The Nature of Ghosts.
Many people have theorised about what ghosts are made of. Ideas include "ectoplasm", or an eternal and indivisible soul that God created, or an echo of a life caught in a fracture in time, or a fanciful symbolism of feelings induced by electromagnetic disturbances in the earth’s crust? I haven't a clue, and fascinating though it is to speculate, it doesn’t really matter.
What is clear to me is that ghosts are real, they are conscious, they can communicate, they have feelings, they have some memories, and they have needs. And they are in some way a remnant of a human life.
What is also clear is that not everyone becomes a ghost. Most people, upon death, move to another place within hours. What, or where, that place is, I do not know, but I hope it’s an improvement on this one!
Another important fact is that people who love and are loved tend not to remain as ghosts, whereas people who are consumed by hatred, fear, unexpressed passion, anger, loss, pain, shock, envy or jealousy tend to remain as ghosts.
Thus, nearly all ghosts I’ve ever encountered have not been happy, and a few of them have been quite malicious.
Ghosts lose their memories. For the first few years, a ghost has a fairly good recollection of who they were, what they did, and to some extent why they stayed behind – commonly to take revenge or make amends – but as the decades roll on, they forget, become just an empty shadow of dissatisfaction, a distant echo of unhappiness itself.
Working with Ghosts.
The Northern European tradition for dealing with troublesome ghosts is to resort immediately to exorcism or banishment to the nether regions. Sometimes, banishment from a building or place may be necessary, but mostly this is like sending a naughty child to a maximum security prison.
Ghosts are lonely and isolated. Few people know they’re there, and even those that are sensitive to their presence don’t talk to them, or invite them to sit round the fire. Although ghosts have no body, they feel pain – emotional pain – in the same way we do. Ghosts hate being yelled at, insulted, derided, having righteous wrath levelled against them (as in an exorcism), etc. just as the living hate these things.
What ghosts need to do most of all is to move on, and to move on they need to feel loved. A young ghost, full of the memories of an unbearable life, might not easily let itself be loved, and will not understand the need to move on. But older ghosts, whose memories have faded, can be much easier to deal with.
Ghosts can be comforted by being acknowledged, talked to, invited round the fire and generally included in the home. They can be given their own special corner, maybe with a little table with drawings about the ghost. Some people make a little "Home" for the ghost, like a dolls house with miniature furniture. Troublesome ghosts can be instructed to stay in their special house on pain of being reprimanded.
Many ghosts respond well to this kind of treatment, and after a while can be persuaded that, maybe, it's time for them to move on to a better place. Other ghosts might need more intense interaction, more akin to psychotherapy, to help them drop their grievances. And there will always be a few for whom banishment remains the only option.
The time immediately after death is crucial. Ghosts are often disorientated just after death. If death was sudden such as in a train crash, ghosts will be in shock for days, weeks, years afterwards. However, if their loved ones come by, and talk to them, and reassure them, and help them accommodate themselves to the fact of death, those ghosts can move on easily and swiftly. This is why many sensitive people visit the sites of crashes or disasters such as 9/11 and talk to the ghosts. If nobody comes by to give them love, to reassure and encourage, those spirits could be stuck for years, decades or even centuries to come.
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