession arrives, music and chanting should continue for a short while with all gathered around the grave. At a pre-arranged signal – e.g. a bell – the covers are quickly removd.

The man is lifted out of the grave, and laid beside it. He should be given time to come fully into his body. When he opens his eyes and lifts his head, he should be given a welcoming stimulating drink, and a symbol of initiation, such as a thumbprint of mud prepared from a suitable local soil or clay, applied to his forehead.

When he is ready to stand up, he can embrace each of his brothers.

Afterwards he should be taken to a place separate from any who are still waiting to take part in the ritual. When, afterwards, the grave is filled in, a symbol of the dead child should be buried at the bottom.

Sweat Lodge

In this context, the sweat lodge is a way of celebrating our manhood together, in a way that brings us closer to the Mother. The fire and the lodge can be prepared for the participants whilst they are taking part in the grave ritual, or they can work together in building them.

Stones which do not crack and split when heated by fire or cooled with water should be carefully chosen; but regardless of this, each participant can add to the fire a stone dug out from the grave.

When all are inside the lodge, first the spirits of the elements and of the place are invited in. Then the sweat lodge is conducted in four quarters:

Earth – the grave, the lodge, the stones, the Mother, the material world, parenthood, the family, nourishment, the planet, ecology. All should sit and feel the earth beneath them, and be reminded of their ancestors.
Water – the rivers, oceans, streams and pools, steam for the lodge and water for drinking, the depths of emotion, the flow of life, bodily fluids, rain, cleansing. All should share a drink of water together.
Air – wind, weather, breath, Prana, thought and clarity, flight and freedom, space, human relations. All should sit and breathe together.
Fire – heat and light, emotional warmth, the sun, the fire of spirit, the spark of life, the energy of achievement. All should sit and feel the warmth of the stones together.

After each round has been introduced, the cup of water is passed around so that each in turn makes his prayer or offering in the context of each element, particularly seeking to clarify the issues which came up the night before, and for which a process of transformation has now been set in motion. After speaking, each tips a little water onto the stones and passes on the cup.

At the end, the sprits are thanked for their attendance and a final rapid heat extracted from the stones.