Of Cairns & Cists

By Bernie Bell

I don’t look at many things on Social Media – a few Facebook pages and a few Twitters – but I do get some links sent to me from various blogs and websites.  This morning reading the Ness of Brodgar website, I found a most excellent article by Sigurd Towrie about cairns and cists…..  https://www.nessofbrodgar.co.uk/sandfiold-cremation-tomb-and-cist/

Sometimes these are seen as being evidence of very different burial practices from different times and ways of being but, as Sigurd explains, there may have been more of a merging of those ways of being than has previously been considered. Sometimes cists are found placed into cairns – from different times, maybe different practices, but a sign of reverence being paid to the old sites by the people who have followed on in that area.

I’ll leave it to Sigurd to illuminate this concept, and just throw in a few links which have some reference to cairns & cists  – burials and cremations….


And my own tale of a cist….

When Ben-The-Dog died we had him cremated, and the vet retuned his ashes to us in a little ceramic jar.  I tied his name tag round the neck of the jar with a bit of hairy string.  We’d made a Howe by our pond (Pond Howe) and Mike dug a hole in it, into which we placed a flat stone, with four flat stones in a square around the sides of it. We placed the jar with Ben’s ashes in the space created there, and placed another flat stone on top, and buried the whole thing.  A Howe, with a cist in it.

And sometimes wildlife sheltering by it….

Old ways, die hard.

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