Tag Archives: beliefs

Ghosts

This is the extended version of my notes for a talk I gave for the Nottingham Pagan Network on Wednesday 28th November 2018. Moonphase: 5th Waning Gibbous

Introduction

It’s November, and we are now well into the dark half of the year. From Halloween and Samhain, this time is considered closer to the supernatural realms. The shadows are long and the days are short and when night falls, things that go bump seem more likely to happen. When asked to do this talk, I thought it fitting to talk about ghosts as we have just come out of the days of the dead and have the mischief of Yule to look forward to.

What is a Ghost?

According to our lore, a ghost is the spirit of a dead person or animal that frequents or haunts a certain location, object or living person. In the past, a ghost would either still be around for the ending of unfinished business or even a refusal to depart this world. Some ghosts would be haunting a location to guard treasure, ghosts of the 18th and 19th Centuries were very big on foretelling the death of family members, for example. Whereas ghosts of the 20th Century seemed to have given this up and like to switch on appliances, turn up in photos or even haunt specific vehicles they were attached to in life.

There are supposedly different types too:

  • Poltergeists being the most famous, the name comes from the German for “Noisy Ghost”. Objects moving or being thrown across the room of their own accord are attributed to poltergeist activity. Various researchers claim Poltergeists are a manifestation of latent out of control telekenesis in children approaching puberty, others believe them to be individual spirits in their own right.
  • Apparitions, aka spectres, phantoms etc, these are the appearances of a figure or creature that were not there previously. They are normally present for a few seconds and then disappear once again. For eg: almost every old pub (from 18th Century or older) supposedly has the figure of a man wearing a wide hat and long cloak for e.g.
  • Repeating (or replay as friend of mine describes them) ghosts that perform the same action over and over (thought to be some kind of electromagnetic recording within a building or location). Think your Headless Horsemen that come out every full moon, or a monk that appears at the same time every night, haunted battlefields, etc.
  • Interactive Ghosts where people have supposedly had the ghost speak or perform some action in front of them. ‘The Phantom Hitchhiker’ for e.g.
  • Black Dogs, your barghests, shucks, Boggarts etc. Big black dogs with flaming eyes, heralding the demise of any who see them, although can be revealed to others if touched.
  • Shadow People, A more recently recorded phenomenon, said to appear, some with or without glowing red eyes or even wearing hats.
  • There is even something a friend of mine calls The Dead Barmaid Effect, more on this later.

Supposedly, a ghost is the soul or spirit of either a person or animal that is still on Earth even though its physical body has died. It has yet to pass into either the Otherworld or into the astral plane.

How Do You Know One Is There?

If I’m going by my own experiences as well as those others have reported then having a ghost produces the following:

• Feelings of being watched/ someone in the room despite you being alone.
• Cold spots happening for no reason whatsoever
• Objects moving, appliances and devices switching on themselves.
• Seeing shadows or figures in your peripheral vision
• Hearing voices despite no one being present
• Hearing music or sounds with no source

• A full or even partial manifestation as the ghost reveals itself.

Some entities are even said to have more dramatic effects, scratching of the walls or human flesh, the sound of screaming from nowhere, objects being thrown at witnesses or even full blown possession. However, the latter appears to be the exception rather than the rule. How many encounters are real and how many area form of mass hysteria inspired by Hollywood is difficult to say.

So, Who You Gonna Call?

There are parasychologists, mediums, ghost hunters and even exorcists should you wish to have someone examine or even look into removing the ghost at hand.
The problem with Ghost Hunters, is they like to bring a stock load of equipment, anything from infrared sensors to Ion detectors…. basically all the stuff that they swear can detect a ghost or even traces of such, yet scientists themselves still have found no actual proof of ghosts existing. So, ghost hunters have access to technology that scientists don’t? Interesting that…..

