Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Old School Ghosts

            Has anyone ever seen a ghost of a caveman?  I think I read a fictional, Victorian ghost story about a caveman ghost, but I’ve never heard any reports of such ghosts that claimed to be true.  This brings up a major question that occasionally swirls around the paranormal community.  Do ghosts have a life span?  Would you call it a life span?  Wouldn’t it be some sort of death span?  Well, whatever.  I can see that ghosts could stop wandering this earthly plane when they finish up their business and go into the light, or whatever.  Are there instances when their energy simply runs out?  One of the big theories about ghosts is that they are a form of trapped energy.  Some people believe that energy from a human doesn’t simply cease to exist, rather, it can become stuck on earth.  A violent, unexpected death is one way a person’s energy might hang around.  The person may be so surprised by their death, they probably aren’t even aware that it happened.  A lot of people say that some spirits cannot rest in peace until their business on earth is taken care of; that’s why they stick around, trying to get someone to see them and help them out.  Other ghostly manifestations include an imprint of energy on the environment.  These ghosts can’t interact with the living, it’s simply a replay of events.  Anything can trigger a residual haunting; the weather or a change of any kind to the environment.  I bet a residual haunting’s energy disperses quicker than a trapped soul.  I’ve never been a ghost, though, so I’m not really sure. 
            So what is the life span of a ghost?  Some say it can be as long as 500 years.  That seems reasonable.  I don’t hear much about ancient Egyptian ghosts; though that would be awesome!  We also don’t see any ancient Greek or Roman ghosts.  Not to my knowledge anyway.  If you have a story about a ghost from an ancient civilization, please let me know.  I guess ghosts just can’t hold it together anymore after 500 years.  If they have unfinished business, perhaps they realize that if they can’t get it taken care of in half a century, it’s never going to get done, and maybe they finally move on.  Why 500 years?  Your guess is as good as mine.  Maybe it has something to do with earth cycles, whatever those may be.  Maybe it has to do with some sort of energy decay.  A half life or something?  Almost everything eventually decays, the matter just falls apart after a certain period of time.  I guess ghosts just reach their energy limit at 500 years.
            However, I’m still stuck on the caveman ghosts.  Let’s imagine that we live in prehistoric times, when the first homo-sapiens popped up.  If you were one of the first of what we now call a modern human, what kind of spirits would you be haunted by?  If any at all?  Do you think that the spirits of Neanderthals or Cro-Magnons would be flitting about?  I think this brings up many questions that could be included in the great debate of creationism versus evolution.  Now I believe in both, but some things just don’t make any sense to me.  I think, if you become a ghost, you need some sort of soul, a spark of life, a knowledge of your own self and how you interact with other people.  So, at what point in human evolution did we acquire a soul?  Was it when we first walked upright?  When we used the first tools or made the first fire?  When we first developed verbal communication?  When we first knew and understood what death was?  Were we ever too primitive to have a soul?  Religious scholars tell us that only humans can have a soul.  Yet there are hundreds of stories of pets returning and interacting with their owners; it’s beyond a mere residual haunting.  If these stories are to be believed, how are these pets coming back if they don’t have souls?  Maybe a soul is really a being’s energy, the energy of life itself.  Maybe to be alive means you have some sort of soul, every living creature has that living spark.  I don’t think that plants have souls, though, they really aren’t that sentient.  I absolutely have never heard of a ghost bush or tree.  Sorry tree huggers, I just don’t think it’s a possibility.
            So if living energy constitutes some kind of soul, there had to have been Neanderthal ghosts, right?  The Neanderthals, by all accounts, knew what death was, and, just like people today, they could die very unexpectedly; probably even more so.   A Neanderthal would be walking to his cave, minding his own business, when a saber-toothed tiger jumps out of the brush and snaps his neck.  I think that would be pretty unexpected, and it might create a ghost.  However, unlike today, where most people are aware of at least the possibility of ghosts, Neanderthals probably freaked out when Oog started appearing to his family again.  To the primitive mind, death is the very end.  It’s when you know that they won’t get up again, and their body is just taking up cave space.  They get rid of the body somehow, and that’s it.  So if Neanderthals could become ghosts, I think that may throw things into chaos.  How is Oog standing right there when everyone knows he was devoured by a saber-toothed tiger?  This makes me wonder who the first ghost was, and how they became a ghost in the first place.  I’ll have to dwell on that for a while.  Now, these thoughts lead me to other ideas.  It is a stated fact that humans and dinosaurs never lived at the same time.  However, strange drawings and other bits of prehistoric information sometimes trickles in and confuses us.  Why are there cave paintings that seem to depict a giant reptile of some kind?  What if dinosaurs’ energy still swirled around humans’ very early ancestors?  Of course, this contradicts the theory that ghosts only last for 500 years.  The great thing about paranormal theories, though, is that you can be as far out as you want to be, because, as of right now, there’s no definite way to be proved wrong.  Though I do think I kind of went off the deep end here.  It’s just that cavemen have always fascinated me.  They existed before that enigmatic explosion of civilization, and no one knows what started it.  Let’s save all of that for another time.
