Dusk Ceremony at the Elephant House 2011

The Dusk Ceremony took place at The Elephant House on the Saturday 30th April 2011 in the Old Anglican section of Rookwood Necropolis.

Participants were invited to make a lantern, contribute to a fire sculpture and bring an object that was symbolic of what they wished to lay to rest and to pass through the veils that divide our worlds. It was the first community ceremony at Rookwood that celebrated uncertainty and the transformative power of laying to rest.

The Dusk Ceremony falls at a time of the year where we honor the completion of our growing season, of harvest and the lighter more active months. We enter into our time of rest and renewal. In these months as we lay to rest what has passed, we begin to dream and conceive the seeds of possibility, for when spring comes. In many spiritual and religious traditions this is the time of year for renewal and for the deep, transforming power of rest within the growing darkness. In the southern hemisphere, seasonally, this is our ‘Halloween’ the time of year where the veils between our worlds are the thinnest.

This year it follows Easter, also a time of rebirth and renewal. This ceremony, conducted within a civil context, celebrated the beautiful surrounds of Rookwood and invited people to lay to rest what is passed, what was complete and to begin to kindle what may come from here. We celebrated the time of ‘in between’ – of transformation when you are not yet one thing or another, a powerful and often uncertain time, that we bathe in light, music, song, fire and a warm soup to set us on our way.

The event was wheelchair accessible and suitable for adults and children alike. We will perform this ceremony annually. Stay tuned for 2012 details. 

Map of meeting spot

View Dusk Ceremony at the Elephant House in a larger map

Rookwood Necropolis is one of the largest and oldest cemeteries in the Southern Hemisphere. The Anglican section was one of the first built in 1868 and was the foremost example of Victoria Garden Cemeteries throughout the world. Over one million people have their final resting place within the boundaries of its almost 3km². Much of the flora and fauna is indigenous to the area and other plants, the more prominent palms and succulents were seeded and grown here in the nursery and the gardens were designed and planted in collaboration with the then director of the Royal Botanic Gardens. Many of the conifers and cypress trees were symbols of immortality. Those who were interred here, do so in style. Here it is a testament to a time when mourning rituals prevailed in people’s lives and to a time where there was no conception that physical space will ever be limited. Many of the graves, crypts and monuments are in fact that, monumental, and stand here, some decaying others enduring the constant and continuous dance of the cycle of life and the passage of time.

The Elephant House This building was completed in 1878 and was provided as a refuge and rest house for mourners as they came to visit and pay their respects to their dead, or one of the many Sydneysiders who would take the train from Mortuary Station out here, to Rookwood to enjoy the Serpentine Canal and the gardens for which Rookwood was famous. It is affectionately known as the Elephant House because of its slightly Raj influenced architecture. It has by equal measures been the Office for the Anglican trust of Rookwood, a rest house and a shelter for local homeless people and more recently, pigeons.This ceremony marked the beginning of its restoration and the renewal of its primary purpose- a place of Rest within the greater expanse of this cemetery with its millions of resting souls.


Rookwood Cemetery. Photography: Mayu Kanamori

Pre-event photographs of the Elephant House site by Mayu Kanamori.





Elephant House Documentation

Click here to see photographs from the event.

One Response to “Dusk Ceremony at the Elephant House 2011”

  1. Frances Elliott says:

    Last week I found an uncle and two aunties who had been in the hearts and minds of their brother (my father)from the time they left the shores of England. They where there in black and white on the Australian electrol roll. Eliza Louisa Cummings,Edward James Cummings and Mary Roseveare Cummings. The girls in and around Sydney,Edward not far away in Brisban. Did they keep in touch with one another after arriving in Sydney. Did they just forget the family left behind in England, their mother, more than any one, who I watched go blind and sit with her memory’s. My mother wrote letter upon letter to try to trace them. Salvation Army who drew a blank or did they request to be left alone, who knows. They will live on as long as I’m alive. I will visit their resting places. 2003 I was with in a few miles of Eliza grave when walking in the Blue Mountains.