STONEHENGE HERITAGE ACTION GROUP (SHAG) is a campaign against the expansion of the A303 around Stonehenge site. It's a FINT (female, intersex, non-binary + trans) led protest camp, mainly organised by young people.
The RYSE went to visit for Samhain (the Pagan/Gaelic celebration marking the beginning of winter, and a time when the veil between life and death is especially thin). We were invited to run a workshop on ancestors, along with a friend from Somos Semillas - a project by Abya Yalan diaspora* 'recovering, strengthening, and visibilising the histories of our afro, indigenous and mestizo peoples through our seeds'. find them @somossemillas_ on insta!
*(folk from the so-called Americas living across the globe)
Especially have a look at this graphic which tells the stories of some powerful ancestors in struggle ^
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The workshop focused on what the concept of ancestors means to us at SHAG- young people racialised as white, brought up in the heart of empire, when we've largely been disconnected from community and are so individualised. How can a connection to legacy support our struggle? We then shifted into intercultural dialogue, learning about Dia de los Difuntos (an Abya Yalan day of ceremony and celebrations on 2nd Nov) and sharing about Samhain- reminders that our reclaiming of cultural or spiritual practices in this part of the world has to be rooted in an understanding of struggle- and specifically anti imperialism - for it to be an act of power.
different parts of the celebrations:
Samhain is a Pagan celebration which is the origin of todays Halloween. It marks the division of the year between the lighter half (summer) and the darker half (winter). At Samhain the division between this world and the otherworld is at its thinnest, allowing spirits to pass through.
Traditionally, the community's ancestors were honoured and invited home whilst harmful spirits were warded off. People wore costumes and masks to disguise themselves as harmful spirits and thus avoid harm. Bonfires and food played a large part in the festivities. The bones of slaughtered livestock were cast into a communal fire, household fires were extinguished and started again from the bonfire. Food was prepared for the living and the dead, food for the ancestors who were in no position it eat it, was ritually shared with the less well off.
We're on a journey of exploring these traditions from these lands, working out what they could mean in our context, and how they can support us to ground our struggle in histories, the earth and some kind of connection to spirit. We don't know exactly what this looks like or where we are going, but we are sure that we can't stay where we are.
Structure building is one of the many skill-sets they have on camp- largely using materials skipped, found and gifted- creating spaces that are practical and beautiful. (Re-)Learning skills to live with and for the land are crucial for our ability to survive what is coming.
Culture building has been a key part of what SHAG has tried to do- with the space being FINT led, and expressly trying to live their values. There's been immense amount of labour gone into this, and they're paving the way for other camps, squats and anarchists. We think they're pretty fucking cool.