Attending a talk on ghost investigation, years ago in London, the speaker described using our own senses rather than use flashy tech to try and find a ghost. It was using this premise that myself and a few others decided to use when investigating a friend’s haunted house. We went off into different areas and wrote down anything that we thought might have been strange…. an hour of total silence later we met back and tried asking questions out loud. We compared notes three of us out of five all had written down the same year! One of us did bring a recorder for EVP and had an app on his phone for detecting ghosts…. the former didn’t yield any results and according to the app, there where ghosts everywhere, go figure!

Mediums are said to be in direct communication with the Spirit-World but messages are not always clear.

Exorcists go in and attempt to remove the ghost/entity, this is not always guaranteed to work, however.

Then of course there’s us in the Pagan Community: not all of us work with magic or ritual, neither do all of us work with spirits. And even amongst ourselves, we have to watch out for the bullshitters. I’m always wary of anyone who pipes up with “I see ghosts all the time”. Not all of our sources are reliable and like anyone else trying methods they aren’t familiar with, it’s down to trial and error.

What Does Science Say?

It says ghosts don’t exist. According to physicists, a ghost is either there or it isn’t. It can’t be both. A ghost is can either pass through things or it is a solid being, so which is it?
But there is something in the Electromagnetic theory of ghosts that explains quite a few of the symptoms of having a ghostly presence:

Medical studies have found that electrical fields can stimulate the Angular Gyrus (the part that processes interpreting language and numbers, our sense of self, memory recall, spacial awareness, it does quite a few things) in our brains, mimicking the sensation of us thinking there is something or someone behind us. Considering a lot of us have a mobile phone, a tablet or even headphones attached to something, you’d think we’d be experiencing this on a mass scale.

Cold spots are more regular in places with less humidity, too.

The problem is that ghosts aren’t a quantifiable thing, we are talking about something that can move through walls and any solid object, yet can manipulate physical devices. They are invisible by nature, yet can appear either partially or as a whole thing for a limited time. Because they aren’t an exact phenomenon, they can not be measured in scientific conditions. Ergo, according to science, they don’t exist…. even if we do encounter them.

Belief

Belief and expectation have a very large part in ghostly phenomena. Go into a known haunted location with the expectation of finding something and you’ll be swearing every movement and creak is a ghost.
Interestingly enough, there was a paranormal research group who experimented with collective consciousness back in the late 1970s. The experiment was to see if they could ‘create’ a ghost, with an identity and all. The group supposedly were successful and the being called itself “Phillip”.
It could be argued this is what happens when people come together with excited energy and the want for something. Ouija Boards for example (Penn & Teller’s Bullshit!) or even a term coined by a friend of mine called…..

The Dead Barmaid Effect

How is it that almost every old pub in the UK is supposed to be haunted by one of two ghosts (If not both?):

The Dead Barmaid….. You can picture the scenario: ghost hunters go into an old pub (insert 500+ yr old building), eager to make contact. Using a communication method, such as a pendulum or an Ouija board, they ascertain the pub is haunted by a former worker who died as a result of murder/broken heart/fell to her death. Ghost Hunting groups go in there and pick up on an “Alice” or “Elizabeth” who used to serve there years ago…. especially when there is no record of there being such previously. Similar to the “Phillip” creation described above, the Dead Barmaid is more of a group consciousness generated by a belief of the group with a want to find something. Then there’s this guy……..

Dick Turpin

With almost every old pub there is the shadowy figure wearing thick boots, a long cloak with a high folded collar, and three-cornered-hat…. almost always taken to be the infamous highwayman himself. Is it possible for the spirit to haunt several locations at once? Either that or we had old Dicky-T wrong and he went on the biggest pub crawl of the 18th Century!

The Problem With Recorded Evidence….

It can be faked. No matter how good a video or even a EVP recording is, low- budget horror movies have proven that you don’t need huge special effects to make “Evidence”. So, the problem is that even if something was genuinely caught on camera, as an image or recording, we’ll just shrug it off as being fake. Just think of ‘Paranormal Activity’ ‘Insidious’. Even back in the early 1990s the BBC had a one off ‘Ghost Watch’ which was so realistic for its time that it was reported at least one person committed suicide because of it! I didn’t think it was that bad, but I lost sleep for nights watching it when I was a kid…. Even if it was fake and was made as a prank.

