GHOSTS OF THE PAST

Ghosts appear in some of the earliest civilisations known to man.

Including that of Mesopotamia, which today includes Iraq, Syria and parts of Turkey and Iran.

The ghosts of the ancient Mesopotamian cultures of Sumeria, Babylonia, Akkadia and Assyra, were thought to come into being at the time of an individual;s death and would travel to the underworld, where they would form part of a community that, in many ways, was comparable to the world of the living.


As many traditions, the relatives and friends of those who had died often made offerings of food and drink for the individual to partake of on the journey to the underworld, and might also continue to do so for a long time afterwards. The living feared the dead, in the sense that ghosts were thought to come back and make trouble, bringing back luck, disease and even death, if they were not properly honoured and remembered by those they had left behind.


ANCIENT EGYPT..

In Ancient Egypt, the belief in an afterlife was an extremely important part of the culture, as is known from the Egyptian Book of the Dead, a funerary text that contains magic spells to help a deceased person on their journey to the underworld. The ancient Egyptians believed in the concept of khu, or the soul, which was represented by an ibis bird. Later, the soul became divided into five parts - the heart, the shadow, the name, the spirit and the soul. After death, the person because akh, a concept similar to the Western idea of a ghost. The akh was able to return from the dead as a reverent, roaming the world and doing good or evil, depending on how it had been treated in life. In particular, the akh could cause sickness, nightmare and intense feeling of guilt.

It was thought that the akh could be contracted by the living and relatives might send it letters offering reassurance or asking for advice..


MAGIC SPELLS FOR THE UNDERWORLD..

`As with the mesopotamians, the afterlife was envisioned as a community similar to that of the living. Rich men were often buried with their slaves so that the slaves could continue to look after them in the underworld. Also in the burial chamber would be large quantities of food and a book of spells for use on the journey to the underworld; this would show the person how to fly, to pass through walls, and to call on the gods for help. The book of spells might also instruct the person how to avoid a second death by keeping on breathing and thus ensuring that their name lived on.

One of the great pharaoh's of Anciet Egypt, Akhenaten, tried to demolish religious belief system of the civilisation, declaring himself and his queen, Nefertiti, as the embodiment's of Aten, the sun god. In a fit of megalomania, he demolished many of the old temples and tried to stamp out the worship of the ancient pantheon of gods. After his death the priests revived the old religion, and cursed Akhenaten, condemning him to wander as a ghost forever n the desert. Legend has it that to this day travellers through the desert lands of Egypt may come upon Akhenaten still wandering there.


GHOSTS OF ANTIQUITY..

In classical Greece, ghosts were seen as feeble imitations of the living, with little power over the social world. In homer's work, they are described as a vapour, gibbering and whining into the earth. Ghosts were thoughts of as insubstantial, like mist or smoke, but occasionally they might appear in the form they had taken at death, often bearing the wounds thats had caused their demise. As time went on, ghosts began to take a more important role in the culture and were imbued with special powers to influence the living, whether for good or evil.

Because of this, the Greeks took to holding public ceremonies in which sacrifices were made, and feasts were prepared to honour the dead and avoid their censure. Family ghosts were invited to the feasts and then asked to leave until the following year, when the next feasts would take place.

One of the first ghosts written about in antiquity appears in the play Oresteia by Aeschylus, which was performed in 458Bc, and concerns the ending of a curse on the house of Atreus.

The Romans also believed in ghosts and had a supersition that a ghost would curse a piece of pottery and then place it into a grave, thereby wreaking revenge on an enemy. In Roman literature, there are several accounts of ghosts haunting the living. Plurarch mentions a ghost who frequented the public baths, terrifying the local people with its loud groans and wails. In addition, Pliny the Younger describes a house where a shackled skeleton was buried; only when it was taken out and reburied did the sound of chains being rattled in the house finally cease. We also find some sceptics in Roman literature; Lucian of Samosata recounts the story of the philsopher Democritus, who took up residence in a tomb to prove there were no ghosts in the cemetery at night. Some of the young men where lived played practical jokes on him, dressing up in black with skull masks, but ever rational, he refused to abandon his experiment.


GHOSTS IN MEDIEVAL TIMES.

The belief in ghosts was widespread in the Middle Ages.

Some believed that evil ghosts could be banished by demanding their purpose in the name of Jesus Christ, while the good ones would not be frightened by hearing the Holy Name. Ghosts were generally regarded as dead sols in waiting, on their way to heaven or hell and residing in purgatory for the time being. In accordance with Christian morality, it was believed that ded souls were forced to atone for their sins by experiencing the same sufferings that they had wreaked on others during their lifetime; for example, the ghost of a man who had shouted abuse at his servants was condemned to tear off and swallow parts of his own tongue as a punishment for his bad behaviour in the past. The medieval ghost varied in appearance from being a wispy wraith to taking on more of a substantial form as a solid human being who might have to be restrained or fought with. Ghosts were usually male and generally envisioned as pale shadows of their former selves, dressed in grey tags and looking thoroughly miserable. In some cases, stories were told of ghostly armies who continued night after night to fight the bloody battles that had ended their lives.


THE SINS OF NECROMANCY..

Necromancy is an ancient form of magic in which spirits of the dead are summoned.

This, it is claimed, can be done by unearthing dead bodies or by the use of magic spells.

In medieval tomes, necromancers often boasted that their art enabled them to foretell the future, or control the will of a living person, sometimes driving them mad as a punishment for wrongdoing.

The rituals of necromancy included sorcery using magic circles, wands, bells and incantations. The necromancer might wear clothing of the deceased or even might wear the clothing of the deceased or even mutilate and consume parts of the corpse, carrying out the gruesome ceremonies in graveyards and other melancholy, lonely place. The practise of necromancy is part of the black arts or the occult, and as such was vigorously opposed by the Christian Church. It has an ancient history dating back to early civilisations in Babylon, Egypt, Greece and Rome. In Greek mythology, heroes often travel to Hades to claim the dead souls there. Later, bone conjuring, or raising the dead, was specifically condemned by the christian Church, although in actual fact some clerics dabbled in it, combining occult practices with Christian doctrine.


GHOSTS IN THE BIBLE..

The Jewish and Christian religions have an ambiguous attitude to the idea of ghosts. Often the concept is dismissed as irreligious, belonging to folklore, or worse, demonology, rather than to the Judao-Christian faith. In the Hebrew Torah, ghosts are not often mentioned and there are strict instructions in the Book of Deuteronomy for the faithful to avoid dabbling in the occult.

However, there is a story in the Book of Samuel about King Saul summoning the Witch of Endor to summon the dead spirit of Samuel. It seems that the world of the occult, including ghosts and spirits, was very much feared by the early Jewish leaders and regarded as outside the province religious belief.


GHOSTS FRIEND OR FOE..

In the Christian religion, a similar attitude prevailed, although some Christian sects taught that ghosts are beings who are on their journey to heaven and have been sent back by God to teach the living about the need for repentance of their sins. At the same time, Christians were warned not to trouble the spirits, since they might be demons who were lying in wait to device people and lead them away from God. Supernatural occurrences, such as seeing orbs of light or transparent bodies moving as if they were ghosts, were often attributed to the works of the Devil. The biblical book of Corinthians claims that even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.

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