King Billy’s Funeral (“Knightriders”, 1981)

George Romero’s Knightriders is a messy, eccentric and often quite beautiful celebration of/elegy for the idealistic, bohemian spirit of the 1960s. In this, one of the final scenes, the titular troupe of motorcycle-jousting knights and their friends gather to pay tribute to their fallen “king”, Billy (memorably portrayed by Ed Harris in one of his … Read moreKing Billy’s Funeral (“Knightriders”, 1981)

Grave Gardening at the Woodlands Cemetery

Here’s a short CBS presentation on the revival of gardening in “cradle graves” at The Woodlands Cemetery in Philadelphia. Established during the mid-19th century, The Woodlands was part of the rural cemetery trend, in which landscaped, tree-lined graveyards established on the edges of cities provided welcome respite from urban noise and pollution. Rural cemeteries became … Read moreGrave Gardening at the Woodlands Cemetery

“The To-Be-Forgotten” (1899)

English poet Thomas Hardy (1840-1928) writes of the “second death”: II heard a small sad sound,And stood awhile among the tombs around:“Wherefore, old friends,” said I, “are you distrest,Now, screened from life’s unrest?” II—”O not at being here;But that our future second death is near;When, with the living, memory of us numbs,And blank oblivion comes! … Read more“The To-Be-Forgotten” (1899)

Recompose

Katrina Spade’s Recomposition process, which converts human remains into nourishing soil through natural organic reduction, was legalized by the state of Washington on May 21, 2019. Her company is now planning to open the world’s first Recompose Center in Seattle during early 2021. Here’s Ms. Spade’s 2016 TED Talk on Recomposition, offering further details and … Read moreRecompose

Better Place Memorial Forests

18th and 19th century necropolitan models of cemetery design and practice have created problems for us in the 21st century. Notably, cemeteries in major cities are literally running out of space, while those traditional burials that do take place continue to waste resources on a vast scale. In this video, Sandy Gibson of Better Place … Read moreBetter Place Memorial Forests

The Day of the Dead

Here’s a colorful and cheerful website devoted to El Dia de (los) Muertos, perhaps the world’s most colorful and cheerful thanatocentric celebration. As a child in Wellington, New Zealand during the 1970s, I was hardly aware of Latin American culture other than via Spanish-language segments on Sesame Street. That said, I seem to recall first … Read moreThe Day of the Dead

Memento Mori via the Atlas Obscura

The practice of thanatocentric pilgrimage is too often reduced to tacky “ghost tours” and their “true-crime” equivalent. Fortunately, the Atlas Obscura offers this open-ended list of alternative, off-the-beaten-track memento mori destinations, from Harry Houdini’s grave in Queens, NYC to the Shah-i-Zinda Necropolis in Uzbekistan.

Constellation Park: Columbia University’s DeathLab Imagines the Future of Cemeteries

Picture a gently glowing city of the dead suspended beneath the Manhattan Bridge … It’s a bold and beautiful vision, conjured by Columbia University’s DeathLab project which aims to find creative solutions to a very practical problem. Traditional cemeteries are running out of space; what will we do with our dead?