Cross Bones Graveyard

Honouring the Outcast


  • Adrian Harris University of Roehampton



Cross Bones, graveyard, Pagans, prostitutes, roadside shrine


Cross Bones is an unconsecrated graveyard in south London that is the final resting place of around 15,000 bodies, mostly paupers and prostitutes. These are the outcast dead, unnamed and largely forgotten until construction workers began to unearth their bones in the early 1990s. A local urban Shaman became inspired by one of the spirits of Crossbones and soon Pagans began to honour the outcast dead with simple ceremonies and offerings. I begin with a short historical introduction concerning the origins of the Cross Bones graveyard and then I will briefly outline the significance of the text it inspired, The Southwark Mysteries (1999). I will introduce my ongoing research with a consideration of my methodology, after which I will describe the Halloween of Cross Bones festival of 2007, the monthly Vigils, and the significance of the graveyard gates as a roadside shrine. The second half of this article draws on interviews with numerous individuals who have a close relationship with Cross Bones. These interviews reveal the underlying power of the graveyard as a physical expression of radical acceptance. I close with a brief discussion of my current theoretical approach to understanding this complex phenomenon.


Download data is not yet available.

Author Biography

Adrian Harris, University of Roehampton

Dr Adrian Harris is a practising eco Pagan and the founder of Dragon Environmental Network, a movement which draws together Paganism and practical environmentalism. Publications include “Sacred Ecology,” in B. Davy (ed.), Paganism (London: Routledge, 1996), and “Ritual and Paganism” with M. M. Nightmare) in Metaphysical, New Age, and Neopagan Movements (Westport, USA: Greenwood Press). He is also co-editor and coconvenor of the e-journal and conference series, Faith, Spirituality & Social Change.


Bateson. 2000 [1972]. Steps to an Ecology of Mind: Collected Essays in Anthropology, Psychiatry, Evolution and Epistemology. Chicago: University Press.

Clark, A. 1997. Being There Putting Brain, Body, and World Together Again. Cambridge: MIT Press.

Constable, J. 1999. The Southwark Mysteries. London: Oberon Books.

Constable, J. 1999. 2005. (accessed September, 2007).

Constable, J. 1999. 2008. The Goose, The Crow and The Cross Bones Portal. (accessed August, 2013).

Cross Bones News. Unknown. (accessed October, 2011).

Debord, G. 1955. “Introduction to a Critique of Urban Geography” on Les Lèvres Nues #6. Brussels. Translated and published by Ken Knabb as “Introduction to a Critique of Urban Geography,” in Situationist International Anthology, Bureau of Public Secrets, Berkeley, 1981 and 1989. (accessed September, 2011).

Everett, H. 2002. Roadside Crosses in Contemporary Memorial Culture. Texas: University Press.

Excell, G. 2004. “Roadside Memorials in the UK.” Unpublished MA thesis, University of Reading.

Gendlin, E. 1981. Focusing. New York: Bantam.

Harris, A. 2011. “The Power of Place: Protest Site Pagans,” European Journal of Ecopsychology 2. Online: (accessed November, 2011).

Harris, A. 2013. “Embodied Eco-Paganism,” in G. Harvey, ed., Handbook of Contemporary Animism. Sheffield: Acumen Publishing, 403–15.

Harris, A. In press. “Accessing Embodied Tacit Knowledge,” in L. Woodhead, ed., How to Research Religion: Putting Methods into Practice. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Hartig, K., and K. Dunn. 1998. “Roadside Memorials: Interpreting New Deathscapes in Newcastle, New South Wales,” Australian Geographical Studies, 36, 5–20.

Ingold, T., 2000. The Perception of the Environment. Oxon: Routledge.

International Union of Sex Workers. (accessed October, 2011).

Jackson, M. 1989. Paths toward a Clearing. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Martin, A. Lynn. 2001. Alcohol, Sex and Gender in Late Medieval and Early Modern Europe. New York: Palgrave.

McGuire, M. B. 2008. Lived Religion: Faith and Practice in Everyday Life. New York, Oxford: University Press.

Moustakas, C. 1990. Heuristic Research: Design, Methodology, and Applications. Newbury Park, California: Sage.

Museum of London Archaeology Service. 1999. The Cross Bones Burial Ground, Redcross Way, Southwark, London, vii, 4, 29.

Preston, C. 2003. Grounding Knowledge: Environmental Philosophy Epistemology and Place. Athens and London: University of Georgia Press.

Sklar, D. 1994. “Can Bodylore be Brought to its Senses?” Journal of American Folklore, 423, 9–22.

The Southwark Mysteries, 2007. (accessed September, 2007).

Travis. 2010. The People of the Cross Bones Graveyard. Documentary film (accessed October, 2011).

Varela, F. J., E. Thompson, and E. Rosch. 1991. The Embodied Mind: Cognitive Science and Human Experience. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Wylie, A. 1995. “Alternative Histories: Epistemic Disunity and Political Integrity,” in P. R. Schmidt and P. T. Patterson, eds, Making Alternative Histories. Santa Fe, N. Mexico: School of American Research Press, 255–72.



How to Cite

Harris, A. (2013). Cross Bones Graveyard: Honouring the Outcast. Fieldwork in Religion, 8(2), 156–174.