Monday, June 11, 2012

The Dead are Everywhere!

Duhn duhn duhn!

Ok, so I wrote a big ass post about how my cultures sucks when it comes to dealing with the dead, and it was long and highly detailed and boring as shit.

So fuck that.

I did make a cool graphic for the post that would be a shame to waste:


This shows how many of the different types of ghosts there are that I've run into on a regular basis. The names of the Dead above are based on the Roman classifications.

I haven't run into very many of the Powerful Dead, at least, not knowingly. They're like the local Heroes whose tombs are visited regularly, offerings left for protection and aid. My culture doesn't do that very much. These guys are like the Saints of the Cahtolic Church. Most of my readers are familiar with a few systems that work with the Dead these days, so I won't go over it all again.

Beneath them I put the Lares/Larvae with some coherence. They might remember who they were in life, and they might make good companions to magicians, or work well to protect the hearth and home if they're like Ancestor spirits. You can hold a conversation with them, and they have more influence over the world.

Beneath them are the hordes of the restless dead. They're convenient for magicians, but for most of society at large, they suck. They cause anxiety, and magnify mental illnesses that relate to the functions of the amygdala. I think many depression and anxiety disorders are related to this class of the dead. Everyone gets anxious or depressed some of the time, but it becomes a disorder when it lasts for long periods of time, or incapacitates you in some way.

These are the spirits I think should be regularly exorcised. They don't bother me or my family because I'm a magician and I've set up my kingdom properly, but most people don't know much about this kind of thing. The number of people with a practical eschatology is extremely small.

In my neighborhood, we've got some people celebrating the Dies de las Muertes, but it's not like a festival of the dead, it's just an excuse to get drunk. Halloween used to be about the dead, but these days it's about kids getting the kiddie equivalent of their drunk on with piles of candy.

I'm all for partying and shit, I'm not saying we should stop drinking, or dressing our kids up in cheap costumes and gathering loot because the days are supposed to be holy or anything.

But these holidays served a practical purpose in the community, they cleaned out the accumulated weak/obnoxious dead. I drove down to Virginia a few weeks ago, and some of the little protestant rural towns we went through were heavy with the dead. Modern funerals are for the living, not for the dead. Pastors don't bother praying a spirit to heaven, and their "consecrated" grounds don't really seem to do much to keep the dead from walking. The air was thick with 'em in some places.

Now this makes magic a lot easier to do for magicians. It just takes a little Martial/Saturnian Work to get them to focus on making what you want happen. Most of 'em are weak and pretty useless on their own, but you get enough of them working on something you want, and they can be highly effective. I think it's pretty rad that you can get a spiritual army together that can shake the foundations of the world using a simple nine-day rite.

But with my established relationships with other spirits, it's never been necessary.

For non-magicians, it just sucks. They don't know they're haunted, let alone what to do about it. Red wine and xanax get a lot of people through it, but a regular cleansing would be better for them in the long run. I've started exorcising my secular friends when they start going loopy. It's nothing formal that they're aware of, but when someone in my circle of acquaintances starts exhibiting symptoms of a nervous breakdown, I perform a rite on their behalf to get rid of any Larvae that might be infesting their spheres. I figure it can't hurt.

I'm careful not to accidentally get rid of any positive dead that might be around. I'm not going to just banish everything, blind to the fact that for thousands of years humans have had beneficial relationships with their dead. I know I don't know everything about people's personal spiritual lives, and I certainly don't need any pissed off ancestor spirits gunning for me.

But I do my part to shrive the shades that would have been shriven if my stupid culture wasn't more interested in getting drunk than living well. I'm not doing this out of the goodness of my heart. I personally have benefited from helping out my subjects. It makes my kingdom run more smoothly when the people in it aren't being driven nuttier by the shades of the dead.

25 comments:

  1. Still ended up on the long and boring side, but it's better than the first attempt.

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  2. I disagree about the "long and boring" thing...

    I was just thinking about the concept of the"exalted dead" today, actually. Like the spirits of dead celebrated persons... the energy that they get fed when people mourn them, etc.

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  3. I actually really like your simple chart. I find that totally useful as a means to think about.

    thanks!

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  4. It makes me wonder if the Powerful dead are happy dead? Like happy staying dead, and from the looks of the graphic, only the Powerful dead seems to be worth the attention.

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  5. That's actually a pretty coherent framework. I've done a few space blessings in my time in chaplaincy that have gotten magnified by the rumors into full-blown "exorcisms" and suchlike. A little odd, but in retrospect maybe that's what they were.