So, You Wanna Remove a Ghost?

We assume ghosts were people once. What if they aren’t? From various accounts, animals can become ghosts, too. And what if the entity encountered was never a physical being in the first place? What if the phenomenon experienced is down to something that has been in its location for a long time and doesn’t want us physical people telling it what to do?

Then there are the malicious ghosts of people who were not friendly in life and terrify those who feel helpless in their situation because they think no one will believe them? People can turn to exorcism, but there are a few problems with this: we assume the being was human and also understands and accepts what religion is being used against it. We also assume the being is from elsewhere (spirit world, Hell, whatever) even though it could have occupied the same location since before humankind. Talking to a friend of mine involved with the Church, he informed me that exorcists have to have insurance!

Another approach would be to try and contact the entity in an effort to either move it on, help it find peace or even making peace with it…. neither of which are guaranteed.

Conclusions:

We don’t know what a ghost actually is. We are talking about something that cannot be quantified or even controlled. If there is a spirit world then I believe it runs parallel to our own with pockets of weakness between our world and the other and every now and then someone sees something. I wouldn’t even know how the mechanics of how this would work, but that’s my belief.

If ghosts are real, and if they are the spirits of people, even if they are something else, then we are talking about a non-corporeal consciousness; and like all things on Earth, should be treated with respect. It is not for us to go into a haunted area and start demanding that a presence leaves at our command or performs for our entertainment. I can guarantee if I was a ghost minding my own business and some people came looking for me with their tools and trinkets and demanding my name or disturbing my peace, I would do something to scare the living shit out of them….. or do nothing, just to piss them off.

Further Reading:

http://www.fmritools.com/kdb/grey-matter/parietal-lobe/angular-gyrus/index.html

https://science.howstuffworks.com/science-vs-myth/afterlife/ghost.htm

https://www.ghostsandgravestones.com/types-of-ghosts

https://www.inverse.com/article/43545-earth-second-magnetic-field-captured-satellites

https://www.britannica.com/science/electromagnetic-field

http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/magnetic/MagEarth.html

What are the gods? 

I was getting a lift home from rehearsal when my friend started asking about my beliefs.  He, himself is an atheist, but he showed a genuine curiosity in what I believed to be going on in the universe.

I have touched on this subject before, here

Obviously, I did not mention or bring up any of that.  That would have been way too much! 

Instead, I launched into a monologue of my latest hypothesis of the gods I believe in and what they are.  It went something like this: 

If we go with the idea that all there is through the universe is the Life Force.  And by that I mean the spark of life that is within you, is connected to the Life Force in all things: it is connected to the Life Force in others, in animals, the sea, plants, the wind, the rain, the Sun.  This Life Force permeates everything, it’s why some people can feel or even see the auras of other people and things.  It is the thing where our Life Force goes to when we die and is the reason why some people can claim to speak with the dead as their spark joins the pool, allowing echoes to be heard and remembered. 

You get the idea, right? 

So, what if….. What if this Life Force had a sentience to it? And it communicated with us, and these communications became manifest into beings our ancestors interpreted and called gods, or spirits even? 

In effect, the gods are the avatar of the Life Force. 

Of course, when talking about all this to someone who had already stated he was an atheist, he told me “The problem with anyone who believes in something, is that you’ll never convince me it is real.” 

And he’s right.  I can’t convince anyone of what I experience or believe to be true. Our experience is entirely subjective.  My beliefs are a mish-mash of what I have learned, experienced, encountered and found not to be true.  Yes, I resonate with the gods of a people whose culture has now gone.  I have had conversations in visualisation meditations with beings who claim to be these ‘gods’.  Are they in fact distant ancestors? a manifestation of the Life Force that uses images and names I would understand? A projection of my inner voice that I unconsciously make into a character (a bit like what happens when we dream, except this time I am more lucid)? 

