Friday, June 22, 2007

Mortal Remains

A human skull trimmed in silver, for holding ritual wine,
from the Potala Palace in Lhasa.
Photo by Gu Shoukang, Foreign language press, Beijing.

Not the most lovely bones.

Perhaps I have paleo instincts, but I find bones much more evocative of pure creep than blood 'n gore and gobbets of flesh.

On Wednesday, a Reuters story revealed the discovery of a human bone factory and the arrest of a ring devoted to smuggling skulls and thigh bones to the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan for use in Buddhist monasteries - as drinking cups and blow horns.

Since such objects last a"lifetime" - to quote a priest from the Mahabodhi temple, officials believe the racket had a wider selection of customers than monkish chief purchasing agents in charge of ceremonial supply.

Plot bunny seems a totally inadequate, and much too gentle term for this news story. There's the skeleton of a plot here.

Writers are often asked where we get our "ideas."

If our boiling brain cases ever run short of ideas, we have only to turn to the news.

Btw, a number of crystal skulls have been unearthed from various archaeological digs. Some are reported to scream under certain conditions.

This post brought to you by Imitations of Mortality, Inc.


writtenwyrdd said...

Bones and crystal skulls are very evocative, lol. I had a book about the crystal skulls. If I still had it, I'd mail it to you. It would make a good plot bunny! Supposedly, the skulls are to all be discovered and, if I recall correctly, form some sort of computer or repository of ancient knowledge that will save the world, issue in a new age, or some such. I think the number of skulls is supposed to be the magic 13, too...

Bones have been used for ceremonial objects in Tibet for ages. I saw entire outfits made of human bones in the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco.

Personally, though, I have warm and fuzzy feelings about old bones. They make me feel connected to the past. And I really want to see those old churches in Eastern Europe that are made of millions of human bones!

writtenwyrdd said...

BTW, in the same vein as trafficking in bones, you can sell that zombie dust in your WIP. (Recall that old post where we talked about it?)

Bernita said...

S'alright, Written, think I still have a couple of those. The finder of one crystal skull lives west of Toronto.
Yep, all ivory carvings don't come from elephants.
Yikes, Yorick!
And mummy dust used in medicine...

Jaye Wells said...

Looks like we both had bones on the brains today. I saw a feature about Bhutan on TV a couple of months ago. What a fascinating culture.

Bernita said...

Hee, Jaye! You weren't up when I first came by.
I already have a skeleton in my closet - but it's plastic.
I've always wondered about these reminders of the body's impermanence - particularly in cultures where life was often brutal and short - and bone lasts.

writtenwyrdd said...

The Chinese use 'jewel pills' made with precious gems, pearls, gold and silver in various combinations. I think chelated silver (ww?) is taken for some of the same reasons. Although I recall a news story of a man who became permanently gray because of taking waaaaay too much silver!

takoda said...

Oh man, the screaming skull. To me, that invokes the scariest and creepiest image.

"The Road's" use of skeletons provided another layer of creep/eerie.

And I know I can google this, but what are 'crystal skulls?'


Gabriele C. said...

There are some nice bones in Catholic churches over here. Bonifatius' skull (complete with the marks the Frisian swords left) in Fulda, the entrie skeleton of St.Theresia (wrapped in half decayed, veil-like cloth and adorned with jewels) in Munich ...

My first bones were the skeleton from a bronze time burial, with remains of bracelets and brooches, the way they found in. I was about five then and found it fascinating. A fasciantion that never really left me. :)

sex scenes at starbucks said...

My WIP Exiled has antags based on barbarians, some of which used the skulls of defeated enemies as drinking vessels. In one particularly gory instance, the barbarian took the conquered king's daughter as his bride, turned the king's skull into a goblet, stem and everything, and it was used at every meal. The princess, now barbarian queen, frequently had to drink from the that community cup made from her father's skull.

We humans find no end of ways to torture one another.

Bernita said...

Too rich a diet, perhaps, Written? The rare and precious ingredient.

Carved from rock crystal, Takoda, some with articulated jaws.Some found in Central American temples.

I find such relics fascinating too, Gabriele, and not at all scary. It's what we sometimes do with them I find a little macabre.

That eould do it, SS. Think the Celts, in general, were one group who had a thing about skulls.

Gabriele C. said...

Oh SS, I want to read that book.

Bonnie Calhoun said...

A year or so ago, there was a bone stealing operation uncovered on Long Island, NY.

The mortuary was stealing leg bones and stuffing the skin with PVC fill them back out.

The investigation showed Xrays of several corpses with the PVC pipes...PVC connector joints and all!

Bones...without a body wrapped around them are just plain creepy to me!

Locally they just found a skull on a tiny deserted island in the river...they've done the forensic reconstruction and are showing the face on TV in hopes of finding out who the guy was!

Bernita said...

Drug, gun and people smuggling is so cliche, Bonnie!

Anita Marie Moscoso said...

A little A.E. Housman would do:

Therefore they shall do my will
Today while I am master still,
And flesh and soul, now both are strong,
Shall hale the sullen slaves along,
Before this fire of sense decay,
This smoke of thought blow clean away,
And leave with ancient night alone
The steadfast and enduring bone.

( Jade sent me over...and I'm glad she did this was a very interesting read!)

Rick said...


You're right - bones are creepy, which is why skeletons are a Halloween staple.

raine said...

There's the skeleton of a plot here.

I swear, the plotting portion of my brain was already in gear before I reached this sentence, lol.

Bernita said...

Thank you, Anita Marie. Yes, very nice A.E.

Rick, when I was five or so, I thought dead people turned immediately into skeletons.

Just have to flesh it out a little, Raine.

Robyn said...

Gobbets. Totally my new favorite word.

Bones are way creepy. I've probably seen too many movies where the bony hand up and grabs you.

Bernita said...

Those are shriek! shriek! moments, Robyn!

LadyBronco said...

Bones and perhaps the barest hint of a bloody scene are sooo much more effective than gore - I totally agree with you on that point Bernita.

It's like showing too much skin. Isn't it so much more sensual and intriguing to leave something to the imagination?

Read that story myself, Bernita (thanks for the tip-off.)
Quite interesting, very creepy.

Bernita said...

Hoped you would find it interesting, Lady B.!
Such items are "bones," I always think.

Scott from Oregon said...

A friend of mine would scoop up road kill for the bones, and then refashion them into miniature dinasaurs.

Bernita said...

That's a creative craft, Scott, though mean to the carrion crows.
I used to make turkey neck-bone necklaces for the kids when they wanted to play native hunters.

Jon M said...

The Liverpool museum used to display shrunken heads which were quite chilling to look at. I don't think they show them any more. We once took our son to see a collection of 'bog bodies' in Denmark. We were concerned that he might find them disturbing but when asked he just frowned and said 'They aren't very good are they?' Ho Hum, back to the playstation!

Anonymous said...
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ORION said...

OMG the bog bodies!!! I remember them from the national geographic -- I think I might have been 12 - I wouldn't eat beef stroganoff for YEARS!!!! (I thought it kind of looked brownish like the bodies...
Hey I was just a kid!

Bernita said...

You never know with kids - what will disturb them and what will not - do you, Jon?

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Acid content preserved them very well, Pat. That must have been an extraordinarily impressive photograph!

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