Today in class we learned of many theories surrounding Stonehenge, the surrounding sites, and it’s existence as a whole. One such theory that I found interesting was the division of the land of the living and the land of the dead. To reiterate in accordance with the theory, Stonehenge was considered the land of the dead, symbolically marked with stones, which are not living and never were. Compartively, Woodhenge was the land of the living, and thus was made with wood, which was formerly living. I find it so interesting that stone and wood were used with such symbolism. It’s so simple and yet it created a monument that lasted for hundreds of years. It’s a great testament to the sentiment that simplicity is a good thing.
It’s also interesting that this practice of dividing up space for the living and dead wasn’t just practiced in this situation. Of course all over the world today there are cemeteries, places specifically designed and allocated for those who are no longer with us. And society tends to stay away from cemeteries unless they are there to visit and pay homage to a loved one. However some people in history have done as the builders of Stonehenge did and taken it a step further. The most obvious of these are the ancient Egyptians, as we’ve previously learned. To them, the whole west bank of the Nile was considered the land of the dead, and the east bank the land of the living. As such, many a necropolis was built to the west of the Nile, such as the Pyramids at Giza and the Valley of the Kings. It goes without saying that as a whole, the living tend to remove themselves from the dead.
However, not everyone fears the Great Beyond. El Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is a perfect example of a celebration in which a culture embraces death. It is primarily celebrated throughout Mexico and it is a day to remember those who have died and celebrate death as a whole. Skeletons and skulls are common decorations and sugar skulls are a traditional treat. Though other cultures do have ways to honor their dead, the Day of the Dead is a particularly unique way to accept death instead of fearing it as so many others do.
In the end, we all die. Depressing as it may be, its a fact of life. And it’s interesting to see the variety of ways that different cultures deal with death. Often they’re similar, but the differences really help to define the culture.