Evil clown

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Image result for EVIL CLOWN GIFS

Image result for EVIL CLOWN GIFS

Image result for EVIL CLOWN GIFS

Image result for EVIL CLOWN GIFS

Image result for EVIL CLOWN GIFS

Image result for EVIL CLOWN GIFS

Image result for EVIL CLOWN GIFS

Image result for EVIL CLOWN GIFS

Image result for EVIL CLOWN GIFS

Evil clown

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
.

A group of people in evil clown costumes at a PDC 2008 party at Universal Studios

The evil clown is a subversion of the traditional comic clown character, in which the playful trope is instead rendered as disturbing through the use of horror elements and dark humor. The modern archetype of the evil clown was popularized by Stephen King‘s 1986 novel It. The character can be seen as playing off the sense of unease felt by sufferers of coulrophobia.

Origins[edit]

Enrico Caruso as the murderous Canio in Pagliacci

The modern archetype of the evil clown has unclear origins; the stock character appeared infrequently during the 19th century, in such works as Edgar Allan Poe‘s “Hop-Frog“,[1] which is believed by Jack Morgan, of the University of Missouri-Rolla, to draw upon an earlier incident “at a masquerade ball”, in the 14th century, during which “the king and his frivolous party, costumed—in highly flammable materials—as simian creatures, were ignited by a flambeau and incinerated, the King narrowly escaping in the actual case.”[2] Evil clowns also occupied a small niche in drama, appearing in the 1874 work La femme de Tabarin by Catulle Mendès and in Ruggero Leoncavallo‘s Pagliacci (accused of being a plagiarism of Mendès’ piece), both works featuring murderous clowns as central characters.[3][4]

The modern stock character of the evil clown was popularized by Stephen King‘s novel It, published in 1986, which became the first to introduce the fear of an evil clown to a modern audience. Another one of the first appearances of the concept is that of John Wayne Gacy, an American serial killer and rapist arrested in 1978, who became known as the Killer Clown after it was discovered he had performed as Pogo the Clown at children’s parties and other events; however, Gacy did not actually commit his crimes while wearing his clown costume.[5]

The evil clown archetype plays strongly off the sense of dislike it caused to inherent elements of coulrophobia; however, it has been suggested by Joseph Durwin[6] that the concept of evil clowns has an independent position in popular culture, arguing that “the concept of evil clowns and the widespread hostility it induces is a cultural phenomenon which transcends just the phobia alone”. A study by the University of Sheffield concluded “that clowns are universally disliked by children. Some found them quite frightening and unknowable.”[7][8] This may be because of the nature of clowns’ makeup hiding their faces, making them potential threats in disguise; as a psychology professor at California State University, Northridge stated, young children are “very reactive to a familiar body type with an unfamiliar face”.[9] This natural dislike of clowns makes them effective in a literary or fictional context, as the antagonistic threat perceived in clowns is desirable in a villainous character.

Researcher Ben Radford, who published Bad Clowns[10] in 2016 and is regarded as an expert on the phenomenon,[11] writes that looking throughout history clowns are seen as trickers, fools, and more; however, they always are in control, speak their minds, and can get away with doing so. When writing the book Bad Clowns, Radford found that professional clowns are not generally fond of the bad-clown (or evil-clown) persona. They see them as “the rotten apple in the barrel, whose ugly sight and smell casts suspicion on the rest of them,” and do not wish to encourage or propagate coulrophobia. Yet, as Radford discovered, bad clowns have existed throughout history: Harlequin, the King’s fool, and Mr. Punch. Radford argues that bad clowns have the “ability to change with the times” and that modern bad clowns have evolved into Internet trolls. They may not wear clown costume but, nevertheless, engage with people for their own amusement, abuse, tease and speak what they think of as the “truth” much like the court jester and “dip clowns” do using “human foibles” against their victims. Radford states that, although bad clowns permeate the media in movies, TV, music, comics, and more, the “good clowns” outnumber the bad ones. Research shows that most people do not fear clowns but actually love them and that bad clowns are “the exception, not the rule.”[10]

Interpretations[edit]

Generic “evil clown” makeup

The concept of the evil clown is related to the irrational fear of clowns, known as coulrophobia. The cultural critic Mark Dery has theorized the postmodern archetype of the evil clown in “Cotton Candy Autopsy: Deconstructing Psycho-Killer Clowns” (a chapter in his cultural critique The Pyrotechnic Insanitarium: American Culture on the Brink).[12]

Tracking the image of the demented or deviant clown across popular culture, Dery analyzes the “Pogo the Clown” persona of the serial killer John Wayne Gacy; the obscene clowns of the neo-situationist Cacophony Society; the Joker (of “Batman” Fame); the grotesque art of R.K. Sloane; the sick-funny Bobcat Goldthwaite comedy Shakes the Clown; and Pennywise the Dancing Clown from Stephen King‘s It.

Using Mikhail Bakhtin‘s theory of the carnivalesque, Jungian and historical writings on the images of the fool in myth and history, and ruminations on the mingling of ecstasy and dread in the Information Age, Dery asserts the evil clown is an icon of our times. Clowns are often depicted as murderous psychopaths at many American haunted houses.

Wolfgang M. Zucker points out the similarities between a clown’s appearance and the cultural depictions of demons and other infernal creatures, noting “[the clown’s] chalk-white face in which the eyes almost disappear, while the mouth is enlarged to a ghoulish bigness looks like the mask of death”.[13]

Urban legends and incidents[edit]

Bad clowns[edit]

Researcher Ben Radford, looking at the phenomenon of bad clowns throughout history, writes that clowns are seen as trickers, fools, and more; however, they always are in control, speak their minds, and can get away with doing so. When writing the book Bad Clowns, Radford found that professional clowns are not generally fond of the bad-clown persona. They see them as “the rotten apple in the barrel, whose ugly sight and smell casts suspicion on the rest of them,” and do not wish to encourage or propagate coulrophobia. Yet, as Radford discovered, bad clowns have existed throughout history: Harlequin, the King’s fool, and Mr. Punch. Radford argues that bad clowns have the “ability to change with the times” and that modern bad clowns have evolved into Internet trolls. They may not wear clown costume but, nevertheless, engage with people for their own amusement, abuse, tease and speak what they think of as the “truth” much like the court jester and “dip clowns” do using “human foibles” against their victims. Radford states that, although bad clowns permeate the media in movies, TV, music, comics, and more, the “good clowns” outnumber the bad ones. Research shows that most people do not fear clowns but actually love them and that bad clowns are “the exception, not the rule.”[10]

Phantom clowns[edit]

The related urban legend of evil clown sightings in real life is known as “phantom clowns”.[14] First reported in 1981 in Brookline, Massachusetts, children said that men dressed up as clowns had attempted to lure them into a van.[15] The panic spread throughout the US in the Midwest and Northeast. It resurfaced in 1985 in Phoenix, Arizona; in 1991 in West Orange, New Jersey;[16] and 1995 in Honduras. Later sightings included Chicago, Illinois, in 2008.[15] Explanations for the phenomenon have ranged from Stephen King‘s book It and the crimes of serial killer John Wayne Gacy,[14] to a moral panic influenced by contemporaneous fears of Satanic ritual abuse.[15] It also shows similarities to the story of the Pied Piper of Hamlin.[16] No adult or police officer has ever seen the evil clowns,[15] though a prankster called the “Northampton Clown” has been cited as a real-life example of an evil clown.[17] Further complaints of evil clown pranksters have been reported in France, the United States and lately in Germany, possibly inspired by American Horror Story: Freak Show.[18]

Murder of Marlene Warren[edit]

On May 26, 1990, in Wellington, Florida, Marlene Warren opened her front door to a brown-eyed clown bearing flowers and balloons. It shot her in the face, drove off in a white Chrysler LeBaron and was never seen again. Her murder remains unsolved.[19]

Clown sightings[edit]

Main article: 2016 clown sightings

In recent years, the “evil clown” phenomenon has been trending and growing. While most of these clown sightings have been harmless, there have been suspicion activities and others have been led to attacks and arrest. In 2013 in England, the Northampton Clown appeared on the scene terrorizing the town. The work of three local filmmakers, Alex Powell, Elliot Simpson and Luke Ubanski, the Northampton clown shares similar looks to Pennywise the Dancing Clown from Stephen King’s book, It.[20] Although rumors said that the clown may have a knife, the clown himself denied these rumors through social media.[17] In March 2014, Matteo Moroni from Perugia, Italy, owner of YouTube channel DM Pranks, began dressing up as a killer clown and terrifying unsuspecting passers-by, with his videos racking up hundreds of millions of views.[21]

In 2014, the phenomenon moved to the United States, when the Wasco clown showed up in social media in California. Again this clown would shared similar resemblance to Pennywise. During an interview with the Wasco clown, it was revealed that the social media postings are part of a year-long photography project conducted by his wife.[22] While the original Wasco clown was merely a project and for fun, other copycats also started appear and in some cases with weapons.[23]

In 2015, starting in the summer, clown sightings began to appear again. In late July, a “creepy” clown was seen around a local cemetery in Chicago and terrorizing anyone in the graveyard.[24]

In 2016, the first sighting of the “killer clowns” was in August 19 in Greenville, South Carolina by a little boy who told his mother that two clowns tried to lure him into the woods. After this appeared in the news, the sightings of these clowns spread throughout the country.[25]

Response to evil clowns in media[edit]

In 2014, Clowns of America International responded to the depiction of Twisty on American Horror Story, and evil clowns in media generally. President Glenn Kohlberger said, “Hollywood makes money sensationalizing the norm. They can take any situation no matter how good or pure and turn it into a nightmare. … We do not support in any way, shape or form any medium that sensationalizes or adds to coulrophobia or ‘clown fear.'”[26]

Depictions of evil clowns[edit]

  • Pagliaccio and Crazy Joe Da Vola’s depiction of him in the Seinfeld episode “The Opera
  • The Joker, the arch nemesis of Batman whose key features are chalk-white skin, green hair, red lips and a permanent smile,[27] purportedly caused by a chemical bath, and in various appearances is depicted as a murderous and sadistic psychopath.
  • The Jokerz, a street gang in the cartoon series Batman Beyond, basing their appearance on the Joker but acting like typical gangbangers.
  • Pennywise the Dancing Clown, the main antagonist in Stephen King‘s novel It and its film adaptation in which he’s portrayed by Tim Curry.[28]
  • Shakes the Clown, a depressed, alcoholic clown framed for murder and coming into conflict with other clowns, in the eponymous film by Bobcat Goldthwait.
  • Laughing Jack, is a famous Creepypasta character, whose form is that of a small doll, shaped like a clown. He was given to Isaac Grossman for a Christmas present by a guardian angel, but Jack became evil and sadistic and eventually killed Isaac for neglecting him then went on to kill others.
  • Red Bastard, a bouffon clown created and portrayed by Eric Davis.
  • Shawn Crahan, also known as Clown from the metal band Slipknot.
  • The Bicycle Doctor, in the film Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure, a malevolent clown disguised as a doctor who destroys Pee-Wee Herman‘s beloved bicycle after feigning attempts to repair it.
  • Captain Spaulding, a gas-station owner, museum operator, and patriarch of the murderous Firefly family, featured in the Rob Zombie films House of 1000 Corpses and its sequel, The Devil’s Rejects. Captain Spaulding is portrayed by actor Sid Haig.
  • Dimentio is a megalomanical clown and the true main antagonist of the platformer RPG Super Paper Mario, who frequently makes sadistic jokes at the heroes and secretly resents his master and fellow henchmen, only feigning loyalty seeking to control the Chaos Heart to end all life and rebuild the world in his own image with himself as king.[citation needed]
  • Violator, a demon from hell who takes the appearance of a balding, middle-aged man with face paint, and an enemy of Spawn in the comic franchise by Todd McFarlane.
  • Insane Clown Posse members Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope present themselves as wicked clowns and rap about the Dark Carnival storyline in their music.
  • In the CW show Supernatural, there was a season 2 episode about a Raksasha, an ancient Indian demon, whose main disguise is a clown which it uses at a circus (where it works at under its human form of the blind knife thrower) to follow children home, and eat their parents. Also, Sam Winchester’s worst fear is clowns, and witches often utilize this fear against him. In one season 7 episode, Sam fights multiple demonic clowns.
  • Doink the Clown, a professional wrestling character portrayed by a number of wrestlers. He is frequently depicted as malevolent, playing malicious pranks and cheating in unusual ways.
  • Kefka Palazzo, the main antagonist of Final Fantasy VI, a psychopath with the outfit and mannerisms of an insane jester.
  • Zorn and Thorn, the court jesters of the evil queen, Brahne, in Final Fantasy IX. These insane twins have a similar personality to Kefka from Final Fantasy VI, wreaking havok and using dark magic while simultaneously providing comic relief.
  • Sweet Tooth, a homicidal, clown-themed ice cream truck driver in the Twisted Metal franchise.
  • Killer Klowns from Outer Space, the 1988 horror comedy monster movie about carnivorous aliens from outer space that resemble clowns.
  • Poltergeist, the 1982 supernatural movie directed by Tobe Hooper features a clown doll in several scenes. During the finale, this doll becomes possessed by a demonic presence and attempts to strangle the character Robby Freeling.
  • Killjoy, a demonic clown who is summoned to assist revenge plots.
  • Clownhouse, a slasher film in which three mental patients escape and stalk a young boy home from the circus dressed in clown costumes.
  • Joey and Clara, a male and female clown from the 1966 Doctor Who serial “The Celestial Toymaker” who represent the title villain in a deadly game against the Doctor’s companions.
  • A sinister mocking clown seen in a mirror in the Matrix in the 1976 Doctor Who serial “The Deadly Assassin
  • George Cranleigh, an insane killer in the 1982 Doctor Who serial “Black Orchid” who murders and kidnaps in a masked harlequin fancy dress costume (stolen from the Doctor)
  • The Robot Clowns, led by the sinister human Chief Clown from the 1988–1989 Doctor Who serial “The Greatest Show in the Galaxy“.
  • Sideshow Bob, a clown on The Simpsons who continually tries to kill Bart Simpson. Unlike traditional clowns, he does not wear any sort of make-up.
    • Additionally, in the episode “Lisa’s First Word,” a 3-year-old Bart had a nightmare about an evil clown attacking him as he slept, this after Bart goes to bed in a new bed made by Homer. Because of Homer’s poor handicraft skills, the headboard—which was meant to resemble Krusty the Clown—takes on the appearance of an evil clown. The meme “Can’t sleep, clown will eat me” comes from this episode.
  • Adam MacIntyre, a psychopathic clown from the Capcom video game Dead Rising, who was driven insane due to being forced to watch his entire audience, including children, be killed by zombies presumably during a show. Also has a psychopathic brother with similar job role in Dead Rising 2: Off the Record called Evan MacIntyre, who attempted to avenge the former.
  • Shang Tsung, the one of the player characters in Mortal Kombat, who takes a shape of an evil clown during his usage of his fatality move on opponent, which parodies The Joker’s first fatality move from Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe.[clarification needed]
  • With his distinctive appearance, surreal feats of magic, and behavior that is simultaneously comedic and menacing, the Tim Burton character Beetlejuice can be considered a manifestation of this theme.
  • In the Goosebumps film, several demonic clowns are among the monsters unleashed from the Goosebumps books in the film.
  • Twisty, a clown played by John Carroll Lynch who becomes a serial killer, on the television series American Horror Story: Freak Show.
  • Frenchy the Clown, the title character in National Lampoon‘s “Evil Clown Comics”, which ran in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
  • Art the Clown, a psychopathic clown ghost from the film All Hallows’ Eve.
  • In the 1978 film Halloween and its 2007 remake, Michael Myers murders his older sister Judith Myers while dressed as a clown. In Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers, Michael’s niece Jamie Lloyd wears a clown costume when she stabs her foster mother with a pair of scissors.
  • One of the monsters in the 2012 horror film The Cabin in the Woods is a murderous clown.
  • In the 2015 DisneyPixar film Inside Out, Riley dreams about a menacing clown named Jangles.
  • One of the principal icons for Universal Orlando Resort’s Halloween Horror Nights is Jack the Clown who is an evil clown who secretly murdered innocent people while working in a circus run by Dr. Oddfellow.
  • In the movie The Brave Little Toaster, the main character, the toaster, has a nightmare about a clown who is trying to short him out by spraying him with water.
  • Gags the Green Bay Clown[29][30]
  • Ghost clown in Scooby Doo Where Are You? Season 1, Episode 10: Bedlam in the Big Top
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Werewolf

 

Werewolf

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Werewolf / Lycanthrope
Werwolf.png
Woodcut of a werewolf attack, by Lucas Cranach the Elder, 1512
Grouping Legendary creature
Sub grouping Lycanthrope
Similar creatures Therianthropy, revenant, vampire, yōkai
Country Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, Croatia, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Albania, Hungary
Region The Americas, Europe, Asia, Africa

A werewolf (from Old English: wer, “man”), man-wolf, or lycanthrope (Greek: λυκάνθρωπος, lykánthropos: λύκος, lykos, “wolf”, and ἄνθρωπος, anthrōpos, “human”) is a mythological or folkloric human with the ability to shapeshift into a wolf or a therianthropic hybrid wolf-like creature, either purposely or after being placed under a curse or affliction (e.g. via a bite or scratch from another werewolf). Early sources for belief in lycanthropy are Petronius (27–66) and Gervase of Tilbury (1150–1228).

The werewolf is a widespread concept in European folklore, existing in many variants, which are related by a common development of a Christian interpretation of underlying European folklore developed during the medieval period. From the early modern period, werewolf beliefs also spread to the New World with colonialism. Belief in werewolves developed in parallel to the belief in witches, in the course of the Late Middle Ages and the Early Modern period. Like the witchcraft trials as a whole, the trial of supposed werewolves emerged in what is now Switzerland (especially the Valais and Vaud) in the early 15th century and spread throughout Europe in the 16th, peaking in the 17th and subsiding by the 18th century. The persecution of werewolves and the associated folklore is an integral part of the “witch-hunt” phenomenon, albeit a marginal one, accusations of werewolfery being involved in only a small fraction of witchcraft trials.[1] During the early period, accusations of lycanthropy (transformation into a wolf) were mixed with accusations of wolf-riding or wolf-charming. The case of Peter Stumpp (1589) led to a significant peak in both interest in and persecution of supposed werewolves, primarily in French-speaking and German-speaking Europe. The phenomenon persisted longest in Bavaria and Austria, with persecution of wolf-charmers recorded until well after 1650, the final cases taking place in the early 18th century in Carinthia and Styria.[2]

After the end of the witch-trials, the werewolf became of interest in folklore studies and in the emerging Gothic horror genre; werewolf fiction as a genre has pre-modern precedents in medieval romances (e.g. Bisclavret and Guillaume de Palerme) and developed in the 18th century out of the “semi-fictional” chap book tradition. The trappings of horror literature in the 20th century became part of the horror and fantasy genre of modern pop culture.

Names

Further information: Therianthropy

The word werewolf continues a late Old English wer(e)wulf, a compound of were “man” and wulf “wolf”. The only Old High German testimony is in the form of a given name, Weriuuolf, although an early Middle High German werwolf is found in Burchard of Worms and Berthold of Regensburg. The word or concept does not occur in medieval German poetry or fiction, gaining popularity only from the 15th century. Middle Latin gerulphus Anglo-Norman garwalf, Old Frankish *wariwulf.[3][4] Old Norse had the cognate varúlfur, but because of the high importance of werewolves in Norse mythology, there were alternative terms such as ulfhéðinn (“one in wolf-skin”, referring still to the totemistic or cultic adoption of wolf-nature rather than the superstitious belief in actual shape-shifting). In modern Scandinavian also kveldulf “evening-wolf”, presumably after the name of Kveldulf Bjalfason, a historical berserker of the 9th century who figures in the Icelandic sagas.

The term lycanthropy, referring both to the ability to transform oneself into a wolf and to the act of so doing, comes from Ancient Greek λυκάνθρωπος lukánthropos (from λύκος lúkos “wolf” and ἄνθρωπος, ánthrōpos “human”.[5] The word does occur in ancient Greek sources, but only in Late Antiquity, only rarely, and only in the context of clinical lycanthropy described by Galen, where the patient had the ravenous appetite and other qualities of a wolf; the Greek word attains some currency only in Byzantine Greek, featuring in the 10th-century encyclopedia Suda.[6] Use of the Greek-derived lycanthropy in English occurs in learned writing beginning in the later 16th century (first recorded 1584 in The Discoverie of Witchcraft by Reginald Scot, who argued against the reality of werewolves; “Lycanthropia is a disease, and not a transformation.” v. i. 92), at first explicitly for clinical lycanthropy, i.e. the type of insanity where the patient imagines to have transformed into a wolf, and not in reference to supposedly real shape-shifting. Use of lycanthropy for supposed shape-shifting is much later, introduced ca. 1830.

Slavic uses the term vlko-dlak (Polish wilkołak, Czech vlkodlak, Slovak vlkolak, Serbo-Croatian вукодлакvukodlak, Slovenian volkodlak, Bulgarian върколак/vrkolak, Belarusian ваўкалак/vaukalak, Ukrainian вовкулака/vovkulaka), literally “wolf-skin”, paralleling the Old Norse ulfhéðinn. However, the word is not attested in the medieval period. The Slavic term was loaned into modern Greek as Vrykolakas. Baltic has related terms, Lithuanian vilkolakis and vilkatas, Latvian vilkatis and vilkacis. The name vurdalak (вурдалак) for the Slavic vampire (“ghoul, revenant”) is a corruption due to Alexander Pushkin, which was later widely spread by A.K. Tolstoy in his novella The Family of the Vourdalak (composed in French, but first published in Russian translation in 1884).

Greek λυκάνθρωπος and Germanic werewulf are parallel inasmuch as the concept of a shapeshifter becoming a wolf is expressed by means of a compound “wolf-man” or “man-wolf”.

History

Indo-European comparative mythology

Dolon wearing a wolf-skin. Attic red-figure vase, c. 460 BC.

Vendel period depiction of a warrior wearing a wolf-skin (Tierkrieger)

The werewolf folkore found in Europe harks back to a common development during the Middle Ages, arising in the context of Christianisation, and the associated interpretation of pre-Christian mythology in Christian terms. Their underlying common origin can be traced back to Proto-Indo-European mythology, where lycanthropy is reconstructed as an aspect of the initiation of the warrior class. This is reflected in Iron Age Europe in the Tierkrieger depictions from the Germanic sphere, among others. The standard comparative overview of this aspect of Indo-European mythology is McCone (1987).[7] Such transformations of “men into wolves” in pagan cult were associated with the devil from the early medieval perspective.

The concept of the werewolf in Western and Northern Europe is strongly influenced by the role of the wolf in Germanic paganism (e.g. the French loup-garou is ultimately a loan from the Germanic term), but there are related traditions in other parts of Europe which were not necessarily influenced by Germanic tradition, especially in Slavic Europe and the Balkans, and possibly in areas bordering the Indo-European sphere (the Caucasus) or where Indo-European cultures have been replaced by military conquest in the medieval era (Hungary, Anatolia).[clarification needed]

In his Man into Wolf (1948), Robert Eisler tried to cast the Indo-European tribal names meaning “wolf” or “wolf-men” in terms of “the European transition from fruit gathering to predatory hunting.”[clarification needed] [8]

Classical antiquity

Zeus turning Lycaon into a wolf, engraving by Hendrik Goltzius.

A few references to men changing into wolves are found in Ancient Greek literature and mythology. Herodotus, in his Histories,[9] wrote that the Neuri, a tribe he places to the north-east of Scythia, were all transformed into wolves once every year for several days, and then changed back to their human shape. In the second century BC, the Greek geographer Pausanias related the story of Lycaon, who was transformed into a wolf because he had ritually murdered a child. In accounts by the Bibliotheca (3.8.1) and Ovid (Metamorphoses I.219-239), Lycaon serves human flesh to Zeus, wanting to know if he is really a god. Lycaon’s transformation, therefore, is punishment for a crime, considered variously as murder, cannibalism, and impiety. Ovid also relates stories of men who roamed the woods of Arcadia in the form of wolves.[10][11]

In addition to Ovid, other Roman writers also mentioned lycanthropy. Virgil wrote of human beings transforming into wolves.[12] Pliny the Elder relates two tales of lycanthropy. Quoting Euanthes,[13][14] he mentions a man who hung his clothes on an ash tree and swam across an Arcadian lake, transforming him into a wolf. On the condition that he attack no human being for nine years, he would be free to swim back across the lake to resume human form. Pliny also quotes Agriopas regarding a tale of a man who was turned into a wolf after tasting the entrails of a human child, but was restored to human form 10 years later.

In the Latin work of prose, the Satyricon, written about 60 C.E. by Gaius Petronius Arbiter, one of the characters, Niceros, tells a story at a banquet about a friend who turned into a wolf (chs. 61-62). He describes the incident as follows, “When I look for my buddy I see he’d stripped and piled his clothes by the roadside… He pees in a circle round his clothes and then, just like that, turns into a wolf!… after he turned into a wolf he started howling and then ran off into the woods.”[15]

Middle Ages

There was no widespread belief in werewolves in medieval Europe before the 14th century. There were some examples of man-wolf transformations in the court literature of the time, notably Marie de France‘s poem Bisclavret (c. 1200), in which the nobleman Bizuneh, for reasons not described, had to transform into a wolf every week. When his treacherous wife stole his clothing needed to restore his human form, he escaped the king’s wolf hunt by imploring the king for mercy and accompanied the king thereafter. His behaviour at court was so much gentler than when his wife and her new husband appeared at court, that his hateful attack on the couple was deemed justly motivated, and the truth was revealed.

