Memorial Gates

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The shrine at the Cross Bones Memorial Gates in Redcross Way dates back to the first Halloween of Cross Bones in 1998. This performance of songs, poems and ritual dramas from The Southwark Mysteries was followed by a procession from Southwark Playhouse to the gates. Candles were lit, totemic objects tied to the iron bars and the first of a series of unofficial plaques was fixed to the wall:

The plaque, adorned with varnished flowers, was widely believed to be the work of a local Working Girl named Emily. It read: ‘To fix in time, this site the Crossbones Graveyard, where… the Whores and the Paupers of the Southwark Liberty, in graves unconsecrated, lay resting... where now, at Millennial turning, the Whores and the Paupers and our Friends return incarnate, in ritual, with tribute and offerings, to honour, to remember...’

The Southwark Mysteries
John Constable, Oberon Books 1999, p. 280

As the Halloween of Cross Bones evolved as an annual event, a succession of home-made plaques regularly appeared on the wall around the gate. Each was eventually vandalised, or perhaps removed by the site-owners, to be replaced by a new plaque until, in 2005, Southwark’s ‘Cleaner Greener Safer’ fund paid for the official bronze plaque and the ivy planters which now adorn the gates.

Meanwhile, the spontaneous shrine at the gates was continually renewed and transformed as a living artwork and memorial to the outcast dead. In 2004, the community self-help Green Angels rededicated the shrine, introducing new elements into the remembrance ceremonies performed there. This also marked the beginning of the monthly:

'... vigil and service at Cross Bones Graveyard upon the stroke of seven...
to renew the shrine...
to honour The Goose Spirit...
to remember her outcast dead...
to light and sweep clean the open pathways...
to commune with the living in transforming acts of vision...
and to receive the transforming energies that flow back and forth through the Cross Bones Portal...'

John Crow

These vigils, initiated by John Crow, allegedly acting under orders from the Goose, are open to people ‘of all faiths and none’. They are held at 7pm on the 23rd of each month, lasting anything from a few minutes to an hour. Celebrants meet at the gates in Redcross Way, just north of the junction with Union Street, SE1 (5 minutes walk from London Bridge or Borough tube).

The form of the service is drawn from the hermetic teachings of The Goose as revealed to John Crow. Everyone is invited to bring a personal offering – a poem, drawing or message, some flowers, candles or incense, home-made decorations, jewellery (The Goose doesn't mind paste! :-), personal mementoes and other totems – to tie to the iron bars of the Memorial gates whilst reciting the following "echo prayer", which has been spoken at the shrine for more than ten years:

Here lay your hearts, your flowers,
Your Book of Hours,
Your fingers, your thumbs,
Your Miss You, Mums.
Here hang your hopes, your dreams,
Your Might-Have-Beens,
Your locks, your keys,
Your Mysteries.

The Southwark Mysteries
 John Constable, Oberon Books, 1999, p. 206

Candles and incense are lit, bells rang and rattles shaken, and offerings of water and gin made with the following call-and-response blessing:

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