Good morrow, and welcome to another round of #SuperstitionSat Highlights. Yesterday (22/10/22), we had a glimpse of what lies Beyond The Veil, with Spooky Season superstitions about Ghosts & Spirits. As it has become customary in this unique look at our Twitter Sessions, we shall discuss some of the tweets that stood out to us yesterday, with the addition of some academic or free-to-read sources (for those without institutional access), to get you started on your own research path. So, it’s a bit like peeking beyond the veil then, and all you have to do is step through… Let’s begin!
Our first Highlight was from Olivia Armstrong who told us a trick to make sure your descendants will never see ghosts for as long as they live. All you have to do is have them be born in Devon, England, by daylight and hey, presto! I may be joking, but the source is none other than the reputable Transactions of Devonshire Association, Volume 9 (1877), which is available to read for free here. This was a fascinating local resource to which inhabitants of this South West county once regularly submitted their lore and superstitions to. Scanned copies published between 1862 and 1920 are mostly all available online, and if you don’t know where to begin, The Devonshire Association has neatly compiled all the links to them here. Wonderful, isn’t it?
Another thing that stood out to us in this tweet was the choice of image, which is one of our favourite paintings about ghosts. It features an ethereal lady playing the piano, much to the astonishment of a man who has just walked into the room. This is Spirit, by George Roux (1885).
Our second Highlight was from Open Graves & Minds, who shared a few tales from Norway, featuring some of its most famous ghosts. One of these is the fabled Malcanisen: a large black dog who was once buried alive to protect the castle from intruders—which you might remember from our Guest Blog Norwegian Ghosts by Natalja Saint-Germain, available to read here.
Our third Highlight was from Sheer Zed, who has also written a Guest Blog for us called There’s a Ghost in My House: The Tradition of Building Spirit Houses in Thailand, available to read here. Though yesterday’s contribution by Sheer Zed was about the curious origin of cairns and tombstones. It was once believed necessary to ensure that the deceased stayed put, due to fears that any restless dead would wander out of their graves. One of the things you could do was to place a heavy weight, such as a rock, above the burial ground. Sheer Zed kindly supplied a source to accompany this lore, which was featured in the book On Certain Burial Customs As Illustrative Of The Primitive Theory Of The Soul, by James Frazer (1885). Which—you guessed it—is available here.
Spooky Season has been going so well, that this week we decided to have a fourth Highlight once more. And how appropriate is this Victorian tale of “death-wraiths”, as shared by Gothic Girl in a short thread! It seems that this type of apparition was once believed to emerge shortly after the death of a loved one who could travel all the way to their family, no matter where they were, to notify them of their passing. The phenomenon was even investigated by the Society for Psychical Research, founded in 1882, who reported:
“Now the true death-wraith as we shall see as we proceed, is for the most part what may be called studiously commonplace in his appearance. He does not affect bizarrerie or aim at sensation of any kind; in fact, to speak seriously, he is probably himself for the most part only a sensation, which externalises itself not in the strangest but in the most familiar aspect.”
– in Journal of the Society of Psychical Research (1885), available here.
That was all for today. I hope that you enjoyed this extended selection of Highlights, and that you will be ready to join us for the ultimate Spooky Season Session. That’ll be next Saturday (29/10/22), with our final dark and dreary theme for October. Be prepared to say:
GET THEE BEHIND ME: SUPERSTITIONS OF OLD NICK
(Old Scratch, the Devil Himself!)
As usual, whether you’re old, new or just passing through, your presence is very much appreciated, and I am always so glad to see you stop by for our #SuperstitionSat Sessions. Do take care—it’s scary out there!
Your lucky cat pal,
– Superstition Sam 🐾
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