What would make such encounters more interesting, is for one of these to appear and give you their name as one you don’t recognise.  Or better yet, a familiar deity comes forward and disagrees with you.  Saying why something won’t work or how something else is a bad idea.  Or even how some idea about them is wrong: although be sure to write notes upon coming to and do some research to back that one up! 

Question: How come all gods are not the same? 

Conjecture: Because they are relevant to the people they belong to. 

 I know these things, these conversations (revelations of insight?) , these beings are real in my perspective.  It’s like when I see balls of light at the Grove Hearth:  I physically see them with my own two eyes, even point out when they are there, but no one else does.  Except for one other.  Do I know what those balls of light are? No.  Can I show a team of scientists one of our ceremonies in the Grove and point out when the balls of light arrive? No, they don’t appear every time.

And so it is with gods, spirits, entities et al I can’t convince other people these things exist just because I encountered something.

And as I was explaining the Life Force hypothesis to my friend, I actually realised how ridiculous this sounds to someone who doesn’t believe.  You’ve got to admit, it does sound crazy.  Any of it, all of it! And people go to war over this?  People murder each other because they disagree? 

Thankfully there was no war in my friend’s car, we ended the chat on pleasant terms and I finished it by saying: 

“You’re right, I can’t convince you of what I believe.  My beliefs are my own.  But if I was to say if you were to believe in something, believe in you.” 

Image from independent.ie

Realignment

June.  That was the last month I wrote something in depth. I have managed to write something every month or so, albeit in the form of a poem, a saying, or even a prayer. 

Actually, I don’t feel the need to write anything in depth.  No examinations of what those legends may actually mean, no breaking down of Pagan concepts (Classical or Modern), no questioning of the values or ethics around us.  In fact there are so many people reeling from the political victory of Brexit and Donald Trump, there are plenty already questioning the world around them…. 

 Whereas my investigative flair has faded to nothing.  Nada.  Zip.  Diddley-Squat.  

During August, I feared I might have severed the link between myself and my spirituality.  Since the end of June, I dedicated myself to learning my lines for a theatrical performance.  In August, I did the same with another, both of them are now finished and performed.  Having embraced my acting self as my Bardic self, I have sought to regain and discover new skills for being the actor I want to be.  As well as discovering the actor I am turning into.  

It would be wrong of me to say I ‘put my life on hold’ because of the two plays.  Sure, I became less socially active and my days off were dedicated to line learning as were my evenings after work and then there were rehearsals.  

Performance is a discipline. It is hours of line learning, practicing the mannerisms of another person, working with the energy levels of your colleagues so the show does not lag.  Remembering where to be in the right place at the right time, thinking within a split second of a replacement word if you end up forgetting the correct one and doing all of this with a huge adrenaline rush once you are doing it.  To do that and more requires focus and discipline in yourself. 

And so, I threw myself into this creative path.  To me, it feels so right to do so.  It has stoked my inner fires and is my main focus. Where I may not be performing my Bardic Rituals everyday (the last was before I moved house in June) I have come to understand this, at the moment, is not what I need in my life right now.  

I still light my candles to my deities, ancestors and the spirits around me.  I still honour the seasons that pass and celebrate them; I still give offerings and have even done a little research into Japanese Fox spirits.  I have discovered my spirituality is in who I am, not just what I do.  This has also allowed me to view my spirituality, my beliefs and my self objectively.  And in this I have learned much, including belief in myself. 

But for the time being, I will post when I can with what I can give.  

After all, if one’s spirituality is only defined by one’s work with ritual, then what is ritual if not a performance? 

Photo by Locksley2010

Deep Questions pt. 2: Do you worship Gods?

 

Image from NASA
Image from NASA

Okay, this is going to be a big one.  We’re going to go nice and deep.  So go and put your kettle on and make your self a tea, coffee or hot chocolate and get yourself ready.

This is the second installment of what was supposed to be a three part series which was taken from a conversation between me and my Pagan friends from Newark, Heidi, Helen and The Nathans.
You can read part one here.  This entire post explores some of the themes we discussed.  The question of deity came up in the Grove I belong to, which you can find here.