The German word werwolf is recorded by Burchard von Worms in the 11th century, and by Bertold of Regensburg in the 13th, but is not recorded in all of medieval German poetry or fiction. References to werewolves are also rare in England, presumably because whatever significance the “wolf-men” of Germanic paganism had carried, the associated beliefs and practices had been successfully repressed after Christianization (or if they persisted, they did so outside of the sphere of literacy available to us).[16]

The Germanic pagan traditions associated with wolf-men persisted longest in the Scandinavian Viking Age. Harald I of Norway is known to have had a body of Úlfhednar (wolf coated [men]), which are mentioned in the Vatnsdœla saga, Haraldskvæði, and the Völsunga saga, and resemble some werewolf legends. The Úlfhednar were fighters similar to the berserkers, though they dressed in wolf hides rather than those of bears and were reputed to channel the spirits of these animals to enhance effectiveness in battle.[17] These warriors were resistant to pain and killed viciously in battle, much like wild animals. Úlfhednar and berserkers are closely associated with the Norse god Odin.

The Scandinavian traditions of this period may have spread to Rus, giving rise to the Slavic “werewolf” tales. The 11th century Belarusian Prince Usiaslau of Polatsk was considered to have been a Werewolf, capable of moving at superhuman speeds, as recounted in The Tale of Igor’s Campaign:

“Vseslav the prince judged men; as prince, he ruled towns; but at night he prowled in the guise of a wolf. From Kiev, prowling, he reached, before the cocks crew, Tmutorokan. The path of Great Sun, as a wolf, prowling, he crossed. For him in Polotsk they rang for matins early at St. Sophia the bells; but he heard the ringing in Kiev.”

The situation as described during the medieval period gives rise to the dual form of werewolf folklore in Early Modern Europe. On one hand the “Germanic” werewolf, which becomes associated with the witchcraft panic from around 1400, and on the other hand the “Slavic” werewolf or vlkodlak, which becomes associated with the concept of the revenant or “vampire”. The “eastern” werewolf-vampire is found in the folklore of Cebral/Eastern Europe, including Hungary, Romania and the Balkans, while the “western” werewolf-sorcerer is found in France, German-speaking Europe and in the Baltic.

Early Modern history

Further information: Werewolf witch trials and Wolfssegen

There were numerous reports of werewolf attacks – and consequent court trials – in 16th century France. In some of the cases there was clear evidence against the accused of murder and cannibalism, but none of association with wolves; in other cases people have been terrified by such creatures, such as that of Gilles Garnier in Dole in 1573, there was clear evidence against some wolf but none against the accused.[citation needed] The loup-garou eventually ceased to be regarded as a dangerous heretic and reverted to the pre-Christian notion of a “man-wolf-fiend”. The lubins or lupins were usually female and shy in contrast to the aggressive loups-garous.[citation needed]

Werewolvery was a common accusation in witch trials throughout their history, and it featured even in the Valais witch trials, one of the earliest such trials altogether, in the first half of the 15th century. Likewise, in the Vaud, child-eating werewolves were reported as early as 1448. A peak of attention to lycanthropy came in the late 16th to early 17th century, as part of the European witch-hunts. A number of treatises on werewolves were written in France during 1595 and 1615. Werewolves were sighted in 1598 in Anjou, and a teenage werewolf was sentenced to life imprisonment in Bordeaux in 1603. Henry Boguet wrote a lengthy chapter about werewolves in 1602. In the Vaud, werewolves were convicted in 1602 and in 1624. A treatise by a Vaud pastor in 1653, however, argued that lycanthropy was purely an illusion. After this, the only further record from the Vaud dates to 1670: it is that of a boy who claimed he and his mother could change themselves into wolves, which was, however, not taken seriously. At the beginning of the 17th century witchcraft was prosecuted by James I of England, who regarded “warwoolfes” as victims of delusion induced by “a natural superabundance of melancholic”.[18] After 1650, belief in Lycanthropy had mostly disappeared from French-speaking Europe, as evidenced in Diderot’s Encyclopedia, which attributed reports of lycanthropy to a “disorder of the brain.[19] although there were continuing reports of extraordinary wolf-like beasts (but not werewolves). One such report concerned the Beast of Gévaudan which terrorized the general area of the former province of Gévaudan, now called Lozère, in south-central France; from the years 1764 to 1767, an unknown entity killed upwards of 80 men, women, and children.[citation needed] The only part of Europe which showed vigorous interest in werewolves after 1650 was the Holy Roman Empire. At least nine works on lycanthropy were printed in Germany between 1649 and 1679. In the Austrian and Bavarian Alps, belief in werewolves persisted well into the 18th century.[20]

Until the 20th century, wolf attacks on humans were an occasional, but still widespread feature of life in Europe.[21] Some scholars have suggested that it was inevitable that wolves, being the most feared predators in Europe, were projected into the folklore of evil shapeshifters. This is said to be corroborated by the fact that areas devoid of wolves typically use different kinds of predator to fill the niche; werehyenas in Africa, weretigers in India,[17] as well as werepumas (“runa uturuncu“)[22][23] and werejaguars (“yaguaraté-abá” or “tigre-capiango“)[24][25] in southern South America.

An idea is explored in Sabine Baring-Gould‘s work The Book of Werewolves is that werewolf legends may have been used to explain serial killings. Perhaps the most famous example is the case of Peter Stumpp (executed in 1589), the German farmer, and alleged serial killer and cannibal, also known as the Werewolf of Bedburg.

Asian cultures

In Asian Cultures[which?], the “were” equivalent is a weretiger or wereleopard. (See werecats)

Common Turkic folklore holds a different, reverential light to the werewolf legends in that Turkic Central Asian shamans after performing long and arduous rites would voluntarily be able to transform into the humanoid “Kurtadam” (literally meaning Wolfman). Since the wolf was the totemic ancestor animal of the Turkic peoples, they would be respectful of any shaman who was in such a form.

Lycanthropy as a medical condition

Some modern researchers have tried to explain the reports of werewolf behaviour with recognised medical conditions. Dr Lee Illis of Guy’s Hospital in London wrote a paper in 1963 entitled On Porphyria and the Aetiology of Werewolves, in which he argues that historical accounts on werewolves could have in fact been referring to victims of congenital porphyria, stating how the symptoms of photosensitivity, reddish teeth and psychosis could have been grounds for accusing a sufferer of being a werewolf.[26] This is however argued against by Woodward, who points out how mythological werewolves were almost invariably portrayed as resembling true wolves, and that their human forms were rarely physically conspicuous as porphyria victims.[17] Others have pointed out the possibility of historical werewolves having been sufferers of hypertrichosis, a hereditary condition manifesting itself in excessive hair growth. However, Woodward dismissed the possibility, as the rarity of the disease ruled it out from happening on a large scale, as werewolf cases were in medieval Europe.[17] People suffering from Down syndrome have been suggested by some scholars to have been possible originators of werewolf myths.[27] Woodward suggested rabies as the origin of werewolf beliefs, claiming remarkable similarities between the symptoms of that disease and some of the legends. Woodward focused on the idea that being bitten by a werewolf could result in the victim turning into one, which suggested the idea of a transmittable disease like rabies.[17] However, the idea that lycanthropy could be transmitted in this way is not part of the original myths and legends and only appears in relatively recent beliefs. Lycanthropy can also be met with as the main content of a delusion, for example, the case of a woman has been reported who during episodes of acute psychosis complained of becoming four different species of animals.[28]

Folk beliefs

A German woodcut from 1722

Characteristics

The beliefs classed together under lycanthropy are far from uniform, and the term is somewhat capriciously applied. The transformation may be temporary or permanent; the were-animal may be the man himself metamorphosed; may be his double whose activity leaves the real man to all appearance unchanged; may be his soul, which goes forth seeking whom it may devour, leaving its body in a state of trance; or it may be no more than the messenger of the human being, a real animal or a familiar spirit, whose intimate connection with its owner is shown by the fact that any injury to it is believed, by a phenomenon known as repercussion, to cause a corresponding injury to the human being.

Werewolves were said in European folklore to bear tell-tale physical traits even in their human form. These included the meeting of both eyebrows at the bridge of the nose, curved fingernails, low-set ears and a swinging stride. One method of identifying a werewolf in its human form was to cut the flesh of the accused, under the pretense that fur would be seen within the wound. A Russian superstition recalls a werewolf can be recognised by bristles under the tongue.[17] The appearance of a werewolf in its animal form varies from culture to culture, though it is most commonly portrayed as being indistinguishable from ordinary wolves save for the fact that it has no tail (a trait thought characteristic of witches in animal form), is often larger, and retains human eyes and voice. According to some Swedish accounts, the werewolf could be distinguished from a regular wolf by the fact that it would run on three legs, stretching the fourth one backwards to look like a tail.[29] After returning to their human forms, werewolves are usually documented as becoming weak, debilitated and undergoing painful nervous depression.[17] One universally reviled trait in medieval Europe was the werewolf’s habit of devouring recently buried corpses, a trait that is documented extensively, particularly in the Annales Medico-psychologiques in the 19th century.[17] Fennoscandian werewolves were usually old women who possessed poison-coated claws and had the ability to paralyse cattle and children with their gaze.[17]

Becoming a werewolf

Various methods for becoming a werewolf have been reported, one of the simplest being the removal of clothing and putting on a belt made of wolfskin, probably as a substitute for the assumption of an entire animal skin (which also is frequently described).[30] In other cases, the body is rubbed with a magic salve.[30] Drinking rainwater out of the footprint of the animal in question or from certain enchanted streams were also considered effectual modes of accomplishing metamorphosis.[31] The 16th century Swedish writer Olaus Magnus says that the Livonian werewolves were initiated by draining a cup of specially prepared beer and repeating a set formula. Ralston in his Songs of the Russian People gives the form of incantation still familiar in Russia. In Italy, France and Germany, it was said that a man or woman could turn into a werewolf if he or she, on a certain Wednesday or Friday, slept outside on a summer night with the full moon shining directly on his or her face.[17]

In other cases, the transformation was supposedly accomplished by Satanic allegiance for the most loathsome ends, often for the sake of sating a craving for human flesh. “The werewolves”, writes Richard Verstegan (Restitution of Decayed Intelligence, 1628),

are certayne sorcerers, who having annoynted their bodies with an ointment which they make by the instinct of the devil, and putting on a certayne inchaunted girdle, does not only unto the view of others seem as wolves, but to their own thinking have both the shape and nature of wolves, so long as they wear the said girdle. And they do dispose themselves as very wolves, in worrying and killing, and most of humane creatures.

The phenomenon of repercussion, the power of animal metamorphosis, or of sending out a familiar, real or spiritual, as a messenger, and the supernormal powers conferred by association with such a familiar, are also attributed to the magician, male and female, all the world over; and witch superstitions are closely parallel to, if not identical with, lycanthropic beliefs, the occasional involuntary character of lycanthropy being almost the sole distinguishing feature. In another direction the phenomenon of repercussion is asserted to manifest itself in connection with the bush-soul of the West African and the nagual of Central America; but though there is no line of demarcation to be drawn on logical grounds, the assumed power of the magician and the intimate association of the bush-soul or the nagual with a human being are not termed lycanthropy. Nevertheless, it will be well to touch on both these beliefs here.

The curse of lycanthropy was also considered by some scholars as being a divine punishment. Werewolf literature shows many examples of God or saints allegedly cursing those who invoked their wrath with werewolfism. Such is the case of Lycaon, who was turned into a wolf by Zeus as punishment for slaughtering one of his own sons and serving his remains to the gods as a dinner. Those who were excommunicated by the Roman Catholic Church were also said to become werewolves.[17]

The power of transforming others into wild beasts was attributed not only to malignant sorcerers, but to Christian saints as well. Omnes angeli, boni et Mali, ex virtute naturali habent potestatem transmutandi corpora nostra (“All angels, good and bad have the power of transmutating our bodies”) was the dictum of St. Thomas Aquinas. St. Patrick was said to have transformed the Welsh king Vereticus into a wolf; Natalis supposedly cursed an illustrious Irish family whose members were each doomed to be a wolf for seven years. In other tales the divine agency is even more direct, while in Russia, again, men supposedly became werewolves when incurring the wrath of the Devil.

A notable exception to the association of Lycanthropy and the Devil, comes from a rare and lesser known account of an 80-year-old man named Thiess. In 1692, in Jürgensburg, Livonia, Thiess testified under oath that he and other werewolves were the Hounds of God.[32] He claimed they were warriors who went down into hell to do battle with witches and demons. Their efforts ensured that the Devil and his minions did not carry off the grain from local failed crops down to hell. Thiess was steadfast in his assertions, claiming that werewolves in Germany and Russia also did battle with the devil’s minions in their own versions of hell, and insisted that when werewolves died, their souls were welcomed into heaven as reward for their service. Thiess was ultimately sentenced to ten lashes for Idolatry and superstitious belief.

Remedies

Various methods have existed for removing the werewolf form. In antiquity, the Ancient Greeks and Romans believed in the power of exhaustion in curing people of lycanthropy. The victim would be subjected to long periods of physical activity in the hope of being purged of the malady. This practice stemmed from the fact that many alleged werewolves would be left feeling weak and debilitated after committing depredations.[17]

In medieval Europe, traditionally, there are three methods one can use to cure a victim of werewolfism; medicinally (usually via the use of wolfsbane), surgically or by exorcism. However, many of the cures advocated by medieval medical practitioners proved fatal to the patients. A Sicilian belief of Arabic origin holds that a werewolf can be cured of its ailment by striking it on the forehead or scalp with a knife. Another belief from the same culture involves the piercing of the werewolf’s hands with nails. Sometimes, less extreme methods were used. In the German lowland of Schleswig-Holstein, a werewolf could be cured if one were to simply address it three times by its Christian name, while one Danish belief holds that simply scolding a werewolf will cure it.[17] Conversion to Christianity is also a common method of removing werewolfism in the medieval period. A devotion to St. Hubert has also been cited as both cure for and protection from lycanthropes.

Connection to revenants

Further information: Revenant

Before the end of the 19th century, the Greeks believed that the corpses of werewolves, if not destroyed, would return to life in the form of wolves or hyenas which prowled battlefields, drinking the blood of dying soldiers. In the same vein, in some rural areas of Germany, Poland and Northern France, it was once believed that people who died in mortal sin came back to life as blood-drinking wolves. These “undead” werewolves would return to their human corpse form at daylight. They were dealt with by decapitation with a spade and exorcism by the parish priest. The head would then be thrown into a stream, where the weight of its sins was thought to weigh it down. Sometimes, the same methods used to dispose of ordinary vampires would be used. The vampire was also linked to the werewolf in East European countries, particularly Bulgaria, Serbia and Slovenia. In Serbia, the werewolf and vampire are known collectively as vulkodlak.[17]

Hungary and Balkans

In Hungarian folklore, the werewolves used to live specially in the region of Transdanubia, and it was thought that the ability to change into a wolf was obtained in the infant age, after the suffering of abuse by the parents or by a curse. At the age of seven the boy or the girl leaves the house and goes hunting by night and can change to person or wolf whenever he wants. The curse can also be obtained when in the adulthood the person passed three times through an arch made of a Birch with the help of a wild rose‘s spine.

The werewolves were known to exterminate all kind of farm animals, especially sheep. The transformation usually occurred in the Winter solstice, Easter and full moon. Later in the 17th and 18th century, the trials in Hungary not only were conducted against witches, but against werewolves too, and many records exist creating connections between both kinds. Also the vampires and werewolves are closely related in Hungary, being both feared in the antiquity.[33]

Among the South Slavs, and also among the Kashubs of what is now northern Poland,[clarification needed] there was the belief that if a child was born with hair, a birthmark or a caul on their head, they were supposed to possess shape-shifting abilities. Though capable of turning into any animal they wished, it was commonly believed that such people preferred to turn into a wolf.[34]

Serbian vulkodlaks traditionally had the habit of congregating annually in the winter months, when they would strip off their wolf skins and hang them from trees. They would then get a hold of another vulkodlaks skin and burn it, releasing from its curse the vulkodlak from whom the skin came.[17]

Caucasus

According to Armenian lore, there are women who, in consequence of deadly sins, are condemned to spend seven years in wolf form.[35] In a typical account, a condemned woman is visited by a wolfskin-toting spirit, who orders her to wear the skin, which causes her to acquire frightful cravings for human flesh soon after. With her better nature overcome, the she-wolf devours each of her own children, then her relatives’ children in order of relationship, and finally the children of strangers. She wanders only at night, with doors and locks springing open at her approach. When morning arrives, she reverts to human form and removes her wolfskin. The transformation is generally said to be involuntary, but there are alternate versions involving voluntary metamorphosis, where the women can transform at will.

Americas and Caribbean

Main article: Skin-walker

The Naskapis believed that the caribou afterlife is guarded by giant wolves which kill careless hunters venturing too near. The Navajo people feared witches in wolf’s clothing called “Mai-cob”.[27]

Woodward thought that these beliefs were due to the Norse colonization of the Americas.[17] When the European colonization of the Americas occurred, the pioneers brought their own werewolf folklore with them and were later influenced by the lore of their neighbouring colonies and those of the Natives. Belief in the loup-garou present in Canada, the Upper and Lower Peninsulas of Michigan[36] and upstate New York, originates from French folklore influenced by Native American stories on the Wendigo. In Mexico, there is a belief in a creature called the nahual, which traditionally limits itself to stealing cheese and raping women rather than murder.[citation needed] In Haiti, there is a superstition that werewolf spirits known locally as Jé-rouge (red eyes) can possess the bodies of unwitting persons and nightly transform them into cannibalistic lupine creatures. The Haitian jé-rouges typically try to trick mothers into giving away their children voluntarily by waking them at night and asking their permission to take their child, to which the disoriented mother may either reply yes or no. The Haitian jé-rouges differ from traditional European werewolves by their habit of actively trying to spread their lycanthropic condition to others, much like vampires.[17]

Modern reception

Werewolf fiction

Main article: Werewolf fiction

The Were-Wolf by Clemence Housman

Most modern fiction describes werewolves as vulnerable to silver weapons and highly resistant to other injuries. This feature appears in German folklore of the 19th century.[37] The claim that the Beast of Gévaudan, an 18th-century wolf or wolf-like creature, was shot by a silver bullet appears to have been introduced by novelists retelling the story from 1935 onwards and not in earlier versions.[38] English Folk-lore, prior to 1865, showed shape shifters to be vulnerable to silver. “…till the publican shot a silver button over their heads when they were instantly transformed into two ill-favoured old ladies…”[39] c. 1640 the city of Greifswald, Germany was infested by werewolves. “A clever lad suggested that they gather all their silver buttons, goblets, belt buckles, and so forth, and melt them down into bullets for their muskets and pistols. … this time they slaughtered the creatures and rid Greifswald of the lycanthropes.”[40]

The 1897 novel Dracula and the short story Dracula’s Guest, both written by Bram Stoker, drew on earlier mythologies of werewolves and similar legendary demons and “was to voice the anxieties of an age”, and the “fears of late Victorian patriarchy“.[41] In Dracula’s guest, a band of military horsemen coming to the aid of the protagonist chase off Dracula, depicted as a great wolf stating the only way to kill it is by a “Sacred Bullet”.[42] This is also mentioned in the main novel Dracula as well. Count Dracula stated in the novel that legends of werewolves originated from his Szekely racial bloodline,[43] who himself is also depicted with the ability to shapeshift into a wolf at will during the night but is unable to do so during the day except at noon.[44]

The first feature film to use an anthropomorphic werewolf was Werewolf of London in 1935. The main werewolf of this film is a dapper London scientist who retains some of his style and most of his human features after his transformation,[45] as lead actor Henry Hull was unwilling to spend long hours being made up by makeup artist Jack Pierce.[46] Universal Studios drew on a Balkan tale of a plant associated with lycanthropy as there was no literary work to draw upon, unlike the case with vampires. There is no reference to silver nor other aspects of werewolf lore such as cannibalism.[47]

A more tragic character is Lawrence Talbot, played by Lon Chaney, Jr. in 1941’s The Wolf Man. With Pierce’s makeup more elaborate this time,[48] the movie catapulted the werewolf into public consciousness.[45] Sympathetic portrayals are few but notable, such as the comedic but tortured protagonist David Naughton in An American Werewolf in London,[49] and a less anguished and more confident and charismatic Jack Nicholson in the 1994 film Wolf.[50] Over time, the depiction of werewolves has gone from fully malevolent to even heroic creatures, such as in the Underworld and Twilight series, as well as Dance in the Vampire Bund, Rosario+Vampire, and various other movies, anime, manga, and comic books.

Other werewolves are decidedly more willful and malevolent, such as those in the novel The Howling and its subsequent sequels and film adaptations. The form a werewolf assumes was generally anthropomorphic in early films such as The Wolf Man and Werewolf of London, but larger and powerful wolf in many later films.[51]

Werewolves are often depicted as immune to damage caused by ordinary weapons, being vulnerable only to silver objects, such as a silver-tipped cane, bullet or blade; this attribute was first adopted cinematically in The Wolf Man.[48] This negative reaction to silver is sometimes so strong that the mere touch of the metal on a werewolf’s skin will cause burns. Current-day werewolf fiction almost exclusively involves lycanthropy being either a hereditary condition or being transmitted like an infectious disease by the bite of another werewolf. In some fiction, the power of the werewolf extends to human form, such as invulnerability to conventional injury due to their healing factor, super-human speed and strength and falling on their feet from high falls. Also aggressiveness and animalistic urges may be intensified and harder to control (hunger, sexual arousal). Usually in these cases the abilities are diminished in human form. In other fiction it can be cured by medicine men or antidotes.

Along with the vulnerability to the silver bullet, the full moon being the cause of the transformation only became part of the depiction of werewolves on a widespead basis in the twentieth century.[52] The first movie to feature the transformative effect of the full moon was the The Wolf Man in 1941.[53]

Nazi Germany

Nazi Germany used Werwolf, as the mythical creature’s name is spelled in German, in 1942–43 as the codename for one of Hitler’s headquarters. In the war’s final days, the Nazi “Operation Werwolf” aimed at creating a commando force that would operate behind enemy lines as the Allies advanced through Germany itself.

Two fictional depictions of “Operation Werwolf”—the US television series True Blood and the 2012 novel Wolf Hunter, by J.L. Benét—mix the two meanings of “Werwolf” by depicting the 1945 diehard Nazi commandos as being actual werewolves.

Witchcraft

Image result for WITCH GIFS

Image result for WITCH GIFS

Image result for WITCH GIFS

Image result for WITCH GIFS

Image result for WITCH GIFS

Witchcraft

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
“Witch” redirects here. For other uses, see Witchcraft (disambiguation) and Witch (disambiguation).
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Anthropology of religion
Social and cultural anthropology

Witchcraft (also called witchery or spellcraft) broadly means the practice of, and belief in, magical skills and abilities that are able to be exercised by individuals and certain social groups. Witchcraft is a complex concept that varies culturally and societally; therefore, it is difficult to define with precision[1] and cross-cultural assumptions about the meaning or significance of the term should be applied with caution. Witchcraft often occupies a religious, divinatory or medicinal role,[2] and is often present within societies and groups whose cultural framework includes a magical world view.[1] Although witchcraft can often share common ground with related concepts such as sorcery, the paranormal, magic, superstition, necromancy, possession, shamanism, healing, spiritualism, nature worship and the occult, it is usually seen as distinct from these when examined by sociologists and anthropologists. It is said to have been an ancient religion.

Concept

The concept of witchcraft and the belief in its existence have existed throughout recorded history. They have been present or central at various times, and in many diverse forms, among cultures and religions worldwide, including both “primitive” and “highly advanced” cultures,[3] and continue to have an important role in many cultures today.[2] Scientifically, the existence of magical powers and witchcraft are generally believed to lack credence and to be unsupported by high quality experimental testing, although individual witchcraft practices and effects may be open to scientific explanation or explained via mentalism and psychology.

Historically, the predominant concept of witchcraft in the Western world derives from Old Testament laws against witchcraft, and entered the mainstream when belief in witchcraft gained Church approval in the Early Modern Period. It posits a theosophical conflict between good and evil, where witchcraft was generally evil and often associated with the Devil and Devil worship. This culminated in deaths, torture and scapegoating (casting blame for human misfortune),[4][5] and many years of large scale witch-trials and witch hunts, especially in Protestant Europe, before largely ceasing during the European Age of Enlightenment. Christian views in the modern day are diverse and cover the gamut of views from intense belief and opposition (especially from Christian fundamentalists) to non-belief, and in some churches even approval. From the mid-20th century, witchcraft – sometimes called contemporary witchcraft to clearly distinguish it from older beliefs – became the name of a branch of modern paganism. It is most notably practiced in the Wiccan and modern witchcraft traditions, and no longer practices in secrecy.[6]

The Western mainstream Christian view is far from the only societal perspective about witchcraft. Many cultures worldwide continue to have widespread practices and cultural beliefs that are loosely translated into English as “witchcraft”, although the English translation masks a very great diversity in their forms, magical beliefs, practices, and place in their societies. During the Age of Colonialism, many cultures across the globe were exposed to the modern Western world via colonialism, usually accompanied and often preceded by intensive Christian missionary activity (see “Christianization“). Beliefs related to witchcraft and magic in these cultures were at times influenced by the prevailing Western concepts. Witch hunts, scapegoating, and killing or shunning of suspected witches still occurs in the modern era,[7] with killings both of victims for their supposedly magical body parts, and of suspected witchcraft practitioners.

