Ancestral energy lives in the stars above us, the stones beneath us. Their memory gathers in oceans, rivers and seas. It hums its silent wisdom within the body of every tree.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Spirit World: Afraid of What Lies in the Dark

It’s a double-edged word. It literally means “spirit of the dead” and that is its true definition. Culturally, the word carries a negative connotation. Ghost has a history behind it of propagating fear and keeping people away. One of the reasons I use it in the context of my work is because I want people to understand a simple truth. Every feared apparition is someone’s ancestor. Every ghost was once a living, breathing person, like you and me.
When people are afraid of ghosts and ghost stories, it often leads to their being afraid of spirits, the spirit world and ancestor work. Only once in all of my workings have I encountered what I would call a malevolent spirit, one that scared me. It does happen, but it was more echo-of-emotional-anger and less disembodied spirit. That’s once in over thirty years of encountering something I perceived as dangerous and with the help of my Women of Spirit group from my Unitarian-Universalist church, we performed a house cleansing and blessing and consecrated our home, sending it away.
I know adults who are afraid of the dark, afraid of the idea of ghosts and afraid of ghost stories (especially real ones). I also know adults who sit in fear of anything past the boundary of what is known and familiar to them, natural or supernatural. It has become the human condition to be afraid of what we can’t explain or see. But we limit ourselves by depending on one sensory interpretation. There is more than the world we know.
I think it’s important to challenge ourselves in the ways that we are able, to face our fears, work through them and emerge stronger people in new skins. The spirit world exists, and often the vapors and echoes of human life are all around us- even if we take no notice of them.
There is a moment in the film The Empire Strikes Back when Luke is faced with entering a dark cave alone. He asks his mentor, Yoda, what is in there. Yoda’s answer is simple and powerful and beyond Luke’s comprehension. “Only what you take with you.” So what truly lies in the unknown, waiting for us? The answer is the same. What lies in the dark is we take into the dark with us. The fear that lives inside us is the fear we will find outside ourselves.
When I was a little girl I wanted to believe that my house was haunted. It was over 100 years old and I was sure, in my innocence that it must be. All old things were haunted, right? But it wasn’t. So I would willingly go to places that people said were haunted or where supernatural events had frightened them.
As an early teen I went a few places I shouldn’t have, chasing ghosts. I wanted to believe, to believe there was more. I wanted to see what I was made of- could I face my darkness? After all, I was getting older and the world was growing scarier. Scary things were happening to me in my real life. I allowed myself to feel the fear my friends felt when I had real encounters. I allowed myself to be afraid. It was easier to retreat to a realm of safety by putting walls up and closing my world up.
I can look back at those moments with my adult eyes and understand that it was the opening of myself into the larger world that scared me. Not the ghost or spectre or spirit. I mean, if my neighbor walked by me while gardening and said hello I wouldn’t be afraid of them. The spirit world is simply neighborhood adjacent.
In my experience, when supernatural activity scares us, and we respond in fear, we are closing a door. Most of the frightening activity is not meant to cause terror. Imagine if you found you suddenly couldn’t speak. You would have to learn another way to communicate, right? So spirits who lack corporeal form are trying to find a way to interact. In most cases, that’s all that’s happening. Try acknowledging the experience and most likely, it will stop.
It’s important to know the history of the way we think. The journey is just as important as the destination. One of the terms for a spirit of the dead is shade. Shade. Shadow. Our worlds are made up of a chiaroscuro of light and dark, white and black, and good and bad.
What we must endeavor to find are the shades of grey where they blend and merge. That’s where the truth lives, between what is known and unknown, where stories overlap. The next time you have a moment of feeling something you can’t see, don’t be so quick to dismiss it as impossible. Simply believe in the possibility of the improbable; keep a door to your world open.

Relevant Posts:
Spirit World: Ghost Visitations (published on July 11, 2011)

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