    I tend to work with the Yoruba framework of the ancestors. though not in a Yoruba sort of way... I do my own stuff, but I find their model of the realms of the dead (as I've been given to understand it) helpful: the family spirits, the heroes of the people, and the Nameless Greats. When people still go "huh?" at that, I tell them that Family Spirits are the people that are known and remembered in their own families: my uncles Charles and Wilbur, my grandparents, and so on. The heroes of the people are everyone from Thomas Jefferson to Martin Luther King. The Nameless Greats are people like "the brave woman who first ate a pineapple" or "the inventor of fire" or "the first archer".

    But I think I should definitely add in the Chinese category, "hungry ghosts" to the bottom of my pyramid. It's not exactly precisely part of the Yoruba framework, but it's clear that they are 'out and about, wandering in the world' and they can make your life difficult.

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  6. I'm disappointed. I wanted the long and boring part about working with the dead, the detailed notes of your exorcisms, etc. I feel it to be something I could use in my own work. Any information you feel comfortable posting would be helpful.

    You shouldn't let perfectionism ruin what you want to say, just because you are a professional writer doesn't mean every post has to be something an English teacher would be proud of.

    Actually, the posts I tend to skim or skip tend to be posts on topics I have no interest in, rather than posts that are long or as some people would say, tedious. You are not posting for the 13
    year old with no attention span here.

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  7. Oh great now I got images of legions of Shades marching past my house to carry out my will in the area...

    Hmmmm

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  8. Love the diagram!

    Shaman Christina Pratt (of Why Shamanism Now podcast and The Last Mask Center) talks a lot about how this is a problem our current society faces that wasn't as much of a problem in the past. For example, most indigenous communities had rituals for helping the dead to cross over and be ancestralized in a good way so their immortal soul could get where it needed to go and the part of their soul that becomes an ancestor could travel to the ancestral realm and return as an ancestor helping spirit.

    People were taught since they were children a cosmology that told them what would happen when they died so they could die in a good way. Now most people have little or no cosmology, no idea what happens, and with the lifestyle most people lead, not even enough energy to die properly and make the transition. Hence the huge ghost surplus and diseases of much older people manifesting in 20 somethings. Highly recommend listening to some of her podcasts on this subject.

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  9. John - a majority of human cultures find it more than worthwhile to work with the spirits in the middle of the chart, who include our ancestors. Sometimes the bottom section includes our ancestors too. Bon Festival, for instance, is said to have begun when a young Buddhist discovered that the soul of his mother had fallen into the realm of hungry ghosts, and he went to the Buddha, who told him how to release her from suffering. As the acolyte saw her spirit rise, he saw the goodness of her soul and remembered the many sacrifices she had made for him in life, and danced with joy for her liberation. Now Japanese Buddhists visit their family graves each August and perform this dance, and light lanterns to help their ancestors get where they need to go.

    There are comparable practices in Latin America, such as Dia de Los Muertos, which is a very happy family occasion for having lunch in the graveyard with your relatives. (Festivals of the dead are not always about "cleaning out" unwanted spirits, although some cultures have separate holidays or additional customs specifically for that. There are many ghost-related festivals in China, for example - many of their Lunar New Year customs are intended to scare away evil spirits.) Or in various Spiritist traditions in the Caribbean and South America, ancestral work is done specifically to help those souls advance to the top level of being Powerful Dead.

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  10. @John, what VVF said. The middle tier are a lot more available, and are totally worth Working with. You can develop personal relationships with them that are like friendships with the living. It's possible to do that with the Manes too, but they're pretty busy and focused on shit we don't generally understand. They're mostly somewhere else, if that makes any sense.

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  11. I was sufficiently pushed by this post, RO, to actually go and do some ancestor work that I'd been seriously avoiding. Which was ... startling and beautiful and hard enough, that I posted it. These things are useful to people, not least of all yourself. Clears baggage, and all that.

    Thanks for the push to get this done.

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  12. Very helpful! Thanks for the info VVF. For the record, I'm not actually biased to any spirit. Good or bad they're all friends to me, what concerns me about eschatology is that suffering is still here after death.

    I give offerings of meditation and energy for spirits with the intent of pacification and compassion because the fear of death is a sudden, unexpected, unwanted transition of one life into a new one that is not so human. Restriction. If karmic transmigration is true that is.

    Maybe the Powerful Dead are unrestricted like the lesser dead of the graphic. And maybe they are too busy being psychopomps for the other lesser dead. I'll take comfort in that because after I die, I just want to lend a helping hand. I don't want to be another hungry ghost to feed. Or a hell being screaming.

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  13. Where do people who are relieved & appreciative that they are now dead fit in to your diagram? Do the grateful dead feature at each of the 3 levels?