Suspicion of modern medicine due to beliefs about illness being due to witchcraft also continues in many countries to this day, with tragic healthcare consequences. HIV/AIDS[8] and Ebola virus disease[9] are two examples of often-lethal infectious disease epidemics whose medical care and containment has been severely hampered by regional beliefs in witchcraft. Other severe medical conditions whose treatment is hampered in this way include tuberculosis, leprosy, epilepsy and the common severe bacterial Buruli ulcer.[10][11] Public healthcare often requires considerable education work related to epidemology and modern health knowledge in many parts of the world where belief in witchcraft prevails, to encourage effective preventive health measures and treatments, to reduce victim blaming, shunning and stigmatization, and to prevent the killing of people and endangering of animal species for body parts believed to convey magical abilities.

Etymology and definitions

Further information: Witch (word)

The word “witchcraft” derives from the Old English wiccecræft, a compound of “wicce” (“witch”) and “cræft” (“craft”).[12]

In anthropological terminology, witches differ from sorcerers in that they don’t use physical tools or actions to curse; their maleficium is perceived as extending from some intangible inner quality, and one may be unaware of being a witch, or may have been convinced of his/her nature by the suggestion of others.[13] This definition was pioneered in a study of central African magical beliefs by E. E. Evans-Pritchard, who cautioned that it might not correspond with normal English usage.[14]

Historians of European witchcraft have found the anthropological definition difficult to apply to European and British witchcraft, where witches could equally use (or be accused of using) physical techniques, as well as some who really had attempted to cause harm by thought alone.[15] European witchcraft is seen by historians and anthropologists as an ideology for explaining misfortune; however, this ideology has manifested in diverse ways, as described below.[16]

Overview

Alleged practices

Historically the witchcraft label has been applied to practices people believe influence the mind, body, or property of others against their will—or practices that the person doing the labeling believes undermine social or religious order. Some modern commentators[who?] believe the malefic nature of witchcraft is a Christian projection. The concept of a magic-worker influencing another person’s body or property against their will was clearly present in many cultures, as traditions in both folk magic and religious magic have the purpose of countering malicious magic or identifying malicious magic users. Many examples appear in early texts, such as those from ancient Egypt and Babylonia. Malicious magic users can become a credible cause for disease, sickness in animals, bad luck, sudden death, impotence and other such misfortunes. Witchcraft of a more benign and socially acceptable sort may then be employed to turn the malevolence aside, or identify the supposed evil-doer so that punishment may be carried out. The folk magic used to identify or protect against malicious magic users is often indistinguishable from that used by the witches themselves.

There has also existed in popular belief the concept of white witches and white witchcraft, which is strictly benevolent. Many neopagan witches strongly identify with this concept, and profess ethical codes that prevent them from performing magic on a person without their request.

Where belief in malicious magic practices exists, such practitioners are typically forbidden by law as well as hated and feared by the general populace, while beneficial magic is tolerated or even accepted wholesale by the people – even if the orthodox establishment opposes it.

Spell casting

Probably the most obvious characteristic of a witch was the ability to cast a spell, “spell” being the word used to signify the means employed to carry out a magical action. A spell could consist of a set of words, a formula or verse, or a ritual action, or any combination of these.[17] Spells traditionally were cast by many methods, such as by the inscription of runes or sigils on an object to give it magical powers; by the immolation or binding of a wax or clay image (poppet) of a person to affect him or her magically; by the recitation of incantations; by the performance of physical rituals; by the employment of magical herbs as amulets or potions; by gazing at mirrors, swords or other specula (scrying) for purposes of divination; and by many other means.[18]

Necromancy (conjuring the dead)

Strictly speaking, “necromancy” is the practice of conjuring the spirits of the dead for divination or prophecy – although the term has also been applied to raising the dead for other purposes. The biblical Witch of Endor performed it (1 Sam. 28), and it is among the witchcraft practices condemned by Ælfric of Eynsham:[19][20][21]

Witches still go to cross-roads and to heathen burials with their delusive magic and call to the devil; and he comes to them in the likeness of the man that is buried there, as if he arise from death.[22]

Good and evil

Demonology

Main article: Demonology

In Christianity and Islam, sorcery came to be associated with heresy and apostasy and to be viewed as evil. Among the Catholics, Protestants, and secular leadership of the European Late Medieval/Early Modern period, fears about witchcraft rose to fever pitch and sometimes led to large-scale witch-hunts. The key century was the fifteenth, which saw a dramatic rise in awareness and terror of witchcraft, culminating in the publication of the Malleus Maleficarum but prepared by such fanatical popular preachers as Bernardino of Siena.[23] Throughout this time, it was increasingly believed that Christianity was engaged in an apocalyptic battle against the Devil and his secret army of witches, who had entered into a diabolical pact. In total, tens or hundreds of thousands of people were executed, and others were imprisoned, tortured, banished, and had lands and possessions confiscated. The majority of those accused were women, though in some regions the majority were men.[24][25]Warlock” is sometimes mistakenly used for male witch.[26] Accusations of witchcraft were often combined with other charges of heresy against such groups as the Cathars and Waldensians.

The Malleus Maleficarum, (Latin for “Hammer of The Witches”) was a witch-hunting manual written in 1486 by two German monks, Heinrich Kramer and Jacob Sprenger. It was used by both Catholics and Protestants[27] for several hundred years, outlining how to identify a witch, what makes a woman more likely than a man to be a witch, how to put a witch on trial, and how to punish a witch. The book defines a witch as evil and typically female. The book became the handbook for secular courts throughout Renaissance Europe, but was not used by the Inquisition, which even cautioned against relying on the work,[28] and was later officially condemned by the Catholic Church in 1490.

In the modern Western world, witchcraft accusations have often accompanied the satanic ritual abuse moral panic. Such accusations are a counterpart to blood libel of various kinds, which may be found throughout history across the globe.

White witches

Main article: White witch
Further information: Folk religion, Magical thinking, and Shamanism

A painting in the Rila Monastery in Bulgaria, condemning witchcraft and traditional folk magic

Throughout the early modern period, the English term “witch” was not exclusively negative in meaning, and could also indicate cunning folk. As Alan McFarlane noted, “There were a number of interchangeable terms for these practitioners, ‘white’, ‘good’, or ‘unbinding’ witches, blessers, wizards, sorcerers, however ‘cunning-man’ and ‘wise-man’ were the most frequent.”[29] The contemporary Reginald Scot explained, “At this day it is indifferent to say in the English tongue, ‘she is a witch’ or ‘she is a wise woman'”.[30] Folk magicians throughout Europe were often viewed ambivalently by communities, and were considered as capable of harming as of healing,[31] which could lead to their being accused as “witches” in the negative sense. Many English “witches” convicted of consorting with demons seem to have been cunning folk whose fairy familiars had been demonised;[32] many French devins-guerisseurs (“diviner-healers”) were accused of witchcraft,[33] and over one half the accused witches in Hungary seem to have been healers.[34]

Some of the healers and diviners historically accused of witchcraft have considered themselves mediators between the mundane and spiritual worlds, roughly equivalent to shamans.[35] Such people described their contacts with fairies, spirits often involving out-of-body experiences and travelling through the realms of an “other-world”.[36] Beliefs of this nature are implied in the folklore of much of Europe, and were explicitly described by accused witches in central and southern Europe. Repeated themes include participation in processions of the dead or large feasts, often presided over by a horned male deity or a female divinity who teaches magic and gives prophecies; and participation in battles against evil spirits, “vampires”, or “witches” to win fertility and prosperity for the community.

Accusations of witchcraft

Éva Pócs states that reasons for accusations of witchcraft fall into four general categories:[16]

  1. A person was caught in the act of positive or negative sorcery
  2. A well-meaning sorcerer or healer lost their clients’ or the authorities’ trust
  3. A person did nothing more than gain the enmity of their neighbours
  4. A person was reputed to be a witch and surrounded with an aura of witch-beliefs or Occultism

She identifies three varieties of witch in popular belief:[16]

  • The “neighbourhood witch” or “social witch”: a witch who curses a neighbour following some conflict.
  • The “magical” or “sorcerer” witch: either a professional healer, sorcerer, seer or midwife, or a person who has through magic increased her fortune to the perceived detriment of a neighbouring household; due to neighbourly or community rivalries and the ambiguity between positive and negative magic, such individuals can become labelled as witches.
  • The “supernatural” or “night” witch: portrayed in court narratives as a demon appearing in visions and dreams.[37]

“Neighbourhood witches” are the product of neighbourhood tensions, and are found only in self-sufficient serf village communities where the inhabitants largely rely on each other. Such accusations follow the breaking of some social norm, such as the failure to return a borrowed item, and any person part of the normal social exchange could potentially fall under suspicion. Claims of “sorcerer” witches and “supernatural” witches could arise out of social tensions, but not exclusively; the supernatural witch in particular often had nothing to do with communal conflict, but expressed tensions between the human and supernatural worlds; and in Eastern and Southeastern Europe such supernatural witches became an ideology explaining calamities that befell entire communities.[38]

Violence related to accusations

Belief in witchcraft continues to be present today in some societies and accusations of witchcraft are the trigger of serious forms of violence, including murder. Such incidents are common in places such as Burkina Faso, Ghana, India, Kenya, Malawi, Nepal and Tanzania. Accusations of witchcraft are sometimes linked to personal disputes, jealousy, and conflicts between neighbors or family over land or inheritance. Witchcraft related violence is often discussed as a serious issue in the broader context of violence against women.[39][40][41][42][43]

In Tanzania, about 500 older women are murdered each year following accusations against them of witchcraft/or being a witch.[44] Apart from extrajudicial violence, there is also state-sanctioned violence in some jurisdictions. For instance, in Saudi Arabia practicing ‘witchcraft and sorcery’ is a crime punishable by death and the country has executed people for this crime in 2011, 2012 and 2014.[45][46][47]

Children in some regions of the world, such as parts of Africa, are also vulnerable to violence related to witchcraft accusations.[48][49][50][51] Such incidents have also occurred in immigrant communities in the UK, including the much publicized case of the murder of Victoria Climbié.[52][53]

Contemporary witchcraft

Further information: Neoshamanism and Modern paganism

Modern practices identified by their practitioners as “witchcraft” have grown dramatically since the early 20th century. Generally portrayed as revivals of pre-Christian European ritual and spirituality, they are understood to involve varying degrees of magic, shamanism, folk medicine, spiritual healing, calling on elementals and spirits, veneration of ancient deities and archetypes, and attunement with the forces of nature.

The first Neopagan groups to publicly appear, during the 1950s and 60s, were Gerald Gardner‘s Bricket Wood coven and Roy BowersClan of Tubal Cain. They operated as initiatory secret societies. Other individual practitioners and writers such as Paul Huson[54] also claimed inheritance to surviving traditions of witchcraft.[55]

Wicca

Main article: Wicca

During the 20th century, interest in witchcraft in English-speaking and European countries began to increase, inspired particularly by Margaret Murray‘s theory of a pan-European witch-cult originally published in 1921, since discredited by further careful historical research.[56] Interest was intensified, however, by Gerald Gardner’s claim in 1954 in Witchcraft Today that a form of witchcraft still existed in England. The truth of Gardner’s claim is now disputed too, with different historians offering evidence for[57][58] or against[59][60][61] the religion’s existence prior to Gardner.

The Wicca that Gardner initially taught was a witchcraft religion having a lot in common with Margaret Murray’s hypothetically posited cult of the 1920s.[62] Indeed, Murray wrote an introduction to Gardner’s Witchcraft Today, in effect putting her stamp of approval on it. Wicca is now practised as a religion of an initiatory secret society nature with positive ethical principles, organised into autonomous covens and led by a High Priesthood. There is also a large “Eclectic Wiccan” movement of individuals and groups who share key Wiccan beliefs but have no initiatory connection or affiliation with traditional Wicca. Wiccan writings and ritual show borrowings from a number of sources including 19th and 20th-century ceremonial magic, the medieval grimoire known as the Key of Solomon, Aleister Crowley‘s Ordo Templi Orientis and pre-Christian religions.[63][64][65] Both men and women are equally termed “witches.” They practice a form of duotheistic universalism.

Since Gardner’s death in 1964, the Wicca that he claimed he was initiated into has attracted many initiates, becoming the largest of the various witchcraft traditions in the Western world, and has influenced other Neopagan and occult movements.

Stregheria

Main article: Stregheria

Stregheria is an Italian witchcraft religion popularised in the 1980s by Raven Grimassi, who claims that it evolved within the ancient Etruscan religion of Italian peasants who worked under the Catholic upper classes.

Modern Stregheria closely resembles Charles Leland‘s controversial late-19th-century account of a surviving Italian religion of witchcraft, worshipping the Goddess Diana, her brother Dianus/Lucifer, and their daughter Aradia. Leland’s witches do not see Lucifer as the evil Satan that Christians see, but a benevolent god of the Sun and Moon.

The ritual format of contemporary Stregheria is roughly similar to that of other Neopagan witchcraft religions such as Wicca. The pentagram is the most common symbol of religious identity. Most followers celebrate a series of eight festivals equivalent to the Wiccan Wheel of the Year, though others follow the ancient Roman festivals. An emphasis is placed on ancestor worship.

Traditional witchcraft

Traditional witchcraft is a term used to refer to a variety of contemporary forms of witchcraft. Pagan studies scholar Ethan Doyle White described it as “a broad movement of aligned magico-religious groups who reject any relation to Gardnerianism and the wider Wiccan movement, claiming older, more “traditional” roots. Although typically united by a shared aesthetic rooted in European folklore, the Traditional Craft contains within its ranks a rich and varied array of occult groups, from those who follow a contemporary Pagan path that is suspiciously similar to Wicca to those who adhere to Luciferianism“.[66] According to British Traditional Witch Michael Howard, the term refers to “any non-Gardnerian, non-Alexandrian, non-Wiccan or pre-modern form of the Craft, especially if it has been inspired by historical forms of witchcraft and folk magic”.[67] Another definition was offered by Daniel A. Schulke, the current Magister of the Cultus Sabbati, when he proclaimed that traditional witchcraft “refers to a coterie of initiatory lineages of ritual magic, spellcraft and devotional mysticism”.[68] Some forms of traditional witchcraft are the Feri Tradition, Cochrane’s Craft and the Sabbatic craft.[69]

Feri Tradition
Main article: Feri Tradition

The Feri Tradition is a modern traditional witchcraft practice founded by Victor Henry Anderson and his wife Cora. It is an ecstatic tradition which places strong emphasis on sensual experience and awareness, including sexual mysticism, which is not limited to heterosexual expression.

Most practitioners worship three main deities; the Star Goddess, and two divine twins, one of whom is the blue God. They believe that there are three parts to the human soul, a belief taken from the Hawaiian religion of Huna as described by Max Freedom Long.

Contemporary witchcraft, Satanism and Luciferianism

Eliphas Lévi’s Sabbatic goat (known as The Goat of Mendes or Baphomet) is one of Satanism’s most common symbols.

Satanism is a broad term referring to diverse beliefs that share a symbolic association with, or admiration for, Satan, who is seen as a liberating figure. While it is heir to the same historical period and pre-Enlightenment beliefs that gave rise to modern witchcraft, it is generally seen as completely separate from modern witchcraft and Wicca, and has little or no connection to them.

Modern witchcraft considers Satanism to be the “dark side of Christianity” rather than a branch of Wicca: – the character of Satan referenced in Satanism exists only in the theology of the three Abrahamic religions, and Satanism arose as, and occupies the role of, a rebellious counterpart to Christianity, in which all is permitted and the self is central. (Christianity can be characterized as having the diametrically opposite views to these.)[70] Such beliefs become more visibly expressed in Europe after the Enlightenment, when works such as Milton‘s Paradise Lost were described anew by romantics who suggested that they presented the biblical Satan as an allegory representing crisis of faith, individualism, free will, wisdom and enlightenment; a few works from that time also begin to directly present Satan in a less negative light, such as Letters from the Earth. The two major trends are theistic Satanism and atheistic Satanism; the former venerates Satan as a supernatural patriarchal deity, while the latter views Satan as merely a symbolic embodiment of certain human traits.[71]

Organized groups began to emerge in the mid 20th century, including the Ophite Cultus Satanas (1948)[72] and The Church of Satan (1966). After seeing Margaret Murray‘s book The God of the Witches the leader of Ophite Cultus Satanas, Herbert Arthur Sloane, said he realized that the horned god was Satan (Sathanas). Sloane also corresponded with his contemporary Gerald Gardner, founder of the wicca religion, and implied that his views of Satan and the horned god were not necessarily in conflict with Gardner’s approach. However, he did believe that, while “gnosis” referred to knowledge, and “wicca” referred to wisdom, modern witches had fallen away from the true knowledge, and instead had begun worshipping a fertility god, a reflection of the creator god. He wrote that “the largest existing body of witches who are true Satanists would be the Yezedees“. Sloane highly recommended the book The Gnostic Religion, and sections of it were sometimes read at ceremonies.[73] It was estimated that there were up to 100,000 Satanists worldwide by 2006, twice the number estimated in 1990.[74] Satanistic beliefs have been largely permitted as a valid expression of religious belief in the West. For example, they were allowed in the British Royal Navy in 2004,[75][76][77] and an appeal was considered in 2005 for religious status as a right of prisoners by the Supreme Court of the United States.[78][79] Contemporary Satanism is mainly an American phenomenon,[80] although it began to reach Eastern Europe in the 1990s around the time of the fall of the Soviet Union.[81][82]

Luciferianism, on the other hand, is a belief system[83] and does not revere the devil figure or most characteristics typically affixed to Satan. Rather, Lucifer in this context is seen as one of many morning stars, a symbol of enlightenment,[84] independence and human progression. Madeline Montalban was an English witch who adhered to a specific form of luciferianism which revolved around the veneration of Lucifer, or Lumiel, whom she considered to be a benevolent angelic being who had aided humanity’s development. Within her Order, she emphasised that her followers discover their own personal relationship with the angelic beings, including Lumiel.[85] Although initially seeming favourable to Gerald Gardner, by the mid-1960s she had become hostile towards him and his Gardnerian tradition, considering him to be “a ‘dirty old man’ and sexual pervert.”[86] She also expressed hostility to another prominent Pagan Witch of the period, Charles Cardell, although in the 1960s became friends with the two Witches at the forefront of the Alexandrian Wiccan tradition, Alex Sanders and his wife, Maxine Sanders, who adopted some of her Luciferian angelic practices.[87] In contemporary times luciferian witches exist within traditional witchcraft.[66]

Historical and religious perspectives

Near East beliefs

The belief in sorcery and its practice seem to have been widespread in the Ancient Near East and Nile Valley. It played a conspicuous role in the cultures of ancient Egypt and in Babylonia. The latter tradition included an Akkadian anti-witchcraft ritual, the Maqlû. A section from the Code of Hammurabi (about 2000 B.C.) prescribes:

If a man has put a spell upon another man and it is not justified, he upon whom the spell is laid shall go to the holy river; into the holy river shall he plunge. If the holy river overcome him and he is drowned, the man who put the spell upon him shall take possession of his house. If the holy river declares him innocent and he remains unharmed the man who laid the spell shall be put to death. He that plunged into the river shall take possession of the house of him who laid the spell upon him.[88]

Abrahamic religions

Hebrew Bible

According to the New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia:

In the Holy Scripture references to sorcery are frequent, and the strong condemnations of such practices found there do not seem to be based so much upon the supposition of fraud as upon the abomination of the magic in itself.[89]

Execution of alleged witches in Central Europe, 1587

The King James Bible uses the words “witch”, “witchcraft”, and “witchcrafts” to translate the Masoretic כשף (kashaph or kesheph) and קסם (qesem);[90] these same English terms are used to translate φαρμακεια (pharmakeia) in the Greek New Testament text. Verses such as Deuteronomy 18:11–12 and Exodus 22:18 (“Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live”) thus provided scriptural justification for Christian witch hunters in the early Modern Age (see Christian views on magic).

The precise meaning of the Hebrew kashaph, usually translated as “witch” or “sorceress”, is uncertain. In the Septuagint, it was translated as pharmakeia or pharmakous. In the 16th century, Reginald Scot, a prominent critic of the witch-trials, translated kashaph, pharmakeia, and their Latin Vulgate equivalent veneficos as all meaning “poisoner”, and on this basis, claimed that “witch” was an incorrect translation and poisoners were intended.[91] His theory still holds some currency, but is not widely accepted, and in Daniel 2:2 kashaph is listed alongside other magic practitioners who could interpret dreams: magicians, astrologers, and Chaldeans. Suggested derivations of Kashaph include mutterer (from a single root) or herb user (as a compound word formed from the roots kash, meaning “herb”, and hapaleh, meaning “using”). The Greek pharmakeia literally means “herbalist” or one who uses or administers drugs, but it was used virtually synonymously with mageia and goeteia as a term for a sorcerer.[92]

The Bible provides some evidence that these commandments against sorcery were enforced under the Hebrew kings:

And Saul disguised himself, and put on other raiment, and he went, and two men with him, and they came to the woman by night: and he said, I pray thee, divine unto me by the familiar spirit, and bring me him up, whom I shall name unto thee. And the woman said unto him, Behold, thou knowest what Saul hath done, how he hath cut off those that have familiar spirits, and the wizards, out of the land: wherefore then layest thou a snare for my life, to cause me to die?[93]

Note that the Hebrew word ob, translated as familiar spirit in the above quotation, has a different meaning than the usual English sense of the phrase; namely, it refers to a spirit that the woman is familiar with, rather than to a spirit that physically manifests itself in the shape of an animal.

New Testament

The New Testament condemns the practice as an abomination, just as the Old Testament had (Galatians 5:20, compared with Revelation 21:8; 22:15; and Acts 8:9; 13:6), though the overall topic of Biblical law in Christianity is still disputed. The word in most New Testament translations is “sorcerer”/”sorcery” rather than “witch”/”witchcraft”.

Judaism

Jewish law views the practice of witchcraft as being laden with idolatry and/or necromancy; both being serious theological and practical offenses in Judaism. Although Maimonides vigorously denied the efficacy of all methods of witchcraft, and claimed that the Biblical prohibitions regarding it were precisely to wean the Israelites from practices related to idolatry. It is acknowledged that while magic exists, it is forbidden to practice it on the basis that it usually involves the worship of other gods. Rabbis of the Talmud also condemned magic when it produced something other than illusion, giving the example of two men who use magic to pick cucumbers (Sanhedrin 67a). The one who creates the illusion of picking cucumbers should not be condemned, only the one who actually picks the cucumbers through magic. However, some of the Rabbis practiced “magic” themselves or taught the subject. For instance, Rabbah created a person and sent him to Rabbi Zera, and Rabbi Hanina and Rabbi Oshaya studied every Friday together and created a small calf to eat on Shabbat (Sanhedrin 67b). In these cases, the “magic” was seen more as divine miracles (i.e., coming from God rather than “unclean” forces) than as witchcraft.

Judaism does make it clear that Jews shall not try to learn about the ways of witches (Deuteronomy/Devarim 18: 9–10) and that witches are to be put to death (Exodus/Shemot 22:17).

Judaism’s most famous reference to a medium is undoubtedly the Witch of Endor whom Saul consults, as recounted in the First Book of Samuel, chapter 28.

Islam

Divination, and magic or “sorcery” in Islam, encompass a wide range of practices, including black magic, warding off the evil eye, the production of amulets and other magical equipment, conjuring, casting lots, and astrology. Muslims do commonly believe in magic (Sihr) and explicitly forbid its practice. Sihr translates from Arabic as sorcery or black magic. The best known reference to magic in Islam is the Surah Al-Falaq (meaning dawn or daybreak), which is known as a prayer to Allah to ward off black magic.

Say: I seek refuge with the Lord of the Dawn From the mischief of created things; From the mischief of Darkness as it overspreads; From the mischief of those who practise secret arts; And from the mischief of the envious one as he practises envy. (Qur’an 113:1–5)

Also according to the Qur’an:

And they follow that which the devils falsely related against the kingdom of Solomon. Solomon disbelieved not; but the devils disbelieved, teaching mankind sorcery and that which was revealed to the two angels in Babel, Harut and Marut … And surely they do know that he who trafficketh therein will have no (happy) portion in the Hereafter; and surely evil is the price for which they sell their souls, if they but knew. (al-Qur’an 2:102)

However, whereas performing miracles in Islamic thought and belief is reserved for only Messengers and Prophets, supernatural acts are also believed to be performed by Awliyaa – the spiritually accomplished. Disbelief in the miracles of the Prophets is considered an act of disbelief; belief in the miracles of any given pious individual is not. Neither are regarded as magic, but as signs of Allah at the hands of those close to Him that occur by His will and His alone.

Some Muslim practitioners believe that they may seek the help of the Jinn (singular—jinni) in magic. It is a common belief that jinn can possess a human, thus requiring Exorcism. Still, the practice of seeking help to the Jinn is prohibited and regarded the same as seeking help to a devil.

The belief in jinn is part of the Muslim faith. Imam Muslim narrated the Prophet said: “Allah created the angels from light, created the jinn from the pure flame of fire, and Adam from that which was described to you (i.e., the clay.)”. Also in the Qur’an, chapter of Jinn:

And persons from among men used to seek refuge with persons from among the jinn, so they increased them in evil doing.