The title question didn’t come up exactly like that, but the conversation went in the direction of talking about the gods and were Druids priests?
As for the priest thing, I think that’s debatable as the accounts we draw on for classical Druidry were written by Greek and Roman writers going on third hand information in trying to explain a totally different culture by their own standards.

Do I worship gods? Yes. I regularly give offerings and light a candle when I feel the desire to do so.  There’s no point in doing ritual if it feels like a chore now, is here?

And it all depends on what you mean by god.

Still got that hot drink? You might want to consider something stronger, beer or whisky helps….

I don’t believe the gods are cloud dwelling, toga wearing bearded individuals who play games of fate with our lives for sport.
Neither do I believe that the gods are space aliens from another world/dimension and that magic was only a science our ancients didn’t understand…. although I do find the case of the Dogon tribe in Africa very interesting indeed.

I have written before of my fascination with the Tuatha De Danaan and I am inclined to believe they were once real people who either were one of the most famous Celtic tribes of all time, or they were exceptional in their own individual spheres.  Are they creator gods? No.  Although in their pantheon, they brought light to the Isle of Destiny and the world was here before they were.

I have discovered that my form of belief falls within what is called Animism, where you believe all things have a spirit.  An essence, spark of the divine: Prana, chi, numina, nwyfre, soul whatever you want to call it.  And it is this essence that is eternal.  I have a hypothesis that goes:

Every thing has a spark of creation in it. Whether it be animal, vegetable, mineral, water or a star.  Just because we see the world differently from a tree, or a dolphin or a mouse, it doesn’t mean they don’t have their own ways of life and form of consciousness.  This spark/divine essence/thing is what remains when our physical body dies.  Now, say that someone dies and they were exceptional in some way.  The rest of the community that individual served need help with something our dead person was very, very good at.  So they call upon the essence of that individual to help them… and it works.  It works so well that for generations that particular spirit becomes regarded as an ancestor.  Further generations down the line and that ancestor becomes deified.  They become a god.
Say, for some reason, other people now call upon this deity, and it catches on.  Then for other reasons, the practice stops and the deity becomes forgotten… What happens here? Does it die? Does it go around inspiring people? Or does it roam existence until someone some when finds information about that deity and wants to begin practice all over again?  And should there be someone to give it reverence or worship, does that mean the person or persons giving to it add something of themselves to it?
We see this happen with the Saints, it happens in Native American cultures when they revere a household totem, of which there are two types.  One is a personal totem which acts as a sort of good luck charm, the other is a family totem that cannot be bartered or lent or sold.  But it can become adopted by the whole tribe as a Godhead as it is added to the rote of ancestors.  In short, gods can be made.

When most people say ‘god’ they mean a creatrix being that creates all things and knows everything about everyone in all space and time.  When they say ‘gods’ they mean beings who are beyond mortal.  I classify gods, ghosts, spirits, otherworldly beings, elementals, demons, dervishes, spirits of place, etc as Non Physical Beings, NPB’s for short.
This is because I believe that if you go with the above as a form of consciousness, then that means they are not limited to any one particular physical form or shape.  They can choose a myriad of forms with which to approach us, or in some cases (if not all), it depends on our own perception filters on how we see them.  I also believe that there are NPBs that have been around for a very long time and occasionally helped our ancestors in some way, whether through inspiration, advice or intervention.  I believe that some of these beings even became the Godhead for certain peoples and societies.

Do gods control us?  On the contrary, my own personal take is that fate is pretty much a sealed deal: you’re born and you die.  Destiny, however is what happens in the middle and it is up to us to make it work.  Its like we have a certain line we follow in life that, if we do follow it, can result in our highest potential being fulfilled (which goes onto our spirit being given the chance to grow).  I believe the gods, or at least other NPB’s who give a shit about us want to help us keep on this course, whatever it is, and in helping us achieve this, help themselves.

