Secrets in the Peat

I am a curious sort. History, science, anthropology, archeology, philosophy – part of writing is researching and maybe one of the reasons I love what I get to do so very much is that my love of all the archaic things can be justified with the word – research. Even if sometimes I think my search terms probably get my name put on some watchlist somewhere in the depths of big brother’s brain. Today, I want to talk Bog Bodies!

I am greatly interested by how different cultures perceive death and go about mourning and caring for the dead. I understand it is a bit morbid maybe but it’s always been a part of my life. My grandfather was a mortician and these things always intruiged me. I understand mummies. I understand burials. I understand mourning. There is something about the bodies found so well preserved in peat bogs that just speaks to my imagination.

If you look up these bodies, you can see them so clearly down to the wrinkles on their faces. The most interesting thing to me (of course) is how violent the deaths seem to be – like sacrifices or warriors left on the fields. It is possible that the bogs were used a bit like a potter’s field, a place to lay to rest the unwanted, outcasts, and criminals. One bog body in particular has a rope around his neck.

There are books, movies, and documentaries about the bog bodies. I’ve got a story I’ll write someday about them myself (it’s not ready to put to paper yet). In the very late 90’s there was a movie called The Eternal or Trance which was really quite fun (from what I remember – I need to watch it again). Not only is there a bog body who happens to be a druid, there’s Christopher Walken too! Phil Rickman has a book about bog bodies that I haven’t gotten to read yet but it’s on my list. There have been some excellent documentaries – at least one of which has aired a couple of times on PBS.

I think what intrigues me the most about the bog bodies is just how well preserved they are without any real preparation. In some instances, even the stomach contents are preserved which means that the peat must have stunted the decaying process entirely. That, to me, is incredible. Morbid maybe but so interesting. It’s easy to see how bog bodies make excellent stories.

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