— (The Qur’an) (72:6)

To cast off the jinn from the body of the possessed, the “ruqya,” which is from the Prophet’s sunnah is used. The ruqya contains verses of the Qur’an as well as prayers specifically targeted against demons. The knowledge of which verses of the Qur’an to use in what way is what is considered “magic knowledge.”

A Hadeeth recorded by Al-Bukhari narrates that one who has eaten seven Ajwa dates in the morning will not be adversely affected by magic in the course of that day.

Students of the history of religion have linked several magical practises in Islam with pre-Islamic Turkish and East African customs. Most notable of these customs is the Zar Ceremony.[94][95]

By region

Africa

“Djambe” redirects here (see: Cameroon); not to be confused with: Djembe

Shona witchdoctor (n’anga) in Zimbabwe

The Kolloh-Man (January 1853, X, p.6)[96]

In Southern African traditions, there are three classifications of somebody who uses magic. The thakathi is usually improperly translated into English as “witch”, and is a spiteful person who operates in secret to harm others. The sangoma is a diviner, somewhere on a par with a fortune teller, and is employed in detecting illness, predicting a person’s future (or advising them on which path to take), or identifying the guilty party in a crime. She also practices some degree of medicine. The inyanga is often translated as “witch doctor” (though many Southern Africans resent this implication, as it perpetuates the mistaken belief that a “witch doctor” is in some sense a practitioner of malicious magic). The inyanga’s job is to heal illness and injury and provide customers with magical items for everyday use. Of these three categories the thakatha is almost exclusively female, the sangoma is usually female, and the inyanga is almost exclusively male.

Much of what witchcraft represents in Africa has been susceptible to misunderstandings and confusion, thanks in no small part to a tendency among western scholars since the time of the now largely discredited Margaret Murray to approach the subject through a comparative lens vis-a-vis European witchcraft.[97] Okeja argues that witchcraft in Africa today plays a very different social role than in Europe of the past—or present—and should be understood through an African rather than post-colonial Western lens.

Complimentary remarks about witchcraft by a native Congolese initiate: “From witchcraft … may be developed the remedy (kimbuki) that will do most to raise up our country.”[98] “Witchcraft … deserves respect … it can embellish or redeem (ketula evo vuukisa).”[99] “The ancestors were equipped with the protective witchcraft of the clan (kindoki kiandundila kanda). … They could also gather the power of animals into their hands … whenever they needed. … If we could make use of these kinds of witchcraft, our country would rapidly progress in knowledge of every kind.”[100] “You witches (zindoki) too, bring your science into the light to be written down so that … the benefits in it … endow our race.”[101]

Cameroon

In eastern Cameroon, the term used for witchcraft among the Maka is djambe[102] and refers to a force inside a person; its powers may make the proprietor more vulnerable. It encompasses the occult, the transformative, killing and healing.[103]

Central Africa

In some Central African areas, malicious magic users are believed by locals to be the source of terminal illness such as AIDS and cancer. In such cases, various methods are used to rid the person from the bewitching spirit, occasionally physical and psychological abuse. Children may be accused of being witches, for example a young niece may be blamed for the illness of a relative. Most of these cases of abuse go unreported since the members of the society that witness such abuse are too afraid of being accused of being accomplices. It is also believed that witchcraft can be transmitted to children by feeding. Parents discourage their children from interacting with people believed to be witches.

Democratic Republic of the Congo

As of 2006[update], between 25,000 and 50,000 children in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, had been accused of witchcraft and thrown out of their homes.[104] These children have been subjected to often-violent abuse during exorcisms, sometimes supervised by self-styled religious pastors. Other pastors and Christian activist strongly oppose such accusations and try to rescue children from their unscrupulous colleagues.[105] The usual term for these children is enfants sorciers (child witches) or enfants dits sorciers (children accused of witchcraft). In 2002, USAID funded the production of two short films on the subject, made in Kinshasa by journalists Angela Nicoara and Mike Ormsby.

In April 2008, in Kinshasa, the police arrested 14 suspected victims (of penis snatching) and sorcerers accused of using black magic or witchcraft to steal (make disappear) or shrink men’s penises to extort cash for cure, amid a wave of panic.[106]

Ghana

In Ghana, women are often accused of witchcraft and attacked by neighbours.[107] Because of this, there exist six witch camps in the country where women suspected of being witches can flee for safety.[108] The witch camps, which exist solely in Ghana, are thought to house a total of around 1000 women.[108] Some of the camps are thought to have been set up over 100 years ago.[108] The Ghanaian government has announced that it intends to close the camps.[108]

Arrests were made in an effort to avoid bloodshed seen in Ghana a decade ago, when 12 alleged penis snatchers were beaten to death by mobs.[109] While it is easy for modern people to dismiss such reports, Uchenna Okeja argues that a belief system in which such magical practices are deemed possible offer many benefits to Africans who hold them. For example, the belief that a sorcerer has “stolen” a man’s penis functions as an anxiety-reduction mechanism for men suffering from impotence while simultaneously providing an explanation that is consistent with African cultural beliefs rather than appealing to Western scientific notions that are tainted by the history of colonialism (at least for many Africans).[110]

Kenya

It was reported on May 21, 2008 that in Kenya, a mob had burnt to death at least 11 people accused of witchcraft.[111]

Malawi

In Malawi it is also common practice to accuse children of witchcraft and many children have been abandoned, abused and even killed as a result. As in other African countries both African traditional healers and their Christian counterparts are trying to make a living out of exorcising children and are actively involved in pointing out children as witches.[112] Various secular and Christian organizations are combining their efforts to address this problem.[113]

According to William Kamkwamba, witches and wizards are afraid of money, which they consider a rival evil. Any contact with cash will snap their spell and leave the wizard naked and confused. So placing cash, such as kwacha around a room or bed mat will protect the resident from their malevolent spells.[114]

Nigeria

In Nigeria, several Pentecostal pastors have mixed their evangelical brand of Christianity with African beliefs in witchcraft to benefit from the lucrative witch finding and exorcism business—which in the past was the exclusive domain of the so-called witch doctor or traditional healers. These pastors have been involved in the torturing and even killing of children accused of witchcraft.[115] Over the past decade, around 15,000 children have been accused, and around 1,000 murdered. Churches are very numerous in Nigeria, and competition for congregations is hard. Some pastors attempt to establish a reputation for spiritual power by “detecting” child witches, usually following a death or loss of a job within a family, or an accusation of financial fraud against the pastor. In the course of “exorcisms”, accused children may be starved, beaten, mutilated, set on fire, forced to consume acid or cement, or buried alive. While some church leaders and Christian activists have spoken out strongly against these abuses, many Nigerian churches are involved in the abuse, although church administrations deny knowledge of it.[116]

Sierra Leone

Among the Mende (of Sierra Leone), trial and conviction for witchcraft has a beneficial effect for those convicted. “The witchfinder had warned the whole village to ensure the relative prosperity of the accused and sentenced … old people. … Six months later all of the people … accused, were secure, well-fed and arguably happier than at any [previous] time; they had hardly to beckon and people would come with food or whatever was needful. … Instead of such old and widowed people being left helpless or (as in Western society) institutionalized in old people’s homes, these were reintegrated into society and left secure in their old age … . … Old people are ‘suitable’ candidates for this kind of accusation in the sense that they are isolated and vulnerable, and they are ‘suitable’ candidates for ‘social security’ for precisely the same reasons.”[117]

In Kuranko language, the term for witchcraft is suwa’ye[118] referring to “extraordinary powers”.

Tanzania

In Tanzania in 2008, President Kikwete publicly condemned witchdoctors for killing albinos for their body parts, which are thought to bring good luck. 25 albinos have been murdered since March 2007.[119] In Tanzania, albinos are often murdered for their body parts on the advice of witch doctors in order to produce powerful amulets that are believed to protect against witchcraft and make the owner prosper in life.[120] Every year, hundreds of people in the Central African Republic are convicted of witchcraft.[121]

Americas

Colonial North America

Examination of a Witch by T. H. Matteson, inspired by the Salem witch trials

In 1645, Springfield, Massachusetts, experienced America’s first accusations of witchcraft when husband and wife Hugh and Mary Parsons accused each other of witchcraft. At America’s first witch trial, Hugh was found innocent, while Mary was acquitted of witchcraft but sentenced to be hanged for the death of her child. She died in prison.[122] From 1645–1663, about eighty people throughout England’s Massachusetts Bay Colony were accused of practicing witchcraft. Thirteen women and two men were executed in a witch-hunt that lasted throughout New England from 1645–1663.[123]

The Salem witch trials followed in 1692–93. These witch trials were the most famous in British North America and took place in the coastal settlements near Salem, Massachusetts. Prior to the witch trials, nearly 300 men and women had been suspected of partaking in witchcraft and over 30 of these people were hanged.[124] The Salem witch trials were a series of hearings before local magistrates followed by county court trials to prosecute people accused of witchcraft in Essex, Suffolk and Middlesex Counties of colonial Massachusetts, between February 1692 and May 1693. Over 150 people were arrested and imprisoned, with even more accused who were not formally pursued by the authorities. The two courts convicted 29 people of the capital felony of witchcraft. Nineteen of the accused, 14 women and 5 men, were hanged. One man who refused to enter a plea was crushed to death under heavy stones in an attempt to force him to do so. At least five more of the accused died in prison.

Despite being generally known as the “Salem” witch trials, the preliminary hearings in 1692 were conducted in a variety of towns across the province: Salem Village, Ipswich, Andover, as well as Salem Town, Massachusetts. The best known trials were conducted by the Court of Oyer and Terminer in 1692 in Salem Town.[citation needed] All 26 who went to trial before this court were convicted. The four sessions of the Superior Court of Judicature in 1693, held in Salem Town, but also in Ipswich, Boston, and Charlestown, produced only 3 convictions in the 31 witchcraft trials it conducted. Likewise, alleged witchcraft was not isolated to New England. In 1706 Grace Sherwood the “Witch of Pungo” was imprisoned for the crime in Princess Anne County, Virginia.

Accusations of witchcraft and wizardry led to the prosecution of a man in Tennessee as recently as 1833.[125][126][127] The Crucible by Arthur Miller is a dramatized and partially fictionalized story of the Salem witch trials that took place in the Massachusetts Bay Colony during 1692-93.

Diné / Navajo

In Diné culture, witches are seen as the polar opposite of ceremonial people. While spiritual leaders perform “sings” for healing, protection and other beneficial purposes, all practices referred to as “witchcraft” are intended to hurt and curse. Witches are associated with harm to the community and transgression of societal standards, especially those relating to family and the dead.

The yee naaldlooshii is the type of witch known in English as a “skin-walker”. They are believed to take the forms of animals in order to travel in secret and do harm to the innocent.[128] In the Navajo language, yee naaldlooshii translates to “with it, he goes on all fours”.[128] While perhaps the most common variety seen in horror fiction by non-Navajo people, the yee naaldlooshii is one of several varieties of Navajo witch, specifically a type of ’ánti’įhnii.[128]

Corpse powder or corpse poison (Navajo: áńt’į́, literally “witchery” or “harming”) is a substance made from powdered corpses. The powder is used by witches to curse their victims.[129] The effect of the áńt’į́ is a curse and disease, usually indicated by an immediate action to administration of the poison, like fainting, swelling of the tongue, or lockjaw. Sometimes, however, the victims simply wastes away, as from a normal disease.

Traditional Navajos usually hesitate to discuss things like witches and witchcraft with non-Navajos.[130]

North America (Mexico)

See also: Brujería

Witchcraft was also an important part of the social and cultural history of late-Colonial Mexico. Spanish Inquisitors viewed witchcraft as a problem that could be cured simply through confession. Yet, as anthropologist Ruth Behar writes, witchcraft, not only in Mexico but in Latin America in general, was a “conjecture of sexuality, witchcraft, and religion, in which Spanish, indigenous, and African cultures converged.”[131] Furthermore, witchcraft in Mexico generally required an interethnic and interclass network of witches.[132] Yet, according to anthropology professor Laura Lewis, witchcraft in colonial Mexico ultimately represented an “affirmation of hegemony” for women, Indians, and especially Indian women over their white male counterparts as a result of the casta system.[133]

In modern history, notoriety has been awarded to a place called Catemaco, in the state of Veracruz, which has a history of witchcraft, and where the practice of witchcraft by contemporary brujos and brujas thrives.

In Mexico City, people who practice brujería, santería, vodoo, ocultism and magic may find items, herbs and supplies at the mercado de Sonora.

South America

In Chile there is a tradition of the Kalku in the Mapuche mythology; and Witches of Chiloé in the folklore and Chilote mythology.

The presence of the witch is a constant in the ethnographic history of colonial Brazil, especially during the several denunciations and confessions given to the Holy Office of Bahia (1591–1593), Pernambuco and Paraiba (1593–1595).[134]

Asia

Main article: Asian witchcraft

India

Belief in the supernatural is strong in all parts of India, and lynchings for witchcraft are reported in the press from time to time.[135] Around 750 people were killed as witches in Assam and West Bengal between 2003 and 2008.[136] Officials in the state of Chhattisgarh reported in 2008 that at least 100 women are maltreated annually as suspected witches.[137] A local activist stated that only a fraction of cases of abuse are reported.[138]

Japan

Okabe – The cat witch

In Japanese folklore, the most common types of witch can be separated into two categories: those who employ snakes as familiars, and those who employ foxes.[139]

The fox witch is, by far, the most commonly seen witch figure in Japan. Differing regional beliefs set those who use foxes into two separate types: the kitsune-mochi, and the tsukimono-suji. The first of these, the kitsune-mochi, is a solitary figure who gains his fox familiar by bribing it with its favourite foods. The kitsune-mochi then strikes up a deal with the fox, typically promising food and daily care in return for the fox’s magical services. The fox of Japanese folklore is a powerful trickster in and of itself, imbued with powers of shape changing, possession, and illusion. These creatures can be either nefarious; disguising themselves as women in order to trap men, or they can be benign forces as in the story of “The Grateful foxes”.[140] However, once a fox enters the employ of a human it almost exclusively becomes a force of evil to be feared. A fox under the employ of a human can provide many services. The fox can turn invisible and find secrets its master desires. It can apply its many powers of illusion to trick and deceive its master’s enemies. The most feared power of the kitsune-mochi is the ability to command his fox to possess other humans. This process of possession is called Kitsunetsuki.

By far, the most commonly reported cases of fox witchcraft in modern Japan are enacted by tsukimono-suji families, or “hereditary witches”.[141] The Tsukimono-suji is traditionally a family who is reported to have foxes under their employ. These foxes serve the family and are passed down through the generations, typically through the female line. Tsukimono-suji foxes are able to supply much in the way of the same mystical aid that the foxes under the employ of a kitsune-mochi can provide its more solitary master with. In addition to these powers, if the foxes are kept happy and well taken care of, they bring great fortune and prosperity to the Tsukimono-suji house. However, the aid in which these foxes give is often overshadowed by the social and mystical implications of being a member of such a family. In many villages, the status of local families as tsukimono-suji is often common, everyday knowledge. Such families are respected and feared, but are also openly shunned. Due to its hereditary nature, the status of being Tsukimono-suji is considered contagious. Because of this, it is often impossible for members of such a family to sell land or other properties, due to fear that the possession of such items will cause foxes to inundate one’s own home. In addition to this, because the foxes are believed to be passed down through the female line, it is often nearly impossible for women of such families to find a husband whose family will agree to have him married to a tsukimono-suji family. In such a union the woman’s status as a Tsukimono-suji would transfer to any man who married her.

Pakistan

In Pakistani mythology, a common perception of a witch is a being with her feet pointed backwards.

Philippines

Witchcraft in the Philippines is often classified as malevolent, with practitioners of black magic called Mangkukulam in Tagalog and Mambabarang in Cebuano; there are also practitioners of benevolent, white magic, in addition to some who practise both. Mambabarang in particular are noted for their ability to command insects and other invertebrates to accomplish a task, such as delivering a curse to a target.

Magic and witchcraft in the Philippines varies considerably across the different ethnic groups, and is commonly a modern manifestation of pre-Colonial spirituality interwoven with Catholic religious elements such as the invocation of saints and the use of pseudo-Latin prayers (oración) in spells, and anting-anting (amulets).

Practitioners of traditional herbal-based medicine and divination called albularyo are not considered witches. They are perceived to be either quack doctors or a quasi-magical option when western medicine fails to identify or cure an ailment that is thus suspected to be of supernatural, often malevolent, origin. Feng shui, an influence of Filipino Chinese culture, is also not classified as witchcraft as it is cnsidered a separate realm of belief altogether.

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia continues to use the death penalty for sorcery and witchcraft.[142] In 2006 Fawza Falih Muhammad Ali was condemned to death for practicing witchcraft.[143] There is no legal definition of sorcery in Saudi, but in 2007 an Egyptian pharmacist working there was accused, convicted, and executed. Saudi authorities also pronounced the death penalty on a Lebanese television presenter, Ali Hussain Sibat, while he was performing the hajj (Islamic pilgrimage) in the country.[144]

In 2009 the Saudi authorities set up the Anti-Witchcraft Unit of their Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice police.[145]

In April 2009, a Saudi woman Amina Bint Abdulhalim Nassar was arrested and later sentenced to death for practicing witchcraft and sorcery. In December 2011, she was beheaded.[146] A Saudi man has been beheaded on charges of sorcery and witchcraft in June 2012.[147] A beheading for sorcery occurred in 2014.[47]

Syria

In June 2015, Yahoo reported: “The Islamic State group has beheaded two women in Syria on accusations of “sorcery,” the first such executions of female civilians in Syria, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Tuesday.”[148]

Tocharians

An expedition sent to what is now the Xinjiang region of western China by the PBS documentary series Nova found a fully clothed female Tocharian mummy wearing a black conical hat of the type now associated with witches in Europe in the storage area of a small local museum, indicative of an Indo-European priestess.[149]

Europe

Albrecht Dürer circa 1500: Witch Riding Backwards On A Goat

During the Christianisation of Norway, King Olaf Trygvasson had male völvas (shamans) tied up and left on a skerry at ebb.

Witchcraft in Europe between 500-1750 was believed to be a combination of sorcery and heresy. While sorcery attempts to produce negative supernatural effects through formulas and rituals, heresy is the Christian contribution to witchcraft in which an individual makes a pact with the Devil. In addition, heresy denies witches the recognition of important Christian values such as baptism, salvation, Christ and sacraments.[150] The beginning of the witch accusations in Europe took place in the 14th and 15th centuries; however as the social disruptions of the 16th century took place, witchcraft trials intensified.[151]

Burning of witches. Current scholarly estimates of the number of people executed for witchcraft vary between about 40,000 and 100,000.[152] The total number of witch trials in Europe known for certain to have ended in executions is around 12,000.[153]

In Early Modern European tradition, witches were stereotypically, though not exclusively, women.[24][154] European pagan belief in witchcraft was associated with the goddess Diana and dismissed as “diabolical fantasies” by medieval Christian authors.[155] Witch-hunts first appeared in large numbers in southern France and Switzerland during the 14th and 15th centuries. The peak years of witch-hunts in southwest Germany were from 1561 to 1670.[156]

The familiar witch of folklore and popular superstition is a combination of numerous influences. The characterization of the witch as an evil magic user developed over time.

Early converts to Christianity looked to Christian clergy to work magic more effectively than the old methods under Roman paganism, and Christianity provided a methodology involving saints and relics, similar to the gods and amulets of the Pagan world. As Christianity became the dominant religion in Europe, its concern with magic lessened.[157]

The Protestant Christian explanation for witchcraft, such as those typified in the confessions of the Pendle witches, commonly involves a diabolical pact or at least an appeal to the intervention of the spirits of evil. The witches or wizards engaged in such practices were alleged to reject Jesus and the sacraments; observe “the witches’ sabbath” (performing infernal rites that often parodied the Mass or other sacraments of the Church); pay Divine honour to the Prince of Darkness; and, in return, receive from him preternatural powers. It was a folkloric belief that a Devil’s Mark, like the brand on cattle, was placed upon a witch’s skin by the devil to signify that this pact had been made.[158] Witches were most often characterized as women. Witches disrupted the societal institutions, and more specifically, marriage. It was believed that a witch often joined a pact with the devil to gain powers to deal with infertility, immense fear for her children’s well-being, or revenge against a lover. They were also depicted as lustful and perverted, and it was thought that they copulated with the devil at the Sabbath.

The Church and European society were not always so zealous in hunting witches or blaming them for misfortunes. Saint Boniface declared in the 8th century that belief in the existence of witches was un-Christian. The emperor Charlemagne decreed that the burning of supposed witches was a pagan custom that would be punished by the death penalty. In 820 the Bishop of Lyon and others repudiated the belief that witches could make bad weather, fly in the night, and change their shape. This denial was accepted into Canon law until it was reversed in later centuries as the witch-hunt gained force. Other rulers such as King Coloman of Hungary declared that witch-hunts should cease because witches (more specifically, strigas) do not exist.

Burning witches, with others held in Stocks, 14th century

The Church did not invent the idea of witchcraft as a potentially harmful force whose practitioners should be put to death. This idea is commonplace in pre-Christian religions. According to the scholar Max Dashu, the concept of medieval witchcraft contained many of its elements even before the emergence of Christianity. These can be found in Bacchanalias, especially in the time when they were led by priestess Paculla Annia (188BC–186BC).

Francisco Goya‘s Los Caprichos: ¡Linda maestra! (“The Follies: Beautiful Teacher!”) – witches heading to a Sabbath

Powers typically attributed to European witches include turning food poisonous or inedible, flying on broomsticks or pitchforks, casting spells, cursing people, making livestock ill and crops fail, and creating fear and local chaos.

Britain

However, even at a later date, not all witches were assumed to be harmful practicers of the craft. In England, the provision of this curative magic was the job of a witch doctor, also known as a cunning man, white witch, or wise man. The term “witch doctor” was in use in England before it came to be associated with Africa. Toad doctors were also credited with the ability to undo evil witchcraft. (Other folk magicians had their own purviews. Girdle-measurers specialised in diagnosing ailments caused by fairies, while magical cures for more mundane ailments, such as burns or toothache, could be had from charmers.)