So, this brings me on to the models I discussed with the Newark gang…

1:  All Gods are real-
Yep, all gods, deities, spirits, anything out there that is an NPB is in fact real.
Brighid is a conscious entity that is fully aware of who and what she is, and even helps us out.  She inspires us with poetry, creative endeavour, prophecy and helps midwives make the right choices.  Odin disguises himself as many different people to interact with our world (Midgard).  There are land spirits wrecking strange havoc in your house, we call them poltergeists now, just say you’re really sorry and offer them milk.  Jehova/Yahweh is simply the God of Israel, not of everything and his word has been rewritten that many times, no one remembers what he was really on about.  Spirits of the wind actually do dance, creating wind eddies,Fire is alive and well and watches you! Its ALL true.

2: Spirit is all-
Similar to above, but everything is simply spirit in other forms.  Spirit is the underlying thing that binds all living (and dead) beings.  Think of the Force from ‘Star Wars’. It flows through us and around us as well as beyond us.  It is by tapping into spirit that NPBs have knowledge of past, present and future as well as having some telepathic knowledge about us.  Nothing dies, it only transforms.  There are spirits of all kinds, spirits of people, animals, plants, the planet, the winds, water.  Even ‘gods’ are spirits.

3: We ARE The Gods-
A very interesting idea coming from books on Chaos Magic.  This goes on the premise that we are in fact our own gods.  All that magic you’ve cast, spells been made, those signs of synchronicity that lead you to things are all your own doing.  Any NPB that is personal to us is a manifestation of our own self made into an interactive form.  So yes, Anubis IS probably talking to you because YOU created him!
The NPB is a sort of avatar if you will.  In short, we are more awesome than we dare to imagine!

4: It’s all crap-
There does remain the possibility that everything I’ve described above is totally, utterly, absolutely rubbish.  There are no gods, there are no spirits or magic, things don’t happen for our benefit and it is all just coincidence coupled with a desire to believe.
We are born, we die and that’s it.  The universe is not a self-exploring entity and we are a nanosecond blip in the infinite cosmos.  How gloomy and boring is that?

I’m sure there are more models and possibilities, but if I wanted to examine this subject in more detail, that would mean turning this essay into a book.

My belief is a mixture of models 2 and 3.  I believe that everything has a spirit or essence, that spirits don’t all have physical forms and that there are conscious entities alive and active in our world apart from us and other creatures of the world. I believe that we can create our own interface entities that have the potential to become NPB’s of their own consciousness and become individual beings.
I believe that there are independent NPB’s that actually want to help us.  But why?  Is it because they feed on our belief and off us? Or is it because, like us, they were once actual people who became deified and evolved in someway. And through helping us by showing us how to access our own potential and increasing the potency of our own spirit we can become like they are… our spirits evolve? (Y’know… like pokemon!)

I’m nearly finished, I promise! So, as you sit there with the last mouthful in your drinking vessel waiting for you, I’ll finish on this note:

Last Monday I received a message from my friend, Dianara.  She is a Priestess of Diana and she had a message from the Morrigan for me: ‘Everything is for your own good, stop complaining and get out of there…
Okay…. I get that this whole year has been about change.  And yes I agree that whatever I have or am still going through is indeed for my benefit.  Complaining? I probably was and didn’t realise it.  As for getting out of there, me and Dianara talked and she felt that it was more of a bad place I was in, a sadness or bad mental state.  This is where the message hit home.  For a couple of weeks I was indeed sad.  Things had made me question my actions and second guess myself.  I hadn’t told Dianara what had been bothering me before the message and I hadn’t given any sign of Les Booky Farce of my sadness, so how did Dianara know? Because the Morrigan, my Great Queen, my assigned deity from the Tuatha De Danaan whether she be a deity, an ancestor, a construct or whatever she is told my friend a message for me.  Which is exactly what I think the Morrigan would say: ‘Quit yer bitchin’ and chin up, it’ll be worth it!
And so to my sadness I say two words: No More.
Thanks for the message, Dianara and thanks Morrigan for the kick up the ass.

This is why I believe. How about you?