            In ancient Egypt, where it was really in style to be dead; ghosts were welcomed as proof of life beyond this mortal coil.  The soul was called ba and the spirit called ka.  The ba was a person’s traits and personality, while the ka was a person’s life essence.  When a person died, it was believed that the ba and ka united and created the akh.  It is the akh that could be interpreted by westerners as a ghost.  Indeed, the akh has very similar traits to what is thought to be a ghost today.  They could be good or bad, they tended to appear when their mortal resting place was disturbed or out of order, and they could certainly haunt people by causing them nightmares and such.  Though I can’t help but wonder if ancient Egypt even had that many ghosts.  They seemed to spend a lot of time preparing for death.  There were books that described what to do in the afterlife once you died.  Though ancient Egypt was very advanced, primal human nature still crept throughout this civilization.  Jealousy and a thirst for power probably plagued the ruling class.  Tons of pharaohs died before their time.  Just like today, you can be ready for death as much as you can, but if it’s suddenly taken from you, it all could get a little confusing, I’m sure.  I bet pharaoh ghosts appeared when their tombs were ransacked, that’s a definite possibility.  But who did they appear to?  I’m sure ghosts were well received by the general public, since the akh was considered to be something very real.  I bet most of the ghosts in ancient Egypt were the lower class or servants.  They probably died at their prime all the time; crushed by a huge pyramid stone, or during any number of hazardous building tasks that servants, slaves, and the Egyptian working class were made to do.  Did anyone care about low class ghosts?  Probably not.  
            The origins of how we imagine or perceive ghosts today, I believe, began in Classical Greece.  There seems to have always been ghosts in Greece, but they evolved as time went on.  At first, ghosts were actually kind of pitied, they were never feared, and they were kind of pathetic.  They wandered the earth and whined about it, I guess because Hades didn’t want them or something.  Later on, around the 5th century BC, ghosts got scary.  The dead had to be mourned in public, sacrificed to, sang to, and appeased in every way possible so the dead person’s spirit didn’t get angry and haunt his or her family.  Unlike today, cemeteries were thought to contain the spirits of the dead, as it was believed that a ghost hovered near its mortal body.  Today, most people who research ghosts think that the spirit takes up residence in a place where it feels comfortable or where they were killed.  They rarely hang out in cemeteries.  Back in ancient Greece, the living generally avoided cemeteries for the same reason that one avoids a haunted house.  The Greeks had a festival where they honored the dead and actually invited ghosts to come and hang out for a while.  After the party, however, the ghosts had to leave, no exceptions.  I’m talking a lot about traditions here, so did ancient Greeks actually see ghosts?  Very likely; it’s probably why a lot of rituals were put in place to appease them.  I will be researching actual ancient ghost stories eventually, so, you know, look out for that. 
            When we get to the Roman Empire, ghosts really branched out and became kind of fun.  Here, we start running in to haunted houses.  Some would be so haunted, they couldn’t be lived in.  The Romans figured out that a haunting could usually be stopped when a murdered person’s body was properly buried.  I think there was a lot of murder in Rome, just as in all the other ancient empires.  Murder seems to produce ghosts, so there you are.
            I would love to see the ghost of a caveman, or an ancient Egyptian, Greek, or Roman.  I just don’t think it’s very possible these days.  They seem to have all dispersed.  I don’t know how anyone came up with the 500 year timetable, but to me it seems fairly accurate.  Those caveman ghosts will always keep me wondering, and amused; seeing those cavemen running around in complete terror and confusion after seeing a ghost.  Is that cruel?  Have I rambled on enough?  Probably.

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