In the north of England, the superstition lingers to an almost inconceivable extent. Lancashire abounds with witch-doctors, a set of quacks, who pretend to cure diseases inflicted by the devil … The witch-doctor alluded to is better known by the name of the cunning man, and has a large practice in the counties of Lincoln and Nottingham.[159]

Historians Keith Thomas and his student Alan Macfarlane study witchcraft by combining historical research with concepts drawn from anthropology.[160][161][162] They argued that English witchcraft, like African witchcraft, was endemic rather than epidemic. Older women were the favorite targets because they were marginal, dependent members of the community and therefore more likely to arouse feelings of both hostility and guilt, and less likely to have defenders of importance inside the community. Witchcraft accusations were the village’s reaction to the breakdown of its internal community, coupled with the emergence of a newer set of values that was generating psychic stress.[163]

In Wales, fear of witchcraft mounted around the year 1500. There was a growing alarm of women’s magic as a weapon aimed against the state and church. The Church made greater efforts to enforce the canon law of marriage, especially in Wales where tradition allowed a wider range of sexual partnerships. There was a political dimension as well, as accusations of witchcraft were levied against the enemies of Henry VII, who was exerting more and more control over Wales.[164]

The records of the Courts of Great Sessions for Wales, 1536-1736 show that Welsh custom was more important than English law. Custom provided a framework of responding to witches and witchcraft in such a way that interpersonal and communal harmony was maintained, Showing to regard to the importance of honour, social place and cultural status. Even when found guilty, execution did not occur.[165]

Becoming king in 1603, James I Brought to England and Scotland continental explanations of witchcraft. His goal was to divert suspicion away from male homosociality among the elite, and focus fear on female communities and large gatherings of women. He thought they threatened his political power so he laid the foundation for witchcraft and occultism policies, especially in Scotland. The point was that a widespread belief in the conspiracy of witches and a witches’ Sabbath with the devil deprived women of political influence. Occult power was supposedly a womanly trait because women were weaker and more susceptible to the devil.[166]

In 1944 Helen Duncan was the last person to be convicted of being a witch in Britain.[167]

21st century Britain

In the United Kingdom children believed to be witches or seen as possessed by evil spirits can be subject to severe beatings, traumatic exorcism, and/or other abuse. There have even been child murders associated with witchcraft beliefs. The problem is particularly serious among immigrant or former immigrant communities of African origin but other communities, such as those of Asian origin are also involved. Step children and children seen as different for a wide range of reasons are particularly at risk of witchcraft accusations.[168] Children may be beaten or have chilli rubbed into their eyes during exorcisms.[169] This type of abuse is frequently hidden and can include torture.[170] A 2006 recommendation to record abuse cases linked to witchcraft centrally has not yet been implemented. Lack of awareness among social workers, teachers and other professionals dealing with at risk children hinders efforts to combat the problem.[171]

The Metropolitan Police said there had been 60 crimes linked to faith in London so far [in 2015]. It saw reports double from 23 in 2013 to 46 in 2014. Half of UK police forces do not record such cases and many local authorities are also unable to provide figures. The NSPCC said authorities “need to ensure they are able to spot the signs of this particular brand of abuse”. London is unique in having a police team, Project Violet, dedicated to this type of abuse. Its figures relate to crime reports where officers have flagged a case as involving abuse linked to faith or belief. Many of the cases involve children. (…) An NSPCC spokesman said: “While the number of child abuse cases involving witchcraft is relatively small, they often include horrifying levels of cruelty. “The authorities which deal with these dreadful crimes need to ensure they are able to spot the signs of this particular brand of abuse and take action to protect children before a tragedy occurs.”[171]

There is a ‘money making scam’ involved. Pastors accuse a child of being a witch and later the family pays for exorcism. If a child at school says that his/her pastor called the child a witch that should become a child safeguarding issue.[171]

Italy

As in most European countries, women in Italy were more likely suspected of witchcraft than men.[172] Women were considered dangerous due to their supposed sexual instability, such as when being aroused, and also due to the powers of their menstrual blood.[173]

In the 16th century, Italy had a high portion of witchcraft trials involving love magic.[174] The country had a large number of unmarried people due to men marrying later in their lives during this time.[174] This left many women on a desperate quest for marriage leaving them vulnerable to the accusation of witchcraft whether they took part in it or not.[174] Trial records from the Inquisition and secular courts discovered a link between prostitutes and supernatural practices. Professional prostitutes were considered experts in love and therefore knew how to make love potions and cast love related spells.[173] Up until 1630, the majority of women accused of witchcraft were prostitutes.[172] A courtesan was questioned about her use of magic due to her relationship with men of power in Italy and her wealth.[175] The majority of women accused were also considered “outsiders” because they were poor, had different religious practices, spoke a different language, or simply from a different city/town/region.[176] Cassandra from Ferrara, Italy, was still considered a foreigner because not native to Rome where she was residing. She was also not seen as a model citizen because her husband was in Venice.[177]

From the 16th-18th centuries, the Catholic Church enforced moral discipline throughout Italy.[178] With the help of local tribunals, such as in Venice, the two institutions investigated a woman’s religious behaviors when she was accused of witchcraft.[172]

Spain

Franciscan friars from New Spain introduced Diabolism, belief in the devil, to the indigenous people after their arrival in 1524.[179] Bartolomé de las Casas believed that human sacrifice was not diabolic, in fact far off from it, and was a natural result of religious expression.[179] Mexican Indians gladly took in the belief of Diabolism and still managed to keep their belief in creator-destroyer deities.[180]

Oceania

Cook Islands

In pre-Christian times, witchcraft was a common practice in the Cook Islands. The native name for a sorcerer was tangata purepure (a man who prays).[181] The prayers offered by the ta’unga (priests)[182] to the gods worshiped on national or tribal marae (temples) were termed karakia;[183] those on minor occasions to the lesser gods were named pure. All these prayers were metrical, and were handed down from generation to generation with the utmost care. There were prayers for every such phase in life; for success in battle; for a change in wind (to overwhelm an adversary at sea, or that an intended voyage be propitious); that his crops may grow; to curse a thief; or wish ill-luck and death to his foes. Few men of middle age were without a number of these prayers or charms. The succession of a sorcerer was from father to son, or from uncle to nephew. So too of sorceresses: it would be from mother to daughter, or from aunt to niece. Sorcerers and sorceresses were often slain by relatives of their supposed victims.[184]

A singular enchantment was employed to kill off a husband of a pretty woman desired by someone else. The expanded flower of a Gardenia was stuck upright—a very difficult performance—in a cup (i.e., half a large coconut shell) of water. A prayer was then offered for the husbands speedy death, the sorcerer earnestly watching the flower. Should it fall the incantation was successful. But if the flower still remained upright, he will live. The sorcerer would in that case try his skill another day, with perhaps better success.[185]

According to Beatrice Grimshaw, a journalist who visited the Cook Islands in 1907, the uncrowned Queen Makea was believed to have possessed the mystic power called mana, giving the possessor the power to slay at will. It also included other gifts, such as second sight to a certain extent, the power to bring good or evil luck, and the ability already mentioned to deal death at will.[186]

Papua New Guinea

A local newspaper informed that more than 50 people were killed in two Highlands provinces of Papua New Guinea in 2008 for allegedly practicing witchcraft.[187]

Russia

Among the Russian words for witch, ведьма (ved’ma) literally means “one who knows”, from Old Slavic вѣдъ “to know”).[188] Another frequent term is колдунья (koldun’ya), sorcerer being колдун (koldun).

Spells

Pagan practices formed a part of Russian and Eastern Slavic culture; the Russian people were deeply superstitious. The witchcraft practiced consisted mostly of earth magic and herbology; it was not so significant which herbs were used in practices, but how these herbs were gathered. Ritual centered on harvest of the crops and the location of the sun was very important.[189] One source, pagan author Judika Illes, tells that herbs picked on Midsummer’s Eve were believed to be most powerful, especially if gathered on Bald Mountain near Kiev during the witches’ annual revels celebration.[190] Botanicals should be gathered, “During the seventeenth minute of the fourteenth hour, under a dark moon, in the thirteenth field, wearing a red dress, pick the twelfth flower on the right.”[191]

Spells also served for midwifery, shape-shifting, keeping lovers faithful, and bridal customs. Spells dealing with midwifery and childbirth focused on the spiritual wellbeing of the baby.[191] Shape-shifting spells involved invocation of the wolf as a spirit animal.[192] To keep men faithful, lovers would cut a ribbon the length of his erect penis and soak it in his seminal emissions after sex while he was sleeping, then tie seven knots in it; keeping this talisman of knot magic ensured loyalty.[193] Part of an ancient pagan marriage tradition involved the bride taking a ritual bath at a bathhouse before the ceremony. Her sweat would be wiped from her body using raw fish, and the fish would be cooked and fed to the groom.[194]

Demonism, or black magic, was not prevalent. Persecution for witchcraft, mostly involved the practice of simple earth magic, founded on herbology, by solitary practitioners with a Christian influence. In one case investigators found a locked box containing something bundled in a kerchief and three paper packets, wrapped and tied, containing crushed grasses.[195] Most rituals of witchcraft were very simple—one spell of divination consists of sitting alone outside meditating, asking the earth to show one’s fate.[196]

While these customs were unique to Russian culture, they were not exclusive to this region. Russian pagan practices were often akin to paganism in other parts of the world. The Chinese concept of chi, a form of energy that often manipulated in witchcraft, is known as bioplasma in Russian practices.[197] The western concept of an “evil eye” or a “hex” was translated to Russia as a “spoiler”.[198] A spoiler was rooted in envy, jealousy and malice. Spoilers could be made by gathering bone from a cemetery, a knot of the target’s hair, burned wooden splinters and several herb Paris berries (which are very poisonous). Placing these items in sachet in the victim’s pillow completes a spoiler. The Sumerians, Babylonians, Assyrians, and the ancient Egyptians recognized the evil eye from as early as 3,000 BCE; in Russian practices it is seen as a sixteenth-century concept.[199]

Societal view of witchcraft

The dominant societal concern those practicing witchcraft was not whether paganism was effective, but whether it could cause harm.[195] Peasants in Russian and Ukrainian societies often shunned witchcraft, unless they needed help against supernatural forces. Impotence, stomach pains, barrenness, hernias, abscesses, epileptic seizures, and convulsions were all attributed to evil (or witchcraft). This is reflected in linguistics; there are numerous words for a variety of practitioners of paganism-based healers. Russian peasants referred to a witch as a chernoknizhnik (a person who plied his trade with the aid of a black book), sheptun/sheptun’ia (a “whisperer” male or female), lekar/lekarka or znakhar/znakharka (a male or female healer), or zagovornik (an incanter).[200]

Ironically enough, there was universal reliance on folk healers – but clients often turned them in if something went wrong. According to Russian historian Valerie A. Kivelson, witchcraft accusations were normally thrown at lower-class peasants, townspeople and Cossacks. People turned to witchcraft as a means to support themselves. The ratio of male to female accusations was 75% to 25%. Males were targeted more, because witchcraft was associated with societal deviation. Because single people with no settled home could not be taxed, males typically had more power than women in their dissent.[195]

Witchcraft trials

A true and iust Recorde, of the Information, Examination and Confession of all witches…

Witchcraft trials occurred frequently in seventeenth-century Russia, although the “great witch-hunt” is believed[by whom?] to be a predominately Western European phenomenon. However, as the witchcraft-trial craze swept across Catholic and Protestant countries during this time, Orthodox Christian Europe indeed partook in this so-called “witch hysteria.” This involved the persecution of both males and females who were believed to be practicing paganism, herbology, the black art, or a form of sorcery within and/or outside their community. Very early on witchcraft legally fell under the jurisdiction of the ecclesiastical body, the church, in Kievan Rus’ and Muscovite Russia.[201] Sources of ecclesiastical witchcraft jurisdiction date back as early as the second half of the eleventh century, one being Vladimir the Great‘s first edition of his State Statute or Ustav, another being multiple references in the Primary Chronicle beginning in 1024.[202]

Goya’s drawing of result of a presumed witch’s trial: ” [so she must be a witch]”[203]

The sentence for an individual found guilty of witchcraft or sorcery during this time, and in previous centuries, typically included either burning at the stake or being tested with the “ordeal of cold water” or judicium aquae frigidae.[204] The cold-water test was primarily a Western European phenomenon, but was used as a method of truth in Russia prior to, and post, seventeenth-century witchcraft trials in Muscovy. Accused persons who submerged were considered innocent, and ecclesiastical authorities would proclaim them “brought back,” but those who floated were considered guilty of practicing witchcraft, and burned at the stake or executed in an unholy fashion. The thirteenth-century bishop of Vladimir, Serapion Vladimirskii, preached sermons throughout the Muscovite countryside, and in one particular sermon revealed that burning was the usual punishment for witchcraft, but more often the cold water test was used as a precursor to execution.[204][205]

Although these two methods of torture were used in the west and the east, Russia implemented a system of fines payable for the crime of witchcraft during the seventeenth century. Thus, even though torture methods in Muscovy were on a similar level of harshness as Western European methods used, a more civil method was present. In the introduction of a collection of trial records pieced together by Russian scholar Nikolai Novombergsk, he argues that Muscovite authorities used the same degree of cruelty and harshness as Western European Catholic and Protestant countries in persecuting witches.[206] By the mid-sixteenth century the manifestations of paganism, including witchcraft, and the black arts—astrology, fortune telling, and divination—became a serious concern to the Muscovite church and state.[207]

Tsar Ivan IV (reigned 1547-1584) took this matter to the ecclesiastical court and was immediately advised that individuals practicing these forms of witchcraft should be excommunicated and given the death penalty.[207] Ivan IV, as a true believer in witchcraft, was deeply convinced[citation needed] that sorcery accounted for the death of his wife, Anastasiia in 1560, which completely devastated and depressed him, leaving him heartbroken.[208] Stemming from this belief, Ivan IV became majorly concerned with the threat of witchcraft harming his family, and feared he was in danger. So, during the Oprechnina (1565-1572), Ivan IV succeeded in accusing and charging a good number of boyars with witchcraft whom he did not wish to remain as nobles. Rulers after Ivan IV, specifically during the Time of Troubles (1598-1613), increased the fear of witchcraft among themselves and entire royal families, which then led to further preoccupation with the fear of prominent Muscovite witchcraft circles.[209]

After the Time of Troubles, seventeenth-century Muscovite rulers held frequent investigations of witchcraft within their households, laying the ground, along with previous tsarist reforms, for widespread witchcraft trials throughout the Muscovite state.[210] Between 1622 and 1700 ninety-one people were brought to trial in Muscovite courts for witchcraft.[211] Although Russia did partake in the witch craze that swept across Western Europe, the Muscovite state did not persecute nearly as many people for witchcraft, let alone execute a number of individuals anywhere close to the number executed in the west during the witch hysteria.

Shapeshifting

Image result for shapeshifter GIFS

Image result for shapeshifter GIFS

Image result for shapeshifter GIFS

Image result for shapeshifter GIFS

Image result for shapeshifter GIFS

Shapeshifting

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Tsarevna Frog (or The Frog Princess), by Viktor Vasnetsov, tells of a frog that metamorphoses into a princess.

“The giant Galligantua and the wicked old magician transform the duke’s daughter into a white hind.” by Arthur Rackham

Loge feigns fear as Alberich turns into a giant snake. Wotan stands in the background; illustration by Arthur Rackham to Richard Wagner‘s Das Rheingold

In mythology, folklore and speculative fiction, shapeshifting (or metamorphosis)[citation needed] is the ability of a being or creature to completely transform its physical form or shape. This is usually achieved through an inherent ability of a mythological creature, divine intervention, or the use of magic.

The idea of shapeshifting is present in the oldest forms of totemism and shamanism, as well as the oldest extant literature and epic poems, including works such as the Epic of Gilgamesh and the Iliad, where the shapeshifting is usually induced by the act of a deity. The idea persisted through the Middle Ages, where the agency causing shapeshifting is usually a sorcerer or witch, and into the modern period. It remains a common trope in modern fantasy, children’s literature, and works of popular culture.

The most common form of shapeshifting myths is that of therianthropy, which is the transformation of a human being into an animal or conversely, of an animal into human form. Legends allow for transformations into plants and objects, and the assumption of another human countenance (e.g. fair to ugly).

Folklore and mythology[edit]

1722 German woodcut of a werewolf transforming

Popular shapeshifting creatures in folklore are werewolves and vampires (mostly of European, Canadian, and Native American/early American origin), the Huli jing of East Asia (including the Japanese kitsune), and the gods, goddesses, and demons of numerous mythologies, such as the Norse Loki or the Greek Proteus. Shapeshifting to the form of a wolf is specifically known as lycanthropy, and such creatures who undergo such change are called lycanthropes. Therianthropy is the more general term for human-animal shifts, but it is rarely used in that capacity. It was also common for deities to transform mortals into animals and plants.

Other terms for shapeshifters include metamorph, the Navajo skin-walker, mimic, and therianthrope. The prefix “were-,” coming from the Old English word for “man” (masculine rather than generic), is also used to designate shapeshifters; despite its root, it is used to indicate female shapeshifters as well.

While the popular idea of a shapeshifter is of a human being who turns into something else, there are numerous stories about animals that can transform themselves as well.[1]

Greco-Roman[edit]

Vertumnus, in the form of an old woman, wooing Pomona, by Gerbrand van den Eeckhout.

Examples of shapeshifting in classical literature include many examples in Ovid‘s Metamorphoses, Circe‘s transforming of Odysseus‘ men to pigs in Homer‘s The Odyssey, and Apuleius‘s Lucius becoming a donkey in The Golden Ass. Proteus was noted among the gods for his shapeshifting; both Menelaus and Aristaeus seized him to win information from him, and succeeded only because they held on during his various changes. Nereus told Heracles where to find the Apples of the Hesperides for the same reason.

The Titan Metis, the first wife of Zeus and the mother of the goddess Athena, was believed to be able to change her appearance into anything she wanted. In one story, she was so proud, that her husband, Zeus, tricked her into changing into a fly. He then swallowed her because he feared that he and Metis would have a son that would be more powerful than Zeus himself. Metis, however, was already pregnant. She stayed alive inside his head and built armor for her daughter. The banging of her metalworking made Zeus have a headache, so Hephaestus clove his head with an axe. Athena sprang from her father’s head, fully grown, and in battle armor.

The Children of Lir, transformed into swans in Irish tales

In Greek mythology, the transformation is often a punishment from the gods to humans who crossed them.

  • Zeus transformed King Lycaon into a wolf (hence Lycanthropy) as a punishment for either killing Zeus’ children or serving him the flesh of Lycaon’s own murdered son Nyctimus, depending on the exact version of the myth.
  • Demeter transformed Ascalabus into a lizard for mocking her sorrow and thirst during her search for her daughter Persephone. She also turned King Lyncus into a lynx for trying to murder her prophet Triptolemus.
  • Athena transformed Arachne into a spider for challenging her as a weaver and/or weaving a tapestry that insulted the gods.
  • Artemis transformed Actaeon into a stag for spying on her bathing, and he was later devoured by his own hunting dogs.
  • Io was a priestess of Hera in Argos, a nymph who was raped by Zeus, who changed her into a heifer to escape detection.
  • The young Tiresias was walking through a forest when he found two snakes in the act of love. He poked them with a stick and was instantly changed into a woman. He lived in this female form for many years, and even married and had children. Years later, Tiresias came across the same snakes doing the same thing. Again she poked them with a stick, and turned back into a man. Later in his life, he was asked by Zeus which of the two sexes enjoys sex more. Tiresias, speaking from experience, replied that it is woman, and Hera blinded him for telling her husband of the greatest secret of women. Zeus, unable to undo what his wife had done, gave the now blind Tiresias the gift of foresight. Other versions say that it was Zeus who was angered by Tiresias for saying that men did not get the most out of sex and that it was Hera who gave Tiresias the gift of foresight to comfort him. Others say that it was actually Athena who blinded Tiresias for seeing her nude, then gave him foresight as compensation after learning it had been an accident.

While the Greek gods could use transformation punitively – such as Medusa, turned to a monster for having sexual intercourse with Poseidon in Athena‘s temple – even more frequently, the tales using it are of amorous adventure. Zeus repeatedly transformed himself to approach mortals as a means of gaining access:[2]

Vertumnus transformed himself into an old woman to gain entry to Pomona‘s orchard; there, he persuaded her to marry him.

Gianlorenzo Bernini, Apollo pursuing an unwilling Daphne who transforms into a laurel tree

In other tales, the woman appealed to other gods to protect her from rape, and was transformed (Daphne into laurel, Cornix into a crow). Unlike Zeus and other god’s shapeshifting, these women were permanently metamorphosed.

In one tale, Demeter transformed herself into a mare to escape Poseidon, but Poseidon counter-transformed himself into a stallion to pursue her, and succeeded in the rape. Caenis, having been raped by Poseidon, demanded of him that she be changed to a man. He agreed, and she became Caeneus, a form he never lost, except, in some versions, upon death.

As a final reward from the gods for their hospitality, Baucis and Philemon were transformed, at their deaths, into a pair of trees.

In some variants of the tale of Narcissus, he is turned into a narcissus flower.

After Tereus raped Philomela and cut out her tongue to silence her, she wove her story into a tapestry for her sister, Tereus’s wife Procne, and the sisters murdered his son and fed him to his father. When he discovered this, he tried to kill them, but the gods changed them all into birds.

“Cadmus Sowing the Dragon’s Teeth” by Maxfield Parrish

Sometimes metamorphoses transformed objects into humans. In the myths of both Jason and Cadmus, one task set to the hero was to sow dragon’s teeth; on being sown, they would metamorphose into belligerent warriors, and both heroes had to throw a rock to trick them into fighting each other to survive. Deucalion and Pyrrha repopulated the world after a flood by throwing stones behind them; they were transformed into people. Cadmus is also often known to have transformed into a dragon or serpent towards the end of his life. Pygmalion fell in love with Galatea, a statue he had made. Aphrodite had pity on him and transformed the stone to a living woman.

British and Irish[edit]

Fairies, witches, and wizards were all noted for their shapeshifting ability. Not all fairies could shapeshift, and some were limited to changing their size, as with the spriggans, and others to a few forms and other fairies might have only the appearance of shapeshifting, through their power, called “glamour,” to create illusions.[3] But others, such as the Hedley Kow, could change to many forms, and both human and supernatural wizards were capable of both such changes, and inflicting them on others.[4]

Witches could turn into hares and in that form steal milk and butter.[5]

Many British fairy tales, such as Jack the Giant Killer and The Black Bull of Norroway, feature shapeshifting.

Celtic mythology[edit]

Pwyll was transformed by Arawn into Arawn’s own shape, and Arawn transformed himself into Pwyll’s, so that they could trade places for a year and a day.

Llwyd ap Cil Coed transformed his wife and attendants into mice to attack a crop in revenge; when his wife is captured, he turned himself into three clergymen in succession to try to pay a ransom.

Math and Gwydion transform flowers into a woman named Blodeuwedd, and when she betrays her husband Lleu, who is transformed into an eagle, they transform her again, into an owl – Blodeuwedd.

Gilfaethwy committed rape with help from his brother Gwydion. Both were transformed into animals, for one year each. Gwydion was transformed into a stag, sow and wolf, and Gilfaethwy into a hind, boar and she-wolf. Each year, they had a child. Math turned the three young animals into boys.

Gwion, having accidentally taken some of wisdom potion that Ceridwen was brewing for her son, fled her through a succession of changes that she answered with changes of her own, ending with his being eaten, a grain of corn, by her as a hen. She became pregnant, and he was reborn in a new form, as Taliesin.

Tales abound about the selkie, a seal that can remove its skin to make contact with humans for only a short amount of time before it must return to the sea. Clan MacColdrum of Uist’s foundation myths include of a union between the founder of the clan and a shapeshifting selkie.[6] Another such creature is the Scottish selkie, which needs its sealskin to regain its form. In The Great Silkie of Sule Skerry the (male) selkie seduces a human woman. Such stories surrounding these creatures are usually romantic tragedies.

The Kelpie by Herbert James Draper: transformed into a human

Scottish mythology features shapeshifters, which allows the various creatures to trick, deceive, hunt, and kill humans. Water spirits such as the each uisge, which inhabit lochs and waterways in Scotland, were said to appear as a horse or a young man.[4] Other tales include kelpies who emerge from lochs and rivers in the disguise of a horse or woman in order to ensnare and kill weary travelers. Tam Lin, a man captured by the Queen of the Fairies is changed into all manner of beasts before being rescued. He finally turned into a burning coal and was thrown him into a well, whereupon he reappeared in his human form. The motif of capturing a person by holding him through all forms of transformation is a common thread in folktales.[7]

Perhaps the best known Irish myth is that of Aoife who turned her stepchildren, the Children of Lir, into swans to be rid of them. Likewise in the Wooing of Etain Fuamnach jealously turns Étaín into a butterfly. The most dramatic example of shapeshifting in Irish myth is that of Tuan mac Cairill, the only survivor of Partholón‘s settlement of Ireland. In his centuries long life he became successively a stag, a wild boar, a hawk and finally a salmon prior to being eaten and (as in the Wooing of Étaín) reborn as a human.

The Púca is a Celtic faery, and also a deft shapeshifter. He can transform into many different, terrifying forms.

Sadbh, the wife of the famous hero Fionn mac Cumhaill was changed into a deer by the druid Fer Doirich.

Norse[edit]

In the Lokasenna, Odin and Loki taunt each other with having taken the form of females and nursing offspring to which they had given birth. A 13th century Edda relates Loki taking the form of a mare to bear Odin’s steed Sleipnir which was the fastest horse ever to exist, and also the form of a she-wolf to bear Fenrir.[8]

Svipdagr angered Odin, who turned him into a dragon. Despite his monstrous appearance, his lover, the goddess Freyja, refused to leave his side. When the warrior Hadding found and slew Svipdag, Freyja cursed him to be tormented by a tempest and shunned like the plague wherever he went. In the Hyndluljóð, Freya transformed her protégé Óttar into a boar to conceal him. She also possessed a cloak of falcon feathers that allowed her to transform into a falcon, which Loki borrowed on occasion.

The Volsunga saga contains many shapeshifting characters. Siggeir‘s mother changed into a wolf to help torture his defeated brothers-in-law with slow and ignominious deaths. When one, Sigmund, survived, he and his nephew and son Sinfjötli killed men wearing wolfskins; when they donned the skins themselves, they were cursed to become werewolves.

The dwarf Andvari is described as being able to magically turn into a pike. Alberich, his counterpart in Richard Wagner‘s Der Ring des Nibelungen, using the Tarnhelm, takes on many forms, including a giant serpent and a toad, in a failed attempt to impress or intimidate Loki and Odin/Wotan.

Fafnir was originally a dwarf, a giant or even a human, depending on the exact myth, but in all variants he transformed into a dragon—a symbol of greed—while guarding his ill-gotten hoard. His brother, Ótr, enjoyed spending time as an otter, which led to his accidental slaying by Loki.

In Scandinavia, there existed, for example, the famous race of she-werewolves known with a name of Maras, women who took on the appearance of the night looking for huge monster half human and half wolf. If a female at midnight stretches the membrane which envelopes the foal when it is brought forth, between four sticks and creeps through it, naked, she will bear children without pain; but all the boys will be shamans, and all the girls Maras.

The Nisse is sometimes said to be a shapeshifter. This trait also is attributed to Huldra.

Other lore[edit]

In Poland, in the parish church of Schwarzenstein, hang two horse-shoes related to the story of the tavern-keeper of Eichmedian. A greedy woman, she charged double the honest rate for board and lodging. Late one evening, a group of guests accused her of cheating them. Defending herself, she swore an oath before them, saying: “If my business is not just, then ride my back the Devil must!”

The room suddenly darkened and the Devil suddenly appeared before her. He gestured, and unable to resist, she knelt on all fours and found herself changing into a bay mare. The Devil mounted, gave a great laugh and rode her out of the village. At headlong speed he rode to the town of Schwarzenstein, and to a blacksmith’s shop there, arriving in the small hours of the morning. He roused the blacksmith and demanded that his steed be shod at once. The blacksmith, yawning, complained of the late hour and that his forge was shut down and cold. But the Devil insisted and promised gold if it were done swiftly, and so the blacksmith agreed. He lit his furnace, and had the Devil work the bellows. The blacksmith had not long begun his work however when the mare began to speak, evidently having worked out how to form human words with her equine lips. “Don’t you know me?” she begged. “It is I, the tavern-keeper of Eichmedian!” The blacksmith was horrified and nothing could persuade him to continue with the shoeing. The Devil raged but there was nothing he could do, and as a cock heralded the arrival of dawn, the spell was broken. The Devil vanished and the tavern-keeper returned to her human form. Repenting of her greedy ways, she had the two horse-shoes which the smith had already fashioned nailed up in the church as a warning to other cheats.[citation needed]

Armenian[edit]

In Armenian mythology, shapeshifters include the Nhang, a serpent-like river monster than can transform itself into a woman or seal, and will drown humans and then drink their blood; or the beneficial Shahapet, a guardian spirit that can appear either as a man or a snake.[9]

Indian[edit]

Ancient Indian mythology tells of Nāga, snakes that can sometimes assume human form. Scriptures describe shapeshifting Rakshasa (demons) assuming animal forms to deceive humans. The Ramayana also includes the Vanara, a group of ape-like humanoids who possessed supernatural powers and could change their shapes.[10][11][12]

In the Indian fable The Dog Bride from Folklore of the Santal Parganas by Cecil Henry Bompas, a buffalo herder falls in love with a dog that has the power to turn into a woman when she bathes.

Philippines[edit]

Philippine mythology includes aswang, a vampire-like monster capable of transforming itself into either a large black dog or a black boar in order to stalk humans at night. The folklore also mentions other beings such as kapre, tikbalang, and engkanto, which change their appearances to woo beautiful maidens. Also, talismans (called “anting-anting” or “birtud” in the local dialect), can give their owners the ability to shapeshift. In one tale, Chonguita the Monkey Wife,[13] a woman is turned into a monkey, only becoming human again if she can marry a handsome man.

Tatar[edit]

Tatar folklore includes Yuxa, a hundred-year-old snake that can transform itself into a beautiful young woman, and seeks to marry men in order to have children.

“Madame White Snake” Picture on long veranda in the Summer Palace, Beijing, China

Chinese[edit]

Chinese mythology contains many tales of animal shapeshifters, capable of taking on human form. The most common such shapeshifter is the huli jing, a fox spirit which usually appears as a beautiful young woman; most are dangerous, but some feature as the heroines of love stories. Madame White Snake is one such legend; a snake falls in love with a man, and the story recounts the trials that she and her husband faced.

Japanese[edit]

Kuzunoha the fox woman, casting a fox shadow

In Japanese folklore ōbake are a type of yōkai with the ability to shapeshift. The fox, or kitsune is among the most commonly known, but other such creatures include the bakeneko, the mujina and the tanuki.

Korean[edit]

Korean mythology also contains a fox with the ability to shapeshift. Unlike its Chinese and Japanese counterparts, the kumiho is always malevolent. Usually its form is of a beautiful young woman; one tale recounts a man, a would-be seducer, revealed as a kumiho.[14] The kumiho has nine tails and as she desires to be a full human, she uses her beauty to seduce men and eat their hearts (or in some cases livers where the belief is that 100 livers would turn her into a real human).

Trinidad and Tobago[edit]

The Ligahoo or loup-garou is the shapeshifter of Trinidad and Tobago’s folklore. This unique ability is believed to be handed down in some old creole families, and is usually associated with witch-doctors and practitioners of African magic.[15] [16]

Folktales[edit]

  • In the Finnish tale The Magic Bird, three young sorceresses attempt to murder a man who keeps reviving. His revenge is to turn them into three black mares and have them harnessed to heavy loads until he is satisfied.
  • In The Laidly Worm of Spindleston Heugh, a Northumbrian legend from about the thirteenth century, Princess Margaret of Bamburgh is transformed into a dragon by her stepmother; her motive sprung, like Snow White‘s stepmother’s, from the comparison of their beauty.[17]
  • In Child ballad 35, “Allison Gross“, the title witch turns a man into a wyrm for refusing to be her lover. This is a motif found in many legends and folktales.[18]
  • In the German tale The Frog’s Bridegroom by Gustav Jungbauer, the third of three sons of a farmer, Hansl, is forced to marry a frog, which eventually turns out to be a beautiful woman transformed by a spell.
  • In some variants of the fairy tales, both The Frog Prince or more commonly The Frog Princess and Beast, of Beauty and the Beast, are transformed as a form of punishment for some transgression. Both are restored to their true forms after earning a human’s love despite their appearance.
  • In the most famous Lithuanian folk tale Eglė the Queen of Serpents, Eglė irreversibly transforms her children and herself into trees as a punishment for betrayal while her husband is able to reversibly morph into a serpent at will.
  • In East of the Sun and West of the Moon, the hero is transformed into a bear by his wicked stepmother, who wishes to force him to marry her daughter.[19]
  • In The Marmot Queen by Italo Calvino, a Spanish queen is turned into a rodent by Morgan le Fay.
  • In The Mare of the Necromancer, a Turin Italian tale by Guido Gozzano, the Princess of Corelandia is turned into a horse by the baron necromancer for refusing to marry him. Only the love and intelligence of Candido save the princess from the spell.
  • The Deer in The Wood, an Neapolitan tale written by Giambattista Basile, describes the transformation of Princess Desiderata into a doe by a jealous fairy.
  • From a Croatian book of tales, Sixty Folk-Tales from Exclusively Slavonic Sources by A. H. Wratislaw, the fable entitled “The she-wolf” tells of a huge she-wolf with a habit of turning into a woman from time to time by taking off her skin. One day a man witnesses the transformation, steals her pelt and marries her.
  • The Merchant’s Sons is a Finnish story of two brothers, one of whom tries to win the hand of the tsar’s wicked daughter. The girl does not like her suitor and endeavors to have him killed, but he turns her into a beautiful mare which he and his brother ride. In the end he turns her back into a girl and marries her.
  • In Dapplegrim if the youth found the transformed princess twice, and hid from her twice, they would marry.

Themes[edit]

Shapeshifting may be used as a plot device, such as when Puss in Boots in the fairy tales tricks the ogre into becoming a mouse to be eaten. Shapeshifting may also include symbolic significance, like the Beast’s transformation in Beauty and the Beast indicates Belle’s ability to accept him despite his appearance.[20]

When a form is taken on involuntarily, the thematic effect can be one of confinement and restraint; the person is bound to the new form. In extreme cases, such as petrifaction, the character is entirely disabled. On the other hand, voluntary shapeshifting can be a means of escape and liberation. Even when the form is not undertaken to resemble a literal escape, the abilities specific to the form allow the character to act in a manner that was previously impossible.

Examples of this are in fairy tales. A prince who is forced into a bear’s shape (as in East of the Sun and West of the Moon) is a prisoner, but a princess who takes on a bear’s shape voluntarily to flee a situation (as in The She-Bear) escapes with her new shape.[21] In the Earthsea books, Ursula K. Le Guin depicts an animal form as slowly transforming the wizard’s mind, so that the dolphin, bear or other creature forgets it was human, making it impossible to change back. This makes an example for a voluntary shapeshifting becoming an imprisoning metamorphosis.[22] Beyond this, the uses of shapeshifting, transformation, and metamorphosis in fiction are as protean as the forms the characters take on. Some are rare, such as Italo Calvino‘s “The Canary Prince” is a Rapunzel variant in which shapeshifting is used to gain access to the tower.

Punitive changes[edit]

In many cases, imposed forms are punitive in nature. This may be a just punishment, the nature of the transformation matching the crime for which it occurs; in other cases, the form is unjustly imposed by an angry and powerful person. In fairy tales, such transformations are usually temporary, but they commonly appear as the resolution of myths (as in many of the Metamorphoses) or produce origin myths.

“Svipdag transformed” by John Bauer

Transformation chase[edit]

In many fairy tales and ballads, as in Child Ballad #44, The Two Magicians or Farmer Weathersky, a magical chase occurs where the pursued endlessly takes on forms in an effort to shake off the pursuer, and the pursuer answers with other shapeshifting, as, a dove is answered with a hawk, and a hare with a greyhound. The pursued may finally succeed in escape or the pursuer in capturing.

The Grimm Brothers fairy tales Foundling-Bird contains this as the bulk of the plot.[23] In the Italian Campania Fables collection of Pentamerone by Gianbattista Basile, tells of a Neapolitan princess to escape from her father, who had imprisoned, she becomes in a huge she-bear. The magic happens due to a potion given to her by an old witch. The girl, once gone, can get her human aspect.

In other variants, the pursued may transform various objects into obstacles, as in the fairy tale “The Master Maid“, where the Master Maid transforms a wooden comb into a forest, a lump of salt into a mountain, and a flask of water into a sea. In these tales, the pursued normally escapes after overcoming three obstacles.[24] This obstacle chase is literally found worldwide, in many variants in every region.[25]

In fairy tales of the Aarne–Thompson type 313A, the girl helps the hero flee, one such chase is an integral part of the tale. It can be either a transformation chase (as in The Grateful Prince, King Kojata, Foundling-Bird, Jean, the Soldier, and Eulalie, the Devil’s Daughter, or The Two Kings’ Children) or an obstacle chase (as in The Battle of the Birds, The White Dove, or The Master Maid).[26]

In a similar effect, a captive may shapeshift in order to break a hold on him. Proteus and Nereus‘s shapeshifting was to prevent heroes such as Menelaus and Heracles from forcing information from them.[27] Tam Lin, once seized by Janet, was transformed by the faeries to keep Janet from taking him, but as he had advised her, she did not let go, and so freed him.[28] The motif of capturing a person by holding him through many transformations is found in folktales throughout Europe,[7] and Patricia A. McKillip references it in her Riddle-Master trilogy: a shapeshifting Earthmaster finally wins its freedom by startling the man holding it.

Powers[edit]

One motif is a shape change in order to obtain abilities in the new form. Berserkers were held to change into wolves and bears in order to fight more effectively. In many cultures, evil magicians could transform into animal shapes and thus skulk about.

In many fairy tales, the hero’s talking animal helper proves to be a shapeshifted human being, able to help him in its animal form. In one variation, featured in The Three Enchanted Princes and The Death of Koschei the Deathless, the hero’s three sisters have been married to animals. These prove to be shapeshifted men, who aid their brother-in-law in a variant of tale types.[29]

In an early Mayan text, the Shapeshifter, or Mestaclocan, has the ability to change his appearance and to manipulate the minds of animals. In one tale, the Mestaclocan finds a dying eagle. Changing into the form of an eagle, he convinces the dying bird that it is, in fact, not dying. As the story goes they both soar into the heavens, and lived together for eternity.

Bildungsroman[edit]

Beauty and the Beast has been interpreted as a young woman’s coming-of-age, in which she changes from being repulsed by sexual activity and regarding a husband therefore bestial, to a mature woman who can marry.[30]

Needed items[edit]

Valkyries as swan maidens, having shed their swan skins.

Some shapeshifters are able to change form only if they have some item, usually an article of clothing. In Bisclavret by Marie de France, a werewolf cannot regain human form without his clothing, but in wolf form does no harm to anyone. The most common use of this motif, however, is in tales where a man steals the article and forces the shapeshifter, trapped in human form, to become his bride. This lasts until she discovers where he has hidden the article, and she can flee. Selkies feature in these tales. Others include swan maidens and the Japanese tennin.

Inner conflict[edit]

The power to externally transform can symbolize an internal savagery; a central theme in many strands of werewolf mythology,[31] and the inversion of the “liberation” theme, as in Dr Jekyll’s transformation into Mr. Hyde.

Usurpation[edit]

Sister Alenushka Weeping about Brother Ivanushka by Viktor Vasnetsov, Russian variant of Brother and Sister: Alenushka laments her brother’s transformation into a goat.

Some transformations are performed to remove the victim from his place, so that the transformer can usurp it. Bisclaveret‘s wife steals his clothing and traps him in wolf form because she has a lover. A witch, in The Wonderful Birch, changed a mother into a sheep to take her place, and had the mother slaughtered; when her stepdaughter married the king, the witch transformed her into a reindeer so as to put her daughter in the queen’s place. In the Korean Transformation of the Kumiho, a kumiho, a fox with magical powers, transformed itself into an image of the bride, only being detected when her clothing is removed. In Brother and Sister, when two children flee their cruel stepmother, she enchants the streams along the way to transform them. While the brother refrains from the first two, which threaten to turn them into tigers and wolves, he is too thirsty at the third, which turns him into a deer. The Six Swans are transformed into swans by their stepmother,[32] as are the Children of Lir in Irish mythology.

Ill-advised wishes[edit]

Many fairy-tale characters have expressed illadvised wishes to have any child at all, even one that has another form, and had such children born to them.[33] At the end of the fairy tale, normally after marriage, such children metamorphose into human form. Hans My Hedgehog was born when his father wished for a child, even a hedgehog. Even stranger forms are possible: Giambattista Basile included in his Pentamerone the tale of a girl born as a sprig of myrtle, and Italo Calvino, in his Italian Folktales, a girl born as an apple.

Sometimes, the parent who wishes for a child is told how to gain one, but does not obey the directions perfectly, resulting in the transformed birth. In Prince Lindworm, the woman eats two onions, but does not peel one, resulting in her first child being a lindworm. In Tatterhood, a woman magically produces two flowers, but disobeys the directions to eat only the beautiful one, resulting her having a beautiful and sweet daughter, but only after a disgusting and hideous one.

Less commonly, ill-advised wishes can transform a person after birth. The Seven Ravens are transformed when their father thinks his sons are playing instead of fetching water to christen their newborn and sickly sister, and curses them.[34] In Puddocky, when three princes start to quarrel over the beautiful heroine, a witch curses her because of the noise.

Monstrous bride/bridegroom[edit]

Such wished-for children may become monstrous brides or bridegrooms. These tales have often been interpreted as symbolically representing arranged marriages; the bride’s revulsion to marrying a stranger being symbolized by his bestial form.[35]

The heroine must fall in love with the transformed groom. The hero or heroine must marry, as promised, and the monstrous form is removed by the wedding. Sir Gawain thus transformed the Loathly lady; although he was told that this was half-way, she could at his choice be beautiful by day and hideous by night, or vice versa, he told her that he would choose what she preferred, which broke the spell entirely.[36] In Tatterhood, Tatterhood is transformed by her asking her bridegroom why he didn’t ask her why she rode a goat, why she carried a spoon, and why she was so ugly, and when he asked her, denying it and therefore transforming her goat into a horse, her spoon into a fan, and herself into a beauty. Puddocky is transformed when her prince, after she had helped him with two other tasks, tells him that his father has sent him for a bride. A similar effect is found in Child ballad 34, Kemp Owyne, where the hero can transform a dragon back into a maiden by kissing her three times.[37]

Sometimes the bridegroom removes his animal skin for the wedding night, whereupon it can be burned. Hans My Hedgehog, The Donkey and The Pig King fall under this grouping. At an extreme, in Prince Lindworm, the bride who avoids being eaten by the lindworm bridegroom arrives at her wedding wearing every gown she owns, and she tells the bridegroom she will remove one of hers if he removes one of his; only when her last gown comes off has he removed his last skin, and become a white shape that she can form into a man.[1]

In some tales, the hero or heroine must obey a prohibition; the bride must spend a period of time not seeing the transformed groom in human shape (as in East of the Sun and West of the Moon), or the bridegroom must not burn the animals’ skins. In The Brown Bear of Norway, The Golden Crab, The Enchanted Snake and some variants of The Frog Princess, burning the skin is a catastrophe, putting the transformed bride or bridegroom in danger. In these tales, the prohibition is broken, invariably, resulting in a separation and a search by one spouse for the other.[1]

Death[edit]

Ghosts sometimes appear in animal form. In The Famous Flower of Serving-Men, the heroine’s murdered husband appears to the king as a white dove, lamenting her fate over his own grave. In The White and the Black Bride and The Three Little Men in the Wood, the murdered – drowned – true bride reappears as a white duck. In The Rose Tree and The Juniper Tree, the murdered children become birds who avenge their own deaths. There are African folk tales of murder victims avenging themselves in the form of crocodiles that can shapeshift into human form.[38]

In some fairy tales, the character can reveal himself in every new form, and so a usurper repeatedly kills the victim in every new form, as in Beauty and Pock Face, A String of Pearls Twined with Golden Flowers, and The Boys with the Golden Stars. This eventually leads to a form in which the character (or characters) can reveal the truth to someone able to stop the villain.

Similarly, the transformation back may be acts that would be fatal. In The Wounded Lion, the prescription for turning the lion back into a prince was to kill him, chop him to pieces, burn the pieces, and throw the ash into water. Less drastic but no less apparently fatal, the fox in The Golden Bird, the foals in The Seven Foals, and the cats in Lord Peter and The White Cat tell the heroes of those stories to cut off their heads; this restores them to human shape.[39] In the Greek tale of Scylla, Scylla’s father Nisus turns into an eagle after death and drowns her daughter for betraying her father.

Modern[edit]

Fiction[edit]

  • In George MacDonald‘s The Princess and Curdie, (1883) Curdie is informed that many human beings, by their acts, are slowly turning into beasts. Curdie is given the power to detect the transformation before it is visible, and is assisted by beasts that had been transformed and are working their way back to humanity.[40]
  • L. Frank Baum concluded The Marvelous Land of Oz (1904) with the revelation that Princess Ozma, sought by the protagonists, had been turned into a boy as a baby, and that Tip (who had been searching for her) is that boy. He agrees to the reverse transformation, but Glinda the Good disapproves of shapeshifting magic, so it is done by the evil witch Mombi.[41]
  • In J.R.R. Tolkien‘s Middle-earth novels, Sauron, the main antagonist of The Lord of the Rings is a shapeshifter. Initially he can appear in any number of beautiful forms to deceive the gullible; and thus he makes the Rings of Power with the service of the Elves who are deceived by his appearance. In the First Age of the Sun (detailed in the Silmarillion) he could take on numerable forms; during his battle with Huan, the wolfhound, he takes on no less than five forms, including a gigantic werewolf, but succumbs and flees in the form of a vampire. When the island of Númenor is destroyed, Sauron loses his shapeshifting powers and is stuck in his dark hideous form and thus his enemies are no longer deceived. Aside from Sauron, many other Maiar in Middle-earth can shapeshift. The Valar shapeshift depending on their moods.
  • In The Hobbit, the prequel to The Lord of the Rings, the character Beorn is normally a large human, but can shapeshift into a large bear.
  • In science fiction, The Thing written by John W. Campbell concerns a shapeshifting alien life form that can assume the memories of any creature it absorbs.[42]
  • A Face Dancer is a type of human in Frank Herbert‘s science fiction Dune universe. A servant caste of the Bene Tleilax, Face Dancers are shapeshifters, and their name is derived from their ability to change their physical appearance at will. Originally, Face Dancers were Tleilaxu trained to mimic others using acting and makeup, enhanced by plastic surgery. As time went on, the Tleilaxu began to use genetic manipulation to enhance natural ability in phenotypic plasticity, so that Face Dancers could change height, increase and decrease apparent mass, change coloring and texture, and change facial features.
  • T. H. White, in the 1938 The Sword in the Stone, has Merlin and Madam Mim fight a wizards’ duel, in which the duelists would endlessly transform until one was in a form that could destroy the other.[43] He also had Merlin transform Arthur into various animals in as an educational experience.[44]
  • In C. S. LewisThe Chronicles of Narnia, Eustace Scrubb transforms into a dragon,[45] and the war-monger Rabadash into a donkey.[46] Eustace’s transformation is not strictly a punishment – the change simply reveals the truth of his selfishness. It is reversed after he repents and his moral nature changes. Rabadash is allowed to reverse his transformation, providing he does so in a public place, so that his former followers will know that he had been a donkey. He is warned that, if he ever leaves his capital city again, he will become a donkey permanently, and this prevents him leading further military campaigns.
  • Also in The Chronicles of Narnia the Dufflepuds are dwarfs who have been transformed into monopods as a punishment. However, it ultimately transpires that they are happier with their new form.
  • Both the Earthmasters and their opponents in Patricia A. McKillip‘s 1976 The Riddle-Master of Hed trilogy make extensive use of their shapeshifting abilities for the powers of their new forms.[47]
  • Poul Anderson, in Operation Chaos, has the werewolf observe that taking on wolf-form can simplify his thoughts.
  • Mary Stewart‘s A Walk in Wolf Wood (1980) revolves about revealing that one man is an imposter, taking the form of a man who is living as a wolf in the woods.
  • Mavin Manyshaped and her son Peter in Sheri S. Tepper‘s True Game novels are both shifters, being a subspecies of humans having this power, and in both, the learning of their abilities is a large portion of their growing up.
  • Jane Yolen took up the notion of selkie in 1991 Greyling and transformed it into a foundling tale.
  • In the 1995 book The Arkadians by Lloyd Alexander, the poet Fronto is changed into a donkey because he drinks from a magic pool that only the prophets are allowed to drink from.
  • J. K. Rowling‘s Harry Potter series contains both Animagi who can change to a single animal form and Metamorphmagi who can alter their appearance. The series included both a usurpation by a shapeshifter, and considerable precautions being taken by wizards and witches to attempt to identify such shapeshifters as they arose.
  • Wayne Gerard Trotman‘s science fiction novel, Veterans of the Psychic Wars contains Niburians, an ancient race of technologically advanced, psychic shapeshifters. In their natural state, they are described as shimmering humanoids. The Niburians are thought to be the secret mentors and protectors of humanity. However, out of fear and distrust, they have been hunted and killed by other alien races and are all but extinct. A Trinidadian character, Soraya Doyle, repeatedly refers to a Niburian as a Ligahoo.
  • In Wayne Gerard Trotman‘s novel, Kaya Abaniah and the Father of the Forest, a psychotic Niburian has been impersonating several of Trinidad and Tobago’s folkloric characters, including Papa Bois, Mama Dlo, Soucouyant, La Diablesse, and Ligahoo. The psychic shapeshifter from another world also transforms into various people both living and dead.
  • In the 2005 novel I, Coriander by Sally Gardner, Prince Tycho is transformed into a fox after refusing to marry Undwin, Queen Rosmore’s daughter.
  • In Cassandra Clare‘s trilogy The Infernal Devices, Tessa Gray can change into any being, whether supernatural, dead or living, as long as she is holding one of their belongings. She can also access their memories.
  • In C.C. Hunter‘s Shadow Falls series, shapeshifters are a supernatural species with ability to transform into another animal. The more powerful they are, the faster they can change, and can also transform into mythical creatures, such as dragons or unicorns. Two of the series’ prominent characters are shapeshifters named Perry and Steve.
  • Mindee Arnett’s Arkwell Academy trilogy tells of a species known as shape-changers, who can transform into anyone as long as they acquire someone’s tissues, such as teeth, hair, but most importantly, their heart, which will give them the target’s appearance, abilities, memories.

Popular culture[edit]

The TV series Supernatural features shapeshifters as monsters which the Winchester brothers encounter several times in the series’ run. These shifters literally shed their skins to assume new identities, although the original Alpha Shapeshifter can change appearance far more quickly, and can take on the memories of the person whose appearance they assume. Like the Alpha Shapeshifter, some shapeshifters have the ability to instantaneously transform into a different person. Their eyes show a retinal flare on cameras and they have a crippling weakness to silver.

The final climactic scene in the 1990 Sierra graphical adventure game King’s Quest V has King Graham in a shapeshifting battle with the wizard Mordack. The player’s final action in the game comes after Mordack becomes fire and surrounds the player, when Graham becomes a rain cloud and extinguishes the fire.[48]

The The Twilight Saga also features shapeshifters that can transform into wolves and have inhuman strength, speed, body temperature and aging process.[49]

Several episodes of the television shows: True Blood and Supernatural featured shapeshifters.

In the sci-fi television series Fringe, human/machine hybrids utilize a device which consist of a control box attached to two sets of wires with three prongs on the ends. The prongs are inserted on the roof of victim’s and shapeshifter’s mouth and when switched on, the shapeshifter will be able to acquire the shape and form of the victim.

In the fantasy adventure film Willow an army of men outside a castle are transformed by a witch into pigs to stop them from attacking.

In the Doctor Who episode “Terror of the Zygons“, the main antagonists called the Zygons can shapeshift into humans.

In Terminator 2: Judgment Day, the T-1000 took the form of John Connor‘s foster mom to gather information regarding his whereabouts, and later as his biological mother to gain his trust.

“The Trickster” in Supernatural changes form often to trick the main protagonists, Sam and Dean Winchester, into hunting down something else.

In X-Men the character Mystique is a blue female mutant that can transform into any sort of person, she can also change her voice.

In Super Hybrid the story was about an alien creature that can shapeshift into any sort of cars.

In Disney‘s Gravity Falls episode of season 2 “Into the Bunker”, on Dipper’s journal pages lead the gang to the author’s hidden bunker where they find themselves face-to-face with an evil shapeshifter’s enemy transforms was humans and creatures whom the author raised from a mysterious egg.

The character Gumby can shape shift into anything.

In The Amazing World of Gumballs season 3 episode “The Shell”, Gumball convinces his love interest, Penny Fitzgerald, to burst out of her peanut shell (having cracked it by headbutting her earlier on in the episode), to which she obeys and reveals her true form as a fairy that shapeshifts depending on her emotions. With each transformation she makes, she always keeps her set of antlers. At the end of the episode, when Gumball kisses her fully on the lips, she makes all of her transformations before going back to her original transformation. From this point onwards it is valid that Penny is Gumball’s girlfriend.

The Disney animated show Penn Zero: Part-Time Hero has shapeshifting as a power of the main characters. With each form a character takes, they are given different powers.

See also[edit]

Golem

 

Image result for GOLEM GIFS

Related image
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A Prague reproduction of the Golem.

In Jewish folklore, a golem (/ˈɡləm/ GOH-ləm; Hebrew: גולם‎‎) is an animated anthropomorphic being that is magically created entirely from inanimate matter (specifically clay or mud). The word was used to mean an amorphous, unformed material in Psalms and medieval writing.[1]

The most famous golem narrative involves Judah Loew ben Bezalel, the late-16th-century rabbi of Prague. There are many tales differing on how the golem was brought to life and afterward controlled.

History[edit]

Etymology[edit]

The word golem occurs once in the Bible in Psalm 139:16, which uses the word גלמי (galmi; my golem),[2] that means “my light form”, “raw” material,[3] connoting the unfinished human being before God’s eyes.[2] The Mishnah uses the term for an uncultivated person: “Seven characteristics are in an uncultivated person, and seven in a learned one,” (שבעה דברים בגולם) (Pirkei Avot 5:6 in the Hebrew text; English translations vary). In Modern Hebrew, golem is used to mean “dumb” or “helpless”. Similarly, it is often used today as a metaphor for a brainless lunk or entity who serves man under controlled conditions but is hostile to him under others.[citation needed] “Golem” passed into Yiddish as goylem to mean someone who is clumsy or slow.[citation needed]

Earliest stories[edit]

The oldest stories of golems date to early Judaism. In the Talmud (Tractate Sanhedrin 38b), Adam was initially created as a golem (גולם) when his dust was “kneaded into a shapeless husk”. Like Adam, all golems are created from mud by those close to divinity, but no anthropogenic golem is fully human. Early on, the main disability of the golem was its inability to speak. Sanhedrin 65b describes Rava creating a man (gavra). He sent the man to Rav Zeira. Rav Zeira spoke to him, but he did not answer. Rav Zeira said, “You were created by the sages; return to your dust”.

During the Middle Ages, passages from the Sefer Yetzirah (Book of Creation) were studied as a means to create and animate a golem, although there is little in the writings of Jewish mysticism that supports this belief. It was believed that golems could be activated by an ecstatic experience induced by the ritualistic use of various letters of the Hebrew Alphabet[1] forming a “shem” (any one of the Names of God), wherein the shem was written on a piece of paper and inserted in the mouth or in the forehead of the golem.[4]

A golem is inscribed with Hebrew words in some tales (for example, some versions of Chełm and Prague, as well as in Polish tales and versions of Brothers Grimm), such as the word emet (אמת, “truth” in Hebrew) written on its forehead. The golem could then be deactivated by removing the aleph (א) in emet,[5] thus changing the inscription from “truth” to “death” (met מת, meaning “dead”). Other versions add that an entity of clay would be brought to life by placing into his mouth a shem with a magic formula, and it could later be immobilized by pulling out the shem[6] or by reversing the creative combinations. Rabbi Jacob ben Shalom arrived at Barcelona from Germany in 1325 and remarked that the law of destruction is the reversal of the law of creation.[7]

Joseph Delmedigo informs us in 1625 that “many legends of this sort are current, particularly in Germany”.[8]

The earliest known written account of how to create a golem can be found in Sodei Razayya by Eleazar ben Judah of Worms (1165–1230).

The Golem of Chełm[edit]

The oldest description of the creation of a golem by a historical figure is included in a tradition connected to Rabbi Eliyahu of Chełm (1550–1583).[1][2][8][9]

A Polish Kabbalist, writing in about 1630–1650, reported the creation of a golem by Rabbi Eliyahu thus: “And I have heard, in a certain and explicit way, from several respectable persons that one man [living] close to our time, whose name is R. Eliyahu, the master of the name, who made a creature out of matter [Heb. Golem] and form [Heb. tzurah] and it performed hard work for him, for a long period, and the name of emet was hanging upon his neck, until he finally removed it for a certain reason, the name from his neck and it turned to dust.”[1] A similar account was reported by a Christian author, Christoph Arnold, in 1674.[1]

Rabbi Jacob Emden (d. 1776) elaborated on the story in a book published in 1748: “As an aside, I’ll mention here what I heard from my father’s holy mouth regarding the Golem created by his ancestor, the Gaon R. Eliyahu Ba’al Shem of blessed memory. When the Gaon saw that the Golem was growing larger and larger, he feared that the Golem would destroy the universe. He then removed the Holy Name that was embedded on his forehead, thus causing him to disintegrate and return to dust. Nonetheless, while he was engaged in extracting the Holy Name from him, the Golem injured him, scarring him on the face.”[10]

According to the Polish Kabbalist, “the legend was known to several persons, thus allowing us to speculate that the legend had indeed circulated for some time before it was committed to writing and, consequently, we may assume that its origins are to be traced to the generation immediately following the death of R. Eliyahu, if not earlier.”[1][11]

The classic narrative: The Golem of Prague[edit]

Rabbi Loew statue at the new town hall of Prague

Rabbi Loew and Golem by Mikoláš Aleš, 1899.

Old New Synagogue of Prague with the rungs of the ladder to the attic on the wall. Legend has Golem lying in the loft

Jewish museum with statue of Golem in Úštěk

The most famous golem narrative involves Judah Loew ben Bezalel, the late 16th century rabbi of Prague, also known as the Maharal, who reportedly created a golem to defend the Prague ghetto from antisemitic attacks[12] and pogroms. Depending on the version of the legend, the Jews in Prague were to be either expelled or killed under the rule of Rudolf II, the Holy Roman Emperor. To protect the Jewish community, the rabbi constructed the Golem out of clay from the banks of the Vltava river, and brought it to life through rituals and Hebrew incantations. The Golem was called Josef and was known as Yossele. It was said that he could make himself invisible and summon spirits from the dead.[12] The only care required of the Golem was that he couldn’t be active on the day of Sabbath (Saturday).[6] Rabbi Loew deactivated the Golem on Friday evenings by removing the shem before the Sabbath began,[4][6] so as to let it rest on Sabbath.[4] One Friday evening Rabbi Loew forgot to remove the shem, and feared that the Golem would desecrate the Sabbath.[4] A different story tells of a golem that fell in love, and when rejected, became the violent monster seen in most accounts. Some versions have the golem eventually going on a murderous rampage.[12]

The rabbi then managed to pull the shem from his mouth and immobilize him[4][6] in front of the synagogue, whereupon the golem fell in pieces.[4] The Golem’s body was stored in the attic genizah of the Old New Synagogue,[12] where it would be restored to life again if needed.[6] According to legend, the body of Rabbi Loew’s Golem still lies in the synagogue’s attic.[4][12] When the attic was renovated in 1883, no evidence of the Golem was found.[13] Some versions of the tale state that the Golem was stolen from the genizah and entombed in a graveyard in Prague’s Žižkov district, where the Žižkov Television Tower now stands. A recent legend tells of a Nazi agent ascending to the synagogue attic during World War II and trying to stab the Golem, but he died instead.[14] A film crew who visited and filmed the attic in 1984 found no evidence either.[13] The attic is not open to the general public.[15]

Some strictly orthodox Jews believe that the Maharal did actually create a golem. Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson (the last Rebbe of Lubavitch) wrote that his father-in-law Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn was asked about his experiences visiting the attic of the Old New Synagogue, and he said that he was unwilling to speak about it. Yosef Yitzchak wrote in his memoirs that he visited the Old New Synagogue‘s attic, and his father was very grave when he descended back to the ground floor, saying that he had recited psalms for his safety while he visited the attic. Shnayer L. Leiman writes in an article that Yosef Yitzchak’s daughter, Chana Gurary (Barry Gurary‘s mother), related to Rabbi Berel Junik that her father, had seen “[the] form of a man wrapped up and covered. The body was lying on its side,” and that he said that he was “very frightened by this sight. I looked around at some of the shemus (discarded ritual objects) that were there and left frightened by what I had seen.”[16] Rabbi Chaim Noach Levin also wrote in his notes on Megillas Yuchsin[17] that he heard directly from Rabbi Yosef Shaul Halevi, the head of the Rabbinical court of Lemberg, that he wanted to go see the remains of the Golem but the sexton of the Alt-Neu Shul said that Rabbi Yechezkel Landau had advised against going up to the attic after he himself had gone up.[18] The evidence for this belief has been analyzed from an orthodox Jewish perspective by Shnayer Z. Leiman.[13][19]

Sources of the Prague narrative[edit]

The general view of historians and critics is that the story of the Golem of Prague was a German literary invention of the early 19th century. According to Robert Zucker,[20] “the golem legend about R. Chełm moved to Prague and became related with” Rabbi Loew of Prague about mid-18th century. According to John Neubauer, the first writers on the Prague Golem were:

  • 1837: Berthold Auerbach, Spinoza
  • 1841: Gustav Philippson, Der Golam, eine Legende
  • 1841: Franz Klutschak, Der Golam des Rabbi Löw
  • 1842: Adam Tendlau Der Golem des Hoch-Rabbi-Löw
  • 1847: Leopold Weisel, Der Golem[21]

There is also a published account from 1838, written by the German Czech journalist Franz Klutschack.[22] Cathy Gelbin finds an earlier source in Philippson’s The Golem and the Adulteress, published in the Jewish magazine Shulamit in 1834, which describes how the Maharal sent a golem to find the reason for an epidemic among the Jews of Prague,[9][23] although doubts have been expressed as to whether this date is correct.[24] The earliest known source for the story thus far is the 1834 book Der Jüdische Gil Blas by Josef Seligman Kohn.[25][26] The story was repeated in Gallerie der Sippurim (1847), an influential collection of Jewish tales published by Wolf Pascheles of Prague.

All these early accounts of the Golem of Prague are in German by Jewish writers. It has been suggested that they emerged as part of a Jewish folklore movement parallel with the contemporary German folklore movement[9][27] and that they may have been based on Jewish oral tradition.[27]

The origins of the story have been obscured by attempts to exaggerate its age and to pretend that it dates from the time of the Maharal. It has been said that Rabbi Yudel Rosenberg (1859–1935)[28] of Tarłów (before moving to Canada where he became one of its most prominent rabbis) originated the idea that the narrative dates from the time of the Maharal. Rosenberg published Nifl’os Maharal (Wonders of Maharal) (Piotrków, 1909)[29] which purported to be an eyewitness account by the Maharal’s son-in-law, who had helped to create the Golem. Rosenberg claimed that the book was based upon a manuscript that he found in the main library in Metz. Wonders of Maharal “is generally recognized in academic circles to be a literary hoax”.[1][19][30] Gershom Sholem observed that the manuscript “contains not ancient legends but modern fiction”.[31] Rosenberg’s claim was further disseminated in Chayim Bloch’s (1881–1973) The Golem, legends of the Ghetto of Prague (English edition 1925).

The Jewish Encyclopedia of 1906 cites the historical work Zemach David by David Gans, a disciple of the Maharal, published in 1592.[4][32] In it, Gans writes of an audience between the Maharal and Rudolph II: “Our lord the emperor … Rudolph … sent for and called upon our master Rabbi Low ben Bezalel and received him with a welcome and merry expression, and spoke to him face to face, as one would to a friend. The nature and quality of their words are mysterious, sealed and hidden.”[33] But it has been said of this passage, “Even when [the Maharal is] eulogized, whether in David Gans’ Zemach David or on his epitaph …, not a word is said about the creation of a golem. No Hebrew work published in the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries (even in Prague) is aware that the Maharal created a golem.”[13][21] Furthermore, the Maharal himself did not refer to the Golem in his writings.[13] Rabbi Yedidiah Tiah Weil (1721–1805), a Prague resident, who described the creation of golems, including those created by Rabbis Avigdor Kara of Prague (died 1439) and Eliyahu of Chelm, did not mention the Maharal, and Rabbi Meir Perels’ biography of the Maharal[34] published in 1718 does not mention a golem.[9][13]

The Golem of Vilna[edit]

There is a similar tradition relating to the Vilna Gaon or “the saintly genius from Vilnius” (1720–1797). Rabbi Chaim Volozhin (Lithuania 1749–1821) reported in an introduction to Siphra Dzeniouta (1818)[35] that he once presented to his teacher, the Vilna Gaon, ten different versions of a certain passage in the Sefer Yetzira and asked the Gaon to determine the correct text. The Gaon immediately identified one version as the accurate rendition of the passage. The amazed student then commented to his teacher that, with such clarity, he should easily be able to create a live human. The Gaon affirmed Rabbi Chaim’s assertion, and said that he once began to create a person when he was a child, under the age of 13, but during the process he received a sign from Heaven ordering him to desist because of his tender age.[36] (See also discussion in Hans Ludwig Held (de), Das Gespenst des Golem, eine Studie aus d. hebräischen Mystik mit einem Exkurs über das Wesen des Doppelgängers[37] München 1927.) The Vilna Gaon wrote an extensive commentary on the Sefer Yetzira,[38] Kol HaTor, in which it is said that he had tried to create a Golem to fight the power of evil at the Gates of Jerusalem.[39] As far as we know, the Vilna Gaon was the only rabbi who had actually claimed that he tried to create a Golem; all such stories about other rabbis were told after their time.

Hubris theme[edit]

The existence of a golem is sometimes a mixed blessing. Golems are not intelligent, and if commanded to perform a task, they will perform the instructions literally. In many depictions Golems are inherently perfectly obedient. In its earliest known modern form, the Golem of Chełm became enormous and uncooperative. In one version of this story, the rabbi had to resort to trickery to deactivate it, whereupon it crumbled upon its creator and crushed him.[2] There is a similar hubris theme in Frankenstein, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, and some other stories in popular culture, for example: The Terminator. The theme also manifests itself in R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots), Karel Čapek‘s 1921 play which coined the term robot; the play was written in Prague, and while Čapek denied that he modeled the robot after the Golem, there are many similarities in the plot.[40]

Statue of the Prague Golem created for the film The Emperor and the Golem

Culture of the Czech Republic[edit]

The Golem is a popular figure in the Czech Republic. There are several restaurants and other businesses whose names make reference to the creature, a Czech strongman (René Richter) goes by the nickname “Golem”,[12] and a Czech monster truck outfit calls itself the “Golem Team”.

Abraham Akkerman preceded his article on human automatism in the contemporary city with a short satirical poem on a pair of golems turning human.[41]

Clay Boy variation[edit]

A Yiddish and Slavic folktale is the Clay Boy, which combines elements of the Golem and The Gingerbread Man, in which a lonely couple make a child out of clay, with disastrous or comical consequences.[42] In one common Russian version, an older couple whose children have left home make a boy out of clay, and dry him by their hearth. The Clay Boy comes to life; at first the couple are delighted and treat him like a real child, but the Clay Boy does not stop growing, and eats all their food, then all their livestock, and then the Clay Boy eats his parents. The Clay Boy rampages through the village until he is smashed by a quick-thinking goat.[43]

Golem in the 20th and 21st centuries[edit]

Golem movie poster (1920)

The Hebrew letters on the creature’s head read “emet”, meaning “truth”. In some versions of the Chełm and Prague narratives, the Golem is killed by removing the first letter, making the word spell “met”, meaning “dead”.

Mainstream European society adopted the golem in the early 20th century. Most notably, Gustav Meyrink‘s 1914 novel Der Golem is loosely inspired by the tales of the golem created by Rabbi Loew. Another famous treatment from the same era is H. Leivick‘s 1921 Yiddish-language “dramatic poem in eight sections”, The Golem. In 1923, Romanian composer Nicolae Bretan wrote the one-act opera The Golem, first performed the following year in Cluj and later revived in Denver, Colorado, US in 1990. Nobel prize winner Isaac Bashevis Singer also wrote a version of the legend,[44] and Elie Wiesel wrote a children’s book on the legend.[45]

A two-part Czechoslovakian color film The Emperor and the Golem was produced in 1951.

It! (alternate titles: Anger of the Golem, Curse of the Golem) is a 1967 British horror film made by Seven Arts Productions and Gold Star Productions, Ltd. that features the Golem of Prague as its main subject. It stars Roddy McDowall as the mad assistant museum curator Arthur Pimm, who brings the golem to life.

In 1974 CBS Radio Mystery Theater aired an episode entitled The Golem, which takes place during the Holocaust.[46]

In 1974, Marvel Comics published three Strange Tales comic books that included a golem character, and later series included variations of the golem idea.[47]

Marge Piercy‘s 1991 Arthur C. Clarke Award-winning novel He, She and It features a substantial subplot that retells the story of Rabbi Loew and his golem. The novels of Terry Pratchett in the fictional setting of Discworld also include several golems as characters. They are introduced in the 19th Discworld novel, “Feet of Clay” (1996).

In Cynthia Ozick‘s 1997 novel The Puttermesser Papers, a modern Jewish woman, Ruth Puttermesser, creates a female golem out of the dirt in her flowerpots to serve as the daughter she never had. The golem helps Puttermesser become elected Mayor of New York before it begins to run out of control.

Pete Hamill‘s 1997 novel Snow In August includes a story of a rabbi from Prague who has a golem.[48]

The 1997 The X-Files episode, “Kaddish“, features a golem as the Monster of the Week.

Michael Chabon‘s 2000 novel, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, features one of the protagonists, escape artist Josef Kavalier, smuggling himself out of Prague along with the golem. Petrie describes the theme of escape in the novel, culminating in Kavalier’s own drawing of a modern graphic novel centered on a golem.[49]

In James Sturm‘s 2001 graphic novel The Golem’s Mighty Swing, a Jewish baseball team in the 1920s creates a golem to help them win their games.[50]

In the Michael Scott novel The Alchemyst, the immortal Dr. John Dee attacked Nicholas Flamel with two golems, which, along with being made of mud, each had a pair of shiny stone “eyes”.[51]

Jonathan Stroud‘s children’s fantasy book The Golem’s Eye centers on a golem created by magicians in an alternate London.[52] The story depicts the golem as being impervious to magical attacks. The golem is finally destroyed by removing the creation parchment from its mouth.

In Byron L. Sherwin’s 2006 novel The Cubs and the Kabbalist, rabbis create a golem named Sandy Greenberg to help baseball’s Chicago Cubs win the World Series.[53]

In 2010, medieval mystery author Jeri Westerson, depicted her version of a golem terrifying the streets of fourteenth century London in the third book of her Crispin Guest series, The Demon’s Parchment.[54]

Daniel Handler’s 2002 novel Watch Your Mouth explores the possibility that a modern-day wife and mom is creating a golem in the basement of her family home. Publishers Weekly wrote of the book: “After the opera-melodrama’s weird but tantalizing climax, involving death and the golem myth, the novel actually recovers its narrative balance as the psychologically scarred Joseph turns to New Age recovery paperbacks, which replace opera as Handler’s satiric model.”[55]

Inspired by Gustav Meyrink’s novel was a classic set of expressionistic silent movies (1915–1920), Paul Wegener‘s Golem series, of which The Golem: How He Came into the World (also released as The Golem, 1920, US 1921: the only surviving film of the trilogy) is especially famous. In the first film the golem is revived in modern times before falling from a tower and breaking apart. Also notable is Julien Duvivier‘s Le Golem (1936), a French/Czechoslovakian sequel to the Wegener film.

Golems appear in the fantasy role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons (first published in the 1970s), and the influence of Dungeons & Dragons[56] has led to the inclusion of golems in other video games and in tabletop role-playing games.

The 2016 Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is set in Prague and features a section of the city which is nicknames “Golem City”, being a ghetto for mechanically augmented people. The augmented were placed in isolation after an event in which many of them suffered a breakdown and turned on “normal” humans; this most likely led to the place’s nickname, as the “golem that turned on its master”.[57]

The Golem takes an unusual gender twist in the award-winning 2004 poetry collection Heavy Water: a poem for Chernobyl,[58] when used (in the poem ‘Sleepwalkers’) to describe the many women ‘liquidators’ exposed to radiation during the clean-up operation at Chernobyl.

See also[edit]

Devil

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Devil

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Depiction of the devil as seen in the Codex Gigas.

Angels who follow the Devil are also called devils.[1] Here is a fresco detail from the Rila Monastery, in which demons are depicted as having grotesque images.

The Devil (from Greek: διάβολος or diábolos slanderer or accuser)[2] is, according to Christianity, the primary opponent of God.[1]

Christianity identifies the Devil (“Satan“) with the Serpent who tempted Adam and Eve to eat the forbidden fruit, and describes him as a “fallen angel” who terrorizes the world through evil,[1] is the antithesis of Truth,[3] and shall be condemned, together with the fallen angels who follow him, to eternal fire at the Last Judgement.[1]

Islam identifies the Devil (“Shaitan”) with all those who oppose Allah.[1]

Some non-Abrahamic religions contain figures similar to the Devil, such as the Buddhist demon Mara[1] and the Zoroastrian spirit Angra Mainyu.

Etymology

The Modern English word devil descends from the Middle English devel, from Old English dēofol, that in turn represents an early Germanic borrowing of Latin diabolus. This in turn was borrowed from Ancient Greek Greek: διάβολος (diábolos), “slanderer”,[4] from ‘Greek: ‘διαβάλλειν (diabállein) “to slander”: διά(diá-) “across, through” + βάλλειν (bállein) “to hurl”, probably akin to the Sanskrit gurate “he lifts up”.[5]

In the New Testament, Satan occurs more than 30 times in passages alongside diábolos, referring to the same person or thing as Satan.[citation needed]

Abrahamic religions

Judaism

In mainstream Judaism there is no concept of a devil as in mainstream Christianity or Islam. Texts make no direct link between the serpent that tempts Eve in the Garden of Eden in Genesis and the only references to Satan are in Zechariah[6] and in Job.[7]

For the Hasidim of the eighteenth century, ha-satan was Baal Davar.[8]

Apocrypha/Deuterocanon

In the Book of Wisdom, the devil is represented as the one who brought death into the world.[9] The Second Book of Enoch contains references to a Watcher angel called Satanael,[10] describing him as the prince of the Grigori who was cast out of heaven[11] and an evil spirit who knew the difference between what was “righteous” and “sinful”.[12] A similar story is found in 1 Enoch; however, in that book, the leader of the Grigori is called Semjâzâ. In the apocryphal literature, Satan rules over a host of angels.[13] Mastema, who induced God to test Abraham through the sacrifice of Isaac, is identical with Satan in both name and nature.[14] The Book of Enoch contains references to Sathariel, thought also[by whom?] to be Sataniel and Satan’el. The similar spellings mirror that of his angelic brethren Michael, Raphael, Uriel and Gabriel, previous to his expulsion from Heaven.[citation needed]

Christianity

Main article: Devil in Christianity
If he was once as handsome as he now is ugly and, despite that, raised his brows against his Maker, one can understand,how every sorrow has its source in him! –Dante in Inferno, Canto XXXIV (Verse translation by Allen Mandelbaum)

In mainstream Christianity the devil is usually referred to as Satan. Some modern Christians[who?] consider the devil to be an angel who, along with one-third of the angelic host (the demons) rebelled against God and has consequently been condemned to the Lake of Fire. He is described[attribution needed] as hating all humanity (or more accurately creation), opposing God, spreading lies and wreaking havoc on the souls of mankind. Other modern Christians[who?] consider the devil in the Bible to refer figuratively to human sin and temptation and to any immoral human system.[citation needed]

Horns of a goat and a ram, goat’s fur and ears, nose and canines of a pig, a typical depiction of the devil in Christian art. The goat, ram and pig are consistently associated with the Devil.[15] Detail of a 16th-century painting by Jacob de Backer in the National Museum in Warsaw.

Satan is often identified[by whom?] as the serpent who convinced Eve to eat the forbidden fruit; thus, Satan has often been depicted as a serpent. Though this identification is not present in the Adam and Eve narrative, this interpretation goes back at least as far as the time of the writing of the Book of Revelation, which specifically identifies Satan as being the serpent (Rev. 20:2).[citation needed]

In the Bible, the devil is identified with “the dragon” and “the old serpent” in the Book of Revelation 12:9, 20:2 have also been identified with Satan, as have “the prince of this world” in the Gospel of John 12:31, 14:30; and “the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience” in the Epistle to the Ephesians 2:2; and “the god of this world” in 2 Corinthians 4:4.[16] He is also identified as the dragon in the Book of Revelation (e.g.[17]), and the tempter of the Gospels (e.g.[18]).

The devil is sometimes called Lucifer, particularly when describing him as an angel before his fall, although the reference in Isaiah 14:12 to Lucifer, or the Son of the Morning, is a reference to a Babylonian king.[19]

Beelzebub is originally the name of a Philistine god (more specifically a certain type of Baal, from Ba‘al Zebûb, lit. “Lord of Flies”) but is also used in the New Testament as a synonym for Satan. A corrupted version, “Belzeboub”, appears in The Divine Comedy.[citation needed]

In other, non-mainstream, Christian beliefs (e.g. the beliefs of the Christadelphians) the word “satan” in the Bible is not regarded as referring to a supernatural, personal being but to any ‘adversary’ and figuratively refers to human sin and temptation.[20]

Islam

Main article: Devil (Islam)

In Islam the Devil is referred to as Iblis or sometimes the Shaytan (Arabic: Like the usage of the word satan in the Hebrew Bible, Shaytan is also a word used to refer to beings called demons in the Christian Bible, especially the New Testament). Etymologically, Iblis means “the desperate (of God’s mercy)” in Arabic. Thus, the name “Iblis” can be seen as a sobriquet given to Shaitan after falling from Grace.

According to the Quran, God created Iblis out of fire, either, along with all of the other jinn, out of “smokeless fire” or identified with Jann mentioned in15:27 created out of a “scorching fire” and differ from the regular jinn.[21] The primary characteristic of the Devil, besides hubris, is that he has no power other than the power to cast evil suggestions into the hearts of men and women. The Quran says that Satan was among the angels whom God ordered to bow down to Adam after his creation, it says in 18:50:

And [mention] when We said to the angels, “Prostrate to Adam,” and they prostrated, except for Iblees. He was of the jinn and departed from the command of his Lord. Then will you take him and his descendants as allies other than Me while they are enemies to you? Wretched it is for the wrongdoers as an exchange.

Whether Iblis was actually an angel or a Jinn whom God elevated to the angelic assembly is a matter of debate among Muslim scholars. Some scholars, such as Ibn Abbas, believed that Iblis was actually an angel whom God created out of fire. He was the most worshipful and knowledgeable of angels. Thus, when the Quran identifies Iblis as a Jinn, it means that he belonged to a class of fiery creatures called Jinn, which encompasses both heavenly Jinn (fiery angels) and earthly (ordinary) Jinn.[22] Such a notion is evocative of the biblical seraphim, a rank of angels looking like burning fire.[citation needed] Long before Adam was created, traditions narrate, earthly jinn roamed the earth and spread corruption upon it. As a result, God sent an army of angels under the leadership of Iblis to fight them. Iblis’ ego conflated after his victory on earth. He thought he was better than any other creature, and thus God’s favorite. God’s creation of Adam and his order to the angels to venerate him was a blow to Iblis’ pride. While all the angels obeyed God and bowed down to Adam, Iblis disobeyed haughtily saying 38:76:

“I am better than him. You created me from fire and created him from clay.”

Consequently, God expelled Iblis from Heaven, with the latter promising to lure mankind into disbelief and evil as an act of revenge from their father, Adam.[23] Also, some scholars call Iblis “The Peacock of Angels”, referencing his foolish hubris.[24] On the other hand, other scholars believe that there are no such things as heavenly Jinn or fiery angels, and thus Iblis was not an angel. He was a Jinn whom God elevated to Heaven as a reward for his worship and righteousness. This explains why Iblis managed to refuse God’s order, as angels do not have free will; they obey God’s orders without questioning or complaining. As for the angels, they prostrated before Adam to show their homage and obedience to God. However, Iblis, adamant in his view that man is inferior, and unlike angels was given the ability to choose, made a choice of not obeying God. This caused him to be expelled by God, a fact that Iblis blamed on humanity. Hasan of Basra, an eminent Muslim theologian who lived in the 7th century A.D, was quoted as saying:

“Iblis was not an angel even for the time of an eye wink. He is the origin of Jinn as Adam is of Mankind.[25]

Initially, the Devil was successful in deceiving Adam, but once his intentions became clear, Adam and Eve repented to God and were freed from their misdeeds and forgiven. God gave them a strong warning about Iblis and the fires of Hell and asked them and their children (humankind) to stay away from the deceptions of their senses caused by the Devil.[citation needed]

According to the verses of the Qur’an, the Devil’s mission until the Qiyamah or Resurrection Day (yaum-ul-qiyama) is to deceive Adam’s children (mankind). After that, he will be put into the fires of Hell along with those whom he has deceived. The Devil is also referred to as one of the jinn, as they are all created from the smokeless fire. The Qur’an does not depict Iblis as enemy of God, as God is supreme over all his creations and Iblis is just one of his creations. Iblis’ single enemy is humanity. He intends to discourage humans from obeying God. Thus, humankind is warned to struggle against the mischief of Iblis and the temptations he puts them in (Greater Jihad). The ones who succeed in this are rewarded with Paradise (jannath ul firdaus), attainable only by righteous conduct.[citation needed]

Sufi view of the Devil

Sufism teaches that people should love God without expecting anything in return.[26] Consequently, unrequited love is regarded by Sufis as that perfect type of love because the pining lover expects nothing in return. Thus, some Sufis see Satan as the paradigm of love and the perfect lover.[27] Despite the traditional interpretation of Satan’s fall from Grace as an act of excessive pride and rebellion against God, some Sufis see it as an act of self-sacrifice for God’s love. Satan refused to bow down to Adam out of his uncompromising monotheism and devotion; he refused to venerate anything or anyone but God. Al-Ghazali, a well-known medieval Sufi Muslim theologian, narrated:

Encountering Iblis on the slopes of Sinai, Moses hailed him and asked, “O Iblis, why did you not prostrate before Adam?” Iblis replied, “Heaven forbid that anyone worship anything but the One. […] This command was a test.”.[28][29]

Satan believed that God ordered him to bow down to Adam to test his love for him. Satan should maintain his love for God at any cost. So, even if the cost of Satan’s refusal to prostrate before Adam is falling from Grace, he should proceed with it out of his unconditional love for God.[29] Abdul Karim Jili, a Muslim Sufi saint, believed that after the Day of Judgement, Hell will cease to exist, and Satan will be back to the service of God as one of his cherished angels.[30]

Bahá’í Faith

In the Bahá’í Faith, a malevolent, superhuman entity such as a devil or satan is not believed to exist.[31] These terms do, however, appear in the Bahá’í writings, where they are used as metaphors for the lower nature of man. Human beings are seen to have free will, and are thus able to turn towards God and develop spiritual qualities or turn away from God and become immersed in their self-centered desires. Individuals who follow the temptations of the self and do not develop spiritual virtues are often described in the Bahá’í writings with the word satanic.[31] The Bahá’í writings also state that the devil is a metaphor for the “insistent self” or “lower self” which is a self-serving inclination within each individual. Those who follow their lower nature are also described as followers of “the Evil One”.[32][33]

Yazidism

Yazidis believe that God created the world and entrusted it to the care of seven Holy beings, among whom was Melek Taus (King Peacock in English). When God ordered his Holy beings to prostrate before Adam, Melek Taus refused to carry out God’s order out of his devotion to him. As a result, God made him the leader of all angels and his deputy on earth. An alternative name for the main deity in the tentatively Indo-European pantheon of the Yazidi, Melek Taus, is Shaitan.[34][need quotation to verify] Rather than Satanic, however, Yazidism is better understood as a remnant of a pre-Islamic Middle Eastern religion, and/or a ghulat Sufi movement founded by Sheikh Adi ibn Musafir. The connection with Satan, originally made by Muslim outsiders, attracted the interest of 19th-century European travelers and esoteric writers. The Yazidi narrative of Melek Taus bears a striking resemblance to the Islamic account of the Devil (especially the one held by some Sufis as mentioned before). Also, some Muslim scholars named the Devil the Peacock of Angels, a term almost equivalent to Melek Taus, King Peacock.[citation needed]

Figures similar to the Devil in other religions

Zoroastrianism

Main article: Angra Mainyu

Angra Mainyu (also: Aŋra Mainiiu) is the Avestan-language name of Zoroastrianism‘s hypostasis of the “destructive spirit”. The Middle Persian equivalent is Ahriman (Anglicised pronunciation: /ˈɑːrɪmən/). According to the most common Zoroastrian notion, he is the twin spirit of Spenta Mainyu, the positive emanation of the almighty and all-knowing Ahura Mazda.[citation needed]

Buddhism

Main article: Mara (demon)

Mara (Sanskrit: māra; Chinese: ; pinyin: ; Tibetan Wylie: bdud; Khmer: មារ; Burmese: မာရ်နတ်; Thai: มาร; Sinhalese: මාරයා), is a tempter figure in Buddhism, distracting humans from practicing the spiritual life by making mundane things alluring, or the negative seem positive.He is the demon that tempted Gautama Buddha by trying to seduce him with the vision of beautiful women who, in various legends, are often said to be Mara’s daughters.[35] In Buddhist cosmology, Mara personifies unwholesome impulses, unskillfulness, the “death”[36] of the spiritual life.[citation needed]

Ancient Egypt

Main articles: Apep and Set (mythology)

Apep (/ˈæˌpɛp/ or /ˈɑːˌpɛp/) or Apophis (/ˈæpəfs/; Ancient Greek: Ἄποφις; also spelled Apepi or Aapep) was the ancient Egyptian deity who embodied chaos (ı͗zft in Egyptian) and was thus the opponent of light and Ma’at (order/truth). He appears in art as a giant serpent. His name is reconstructed by Egyptologists as *ʻAʼpāpī, as it was written ꜥꜣpp(y) and survived in later Coptic as Ⲁⲫⲱⲫ Aphōph.[37]

The deity Set was originally associated with both positive and negative roles: a protector of Ra on the solar boat from the Serpent of Chaos, and an usurper who killed and mutilated his brother just to assume the throne. However, he was later demonized and he became quite unpopular. According to Herman te Velde, the demonization of Set took place after Egypt’s conquest by several foreign nations in the Third Intermediate and Late Periods. Set, who had traditionally been the god of foreigners, thus also became associated with foreign oppressors, including the Assyrian and Persian empires. It was during this time that Set was particularly vilified, and his defeat by Horus widely celebrated. Set’s negative aspects were emphasized during this period. Set was the killer of Osiris, having hacked Osiris’ body into pieces and dispersed it so that he could not be resurrected. The Greeks later linked Set with Typhon because both were evil forces, storm deities, and sons of the Earth that attacked the main gods.[citation needed]

Nevertheless, throughout this period, in some outlying regions of Egypt Set was still regarded as the heroic chief deity.[citation needed]

Set has also been classed as a Trickster deity who, as a god of disorder, resorts to deception to achieve bad ends.[38]

Other names

Demons

The Baphomet, adopted symbol of some Left-Hand Path systems, including Theistic Satanism.

In some religions and traditions, these titles are separate demons; others identify these names as guises of the devil. Even when thought of as individual demons, some are often thought of being under the Devil’s direct control. This identifies only those thought of as the devil; List of demons has a more general listing.

(2 Corinthians 6:15)

Titles

A list of liturgical names for the devil may be found in Jeffrey Burton Russell, Lucifer, the Devil in the Middle Ages (Cornell University Press, 1986), p. 128, note 76 online.

These are titles that almost always refer to devil-figures.

  • Angra Mainyu, Ahriman: “malign spirit”, “unholy spirit”
  • Der Leibhaftige [Teufel] (German): “[the devil] in the flesh, corporeal”[39]
  • Diabolus, Diabolos (Greek: Διάβολος)
  • The Evil One
  • Father of Lies (John 8:44), in contrast to Jesus (“I am the truth”).
  • Iblis, the devil in Islam
  • Lord of the underworld / Lord of Hell / Lord of this World
  • Lucifer / The Morning Star (Greek and Roman): bringer of light, illuminator; the planet Venus, often portrayed as Satan’s name before he fell
  • Mephistopheles
  • Old Scratch, The Stranger, Old Nick: a colloquialism for the devil, as indicated by the name of the character in the story The Devil and Tom Walker
  • Prince of Darkness / Air
  • Satan / The Adversary, Accuser, Prosecutor
  • (The ancient/old/crooked/coiling) Serpent
  • Shaitan, an Arabic name for Satan
  • Kölski (Iceland)[40]
  • Voland (medieval France)

Claims that the god of the Old Testament is the devil

Main article: God as the devil

Several religious authors throughout history have advanced the notion that the god of the Old Testament is consistent in character with the devil. They make the case that the Biblical God is a divine force that wreaks suffering, death and destruction and that tempts or commands humanity into committing mayhem and genocide. Tertullian accuses Marcion of Sinope, the first great heretic of Christianity in the 1st century, that he

[held that] the Old Testament was a scandal to the faithful … and … accounted for it by postulating [that Jehovah was] a secondary deity, a demiurgus, who was god, in a sense, but not the supreme God; he was just, rigidly just, he had his good qualities, but he was not the good god, who was Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ.[41]

The Church condemned his writings as heretical. John Arendzen (1909) in the Catholic Encyclopedia (1913) mentions that Eusebius accused Apelles, the 2nd-century AD Gnostic, of considering the Inspirer of Old-Testament prophecies to be not a god, but an evil angel.[42] Hegemonius (4th century) accuses the Persian prophet Mani, founder of the Manichaean sect in the 3rd century AD, identified Jehovah as “the devil god which created the world”[43] and said that “he who spoke with Moses, the Jews, and the priests … is the [Prince] of Darkness, … not the god of truth.”[44][45]

These writings refer to the Jewish God variously as “a demiurgus“,[41] “an evil angel”,[42] “the devil god”,[43] “the Prince of Darkness”,[44][45] “the source of all evil”,[46] “the Devil”,[47] “a demon”,[48] “a cruel, wrathful, warlike tyrant”,[49] “Satan”[50] and “the first beast of the book of Revelation”.[51]

Vampire

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Vampire

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Vampire
Burne-Jones-le-Vampire.jpg
The Vampire, by Philip Burne-Jones, 1897
Grouping Legendary creature
Sub grouping Undead
Similar creatures Revenant, werewolf
Country Transylvania, Serbia,[1][2][3][4] Bulgaria, Albania, Slovenia, Croatia, Macedonia, Poland, Hungary, Bohemia, Moravia, Silesia[5]

A vampire is a being from folklore who subsists by feeding on the life essence (generally in the form of blood) of the living. In European folklore, vampires were undead beings that often visited loved ones and caused mischief or deaths in the neighbourhoods they inhabited when they were alive. They wore shrouds and were often described as bloated and of ruddy or dark countenance, markedly different from today’s gaunt, pale vampire which dates from the early 19th century. Although vampiric entities have been recorded in most cultures, the term vampire was not popularized in the West until the early 18th century, after an influx of vampire superstition into Western Europe from areas where vampire legends were frequent, such as the Balkans and Eastern Europe,[6] although local variants were also known by different names, such as shtriga in Albania, vrykolakas in Greece and strigoi in Romania. This increased level of vampire superstition in Europe led to mass hysteria and in some cases resulted in corpses actually being staked and people being accused of vampirism.

In modern times, however, the vampire is generally held to be a fictitious entity, although belief in similar vampiric creatures such as the chupacabra still persists in some cultures. Early folk belief in vampires has sometimes been ascribed to the ignorance of the body’s process of decomposition after death and how people in pre-industrial societies tried to rationalise this, creating the figure of the vampire to explain the mysteries of death. Porphyria was also linked with legends of vampirism in 1985 and received much media exposure, but has since been largely discredited.[7][8]

The charismatic and sophisticated vampire of modern fiction was born in 1819 with the publication of The Vampyre by John Polidori; the story was highly successful and arguably the most influential vampire work of the early 19th century.[9] However, it is Bram Stoker‘s 1897 novel Dracula which is remembered as the quintessential vampire novel and provided the basis of the modern vampire legend. The success of this book spawned a distinctive vampire genre, still popular in the 21st century, with books, films, and television shows. The vampire has since become a dominant figure in the horror genre.

Etymology

The Oxford English Dictionary dates the first appearance of the English word vampire (as vampyre) in English from 1734, in a travelogue titled Travels of Three English Gentlemen published in The Harleian Miscellany in 1745.[10] Vampires had already been discussed in French[11] and German literature.[12] After Austria gained control of northern Serbia and Oltenia with the Treaty of Passarowitz in 1718, officials noted the local practice of exhuming bodies and “killing vampires”.[12] These reports, prepared between 1725 and 1732, received widespread publicity.[12] The English term was derived (possibly via French vampyre) from the German Vampir, in turn derived in the early 18th century from the Serbian vampir (Cyrillic: вампир),[1][2][3][4][13][14] when Arnold Paole, a purported vampire in Serbia was described during the time when Northern Serbia was part of the Austrian Empire.

The Serbian form has parallels in virtually all Slavic languages: Bulgarian and Macedonian вампир (vampir), Bosnian: vampir, Croatian vampir, Czech and Slovak upír, Polish wąpierz, and (perhaps East Slavic-influenced) upiór, Ukrainian упир (upyr), Russian упырь (upyr), Belarusian упыр (upyr), from Old East Slavic упирь (upir) (note that many of these languages have also borrowed forms such as “vampir/wampir” subsequently from the West; these are distinct from the original local words for the creature). The exact etymology is unclear.[15] Among the proposed proto-Slavic forms are *ǫpyrь and *ǫpirь.[16]

Another, less widespread theory, is that the Slavic languages have borrowed the word from a Turkic term for “witch” (e.g., Tatar ubyr).[16][17] Czech linguist Václav Machek proposes Slovak verb “vrepiť sa” (stick to, thrust into), or its hypothetical anagram “vperiť sa” (in Czech, archaic verb “vpeřit” means “to thrust violently”) as an etymological background, and thus translates “upír” as “someone who thrusts, bites”.[18] An early use of the Old Russian word is in the anti-pagan treatise “Word of Saint Grigoriy” (Russian Слово святого Григория), dated variously to the 11th–13th centuries, where pagan worship of upyri is reported.[19][20]

Folk beliefs

The notion of vampirism has existed for millennia. Cultures such as the Mesopotamians, Hebrews, Ancient Greeks, and Romans had tales of demons and spirits which are considered precursors to modern vampires. However, despite the occurrence of vampire-like creatures in these ancient civilizations, the folklore for the entity we know today as the vampire originates almost exclusively from early-18th-century southeastern Europe,[6] when verbal traditions of many ethnic groups of the region were recorded and published. In most cases, vampires are revenants of evil beings, suicide victims, or witches, but they can also be created by a malevolent spirit possessing a corpse or by being bitten by a vampire. Belief in such legends became so pervasive that in some areas it caused mass hysteria and even public executions of people believed to be vampires.[21]

Description and common attributes

Vampyren, “The Vampire”, by Edvard Munch.

It is difficult to make a single, definitive description of the folkloric vampire, though there are several elements common to many European legends. Vampires were usually reported as bloated in appearance, and ruddy, purplish, or dark in colour; these characteristics were often attributed to the recent drinking of blood. Indeed, blood was often seen seeping from the mouth and nose when one was seen in its shroud or coffin and its left eye was often open.[22] It would be clad in the linen shroud it was buried in, and its teeth, hair, and nails may have grown somewhat, though in general fangs were not a feature.[23] Although vampires were generally described as undead, some folktales spoke of them as living beings.[24][25][26][27][28][29][30]

Creating vampires

The causes of vampiric generation were many and varied in original folklore. In Slavic and Chinese traditions, any corpse that was jumped over by an animal, particularly a dog or a cat, was feared to become one of the undead.[31] A body with a wound that had not been treated with boiling water was also at risk. In Russian folklore, vampires were said to have once been witches or people who had rebelled against the Russian Orthodox Church while they were alive.[32]

Cultural practices often arose that were intended to prevent a recently deceased loved one from turning into an undead revenant. Burying a corpse upside-down was widespread, as was placing earthly objects, such as scythes or sickles,[33] near the grave to satisfy any demons entering the body or to appease the dead so that it would not wish to arise from its coffin. This method resembles the Ancient Greek practice of placing an obolus in the corpse’s mouth to pay the toll to cross the River Styx in the underworld. It has been argued that instead, the coin was intended to ward off any evil spirits from entering the body, and this may have influenced later vampire folklore. This tradition persisted in modern Greek folklore about the vrykolakas, in which a wax cross and piece of pottery with the inscription “Jesus Christ conquers” were placed on the corpse to prevent the body from becoming a vampire.[34]

Other methods commonly practised in Europe included severing the tendons at the knees or placing poppy seeds, millet, or sand on the ground at the grave site of a presumed vampire; this was intended to keep the vampire occupied all night by counting the fallen grains,[35] indicating an association of vampires with arithmomania. Similar Chinese narratives state that if a vampire-like being came across a sack of rice, it would have to count every grain; this is a theme encountered in myths from the Indian subcontinent, as well as in South American tales of witches and other sorts of evil or mischievous spirits or beings.[36]

In Albanian folklore, the dhampir is the hybrid child of the karkanxholl (a werewolf-like creature with an iron mail shirt) or the lugat (a water-dwelling ghost or monster). The dhampir sprung of a karkanxholl has the unique ability to discern the karkanxholl; from this derives the expression the dhampir knows the lugat. The lugat cannot be seen, he can only be killed by the dhampir, who himself is usually the son of a lugat. In different regions, animals can be revenants as lugats; also, living people during their sleep. Dhampiraj is also an Albanian surname.[37]

Identifying vampires

Many elaborate rituals were used to identify a vampire. One method of finding a vampire’s grave involved leading a virgin boy through a graveyard or church grounds on a virgin stallion—the horse would supposedly balk at the grave in question.[32] Generally a black horse was required, though in Albania it should be white.[38] Holes appearing in the earth over a grave were taken as a sign of vampirism.[39]

Corpses thought to be vampires were generally described as having a healthier appearance than expected, plump and showing little or no signs of decomposition.[40] In some cases, when suspected graves were opened, villagers even described the corpse as having fresh blood from a victim all over its face.[41] Evidence that a vampire was active in a given locality included death of cattle, sheep, relatives or neighbours. Folkloric vampires could also make their presence felt by engaging in minor poltergeist-like activity, such as hurling stones on roofs or moving household objects,[42] and pressing on people in their sleep.[43]

Protection

An image from Max Ernst‘s Une Semaine de Bonté.

Apotropaics

Apotropaics, items able to ward off revenants, are common in vampire folklore. Garlic is a common example,[44] a branch of wild rose and hawthorn plant are said to harm vampires, and in Europe, sprinkling mustard seeds on the roof of a house was said to keep them away.[45] Other apotropaics include sacred items, for example a crucifix, rosary, or holy water. Vampires are said to be unable to walk on consecrated ground, such as that of churches or temples, or cross running water.[46]

Although not traditionally regarded as an apotropaic, mirrors have been used to ward off vampires when placed, facing outwards, on a door (in some cultures, vampires do not have a reflection and sometimes do not cast a shadow, perhaps as a manifestation of the vampire’s lack of a soul).[47] This attribute, although not universal (the Greek vrykolakas/tympanios was capable of both reflection and shadow), was used by Bram Stoker in Dracula and has remained popular with subsequent authors and filmmakers.[48]

Some traditions also hold that a vampire cannot enter a house unless invited by the owner, although after the first invitation they can come and go as they please.[47] Though folkloric vampires were believed to be more active at night, they were not generally considered vulnerable to sunlight.[48]

Methods of destruction

“The Vampire”, lithograph by R. de Moraine (1864).

Methods of destroying suspected vampires varied, with staking the most commonly cited method, particularly in southern Slavic cultures.[49] Ash was the preferred wood in Russia and the Baltic states,[50] or hawthorn in Serbia,[51] with a record of oak in Silesia.[52] Aspen was also the wood of choice for stakes, as it was believed that Christ’s cross was made from aspen (aspen branches on the graves of purported vampires were also believed to prevent their risings at night).[53] Potential vampires were most often staked through the heart, though the mouth was targeted in Russia and northern Germany[54][55] and the stomach in north-eastern Serbia.[56]

Piercing the skin of the chest was a way of “deflating” the bloated vampire. This is similar to the act of burying sharp objects, such as sickles, in with the corpse, so that they may penetrate the skin if the body bloats sufficiently while transforming into a revenant.[57] In one striking example of the latter, the corpses of five people in a graveyard near the Polish village of Dravsko, dating from the 17th and 18th centuries, were buried with sickles placed around their necks or across their abdomens.[58]

Decapitation was the preferred method in German and western Slavic areas, with the head buried between the feet, behind the buttocks or away from the body.[49] This act was seen as a way of hastening the departure of the soul, which in some cultures, was said to linger in the corpse. The vampire’s head, body, or clothes could also be spiked and pinned to the earth to prevent rising.[59]

Romani people drove steel or iron needles into a corpse’s heart and placed bits of steel in the mouth, over the eyes, ears and between the fingers at the time of burial. They also placed hawthorn in the corpse’s sock or drove a hawthorn stake through the legs. In a 16th-century burial near Venice, a brick forced into the mouth of a female corpse has been interpreted as a vampire-slaying ritual by the archaeologists who discovered it in 2006.[60]

Further measures included pouring boiling water over the grave or complete incineration of the body. In the Balkans, a vampire could also be killed by being shot or drowned, by repeating the funeral service, by sprinkling holy water on the body, or by exorcism. In Romania, garlic could be placed in the mouth, and as recently as the 19th century, the precaution of shooting a bullet through the coffin was taken. For resistant cases, the body was dismembered and the pieces burned, mixed with water, and administered to family members as a cure. In Saxon regions of Germany, a lemon was placed in the mouth of suspected vampires.[61]

In Bulgaria, over 100 skeletons with metal objects, such as plough bits, embedded in the torso have been discovered.[62][63]

Ancient beliefs

Lilith (1892), by John Collier.

Tales of supernatural beings consuming the blood or flesh of the living have been found in nearly every culture around the world for many centuries.[64] The term vampire did not exist in ancient times. Blood drinking and similar activities were attributed to demons or spirits who would eat flesh and drink blood; even the Devil was considered synonymous with the vampire.[65]

Almost every nation has associated blood drinking with some kind of revenant or demon, or in some cases a deity. In India, for example, tales of vetālas, ghoul-like beings that inhabit corpses, have been compiled in the Baitāl Pacīsī; a prominent story in the Kathāsaritsāgara tells of King Vikramāditya and his nightly quests to capture an elusive one.[66] Piśāca, the returned spirits of evil-doers or those who died insane, also bear vampiric attributes.[67]

The Persians were one of the first civilizations to have tales of blood-drinking demons: creatures attempting to drink blood from men were depicted on excavated pottery shards.[68] Ancient Babylonia and Assyria had tales of the mythical Lilitu,[69] synonymous with and giving rise to Lilith (Hebrew לילית) and her daughters the Lilu from Hebrew demonology. Lilitu was considered a demon and was often depicted as subsisting on the blood of