    On a more serious note... The lack of rituals, practices to deal with the dead is quite shocking. Also, having specific time for the living to mourn is crucial, specifically in a graded manner with intense mourning at the start followed by lower intensity after a week, then a month, then a year. If the living do not engage in such practices, it's no wonder that the dead stay attached to their loved ones. That attachment can and does distract the living with getting on with living.

    I'm holding back from interfering with a woman I know whose deceased mother refuses to leave. The daughter is still mourning after many years and it's affecting her young children. That's not healthy.

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  14. This is an excellent post, Frater RO. These classifications are something that many of the ATRs would agree on as well.

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  15. Enjoyed this. I don't have much else to say on it besides that.

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  16. I took a college course in Christian (specifically Roman Catholic) eschatology once when I had thought of becoming a priest. And I am posting some info on Plains Indian eschatology and "ghostology" on my paranormal blog at http://paranormalmontana.blogspot.com/

    For those who are not magicians, what are some of the remedies/protective measures you have found most worth recommending?

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  17. Do you have any thoughts on what the traditional Placebo & Dirge, Mass, and "absolutions" accomplish on this front - on the day of burial, the 3rd, 7th, 30th, and yearly anniversaries? Is their efficacy curtailed by being in physical proximity to the dead? By the beliefs of the dead?
    Catholic Exorcism is pretty much directed specifically at Satan - perhaps because traditionally ghosts were already dealt with? Thoughts?

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  18. @Michael, Catholic exorcisms are not for the dead, not even the troublesome dead, for they are still human souls. CAUTION: The following comments are from a Roman Catholic cultural point of view, so it may make some people angry or upset. For example, Roman Catholics do not recognize Gnostic Catholics as valid Catholics, but more as Black Mass participants.

    If there is a troubled human soul, then a Mass is said for them, generally at the church or Cathedral. In some cases, the priest might agree to hold it at the house so troubled.

    The Catholic point of view is that in cases of hauntings with more physical manifestations, it is not likely to be a human soul, but a demonic one, and is therefore classified as an "infestation" and liable to an exorcism.

    However there are various levels of exorcism in the Catholic Church, and the solemn exorcism is reserved for a human being and specifically under the direction of the bishop for that diocese.

    Other levels for problems of supposed hauntings are through the Mass, blessing of the house, prayer (especially the Rosary), novenas, use of sacramentals like holy medals, intercession of the saints, especially Our Lady, etc.

    However a true living saint like St. Francis or more recently Padre Pio (very very rare)can directly intervene to God in Jesus' Name.

    None of these practices are thought of as "magic" through the orthodox Catholic worldview, though most here would hold otherwise.

    However once something magical (in the Catholic view, by definition, satanic) occurs at a place, it is "stained" or "warped" and is to all intents and purposes permanently affected.

    For those interested in the Catholic take on these things, I recommend Father Amorth's books on exorcism, and Malachi Martin's "Hostage to the Devil."

    Now again, don't jump on my back about the above, I am just saying what the orthodox Roman Catholic view is.

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  19. Ever been to New Orleans? The dead are so thick there, you have to elbow your way through 'em to just get down the sidewalk ;)

    I'm convinced there's some sort of dark brooding uberspirit there that somehow manages to suppress the spirits of many who die there... I grew up there, and felt this since I was a wee one...

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  20. I am curious where you are getting this terminology from, because none of the Roman practitioners I know use it.

    The Lares are not "the dead." There are certainly lares that have ancestral origins, such as the Lar Familiaris. But the Lares are an entire collection of spirits, and only a few of them would be appropriately considered spirits of humans who have died. Most of them would be more appropriately considered as spirits of place.

    I find the idea of exorcising the Lares appalling. The lares are to be honored and celebrated, that is why every household had their own shrine to them, the lararium. They were guardians, not something to be appeased or driven off.

    A more appropriate term to be used to refer to the general dead would probably be di inferi.

    The restless dead were the Lemures. rituals were held at the Lemuria to deal with these spirits, either by granting them the proper funeral rites, offerings, or other rituals to drive them away.

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  21. Aurifex,

    There's a link in the post that talks about the different views of the types of spirits at different times during the Roman culture's rise and fall. I've seen the Lares refer to the dead specifically often enough to think it means "the Dead."

    Like I said in the post though, I've only recently begun exploring the Roman views of the dead. Feel free to offer me more research material to go through.

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  22. The ancestors are not larvae. Larva is a Roman term to refer to evil ghosts.

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  23. @Anonymous, depends on when in history you look at Roman culture. Larva didn't mean evil ghosts everywhere, all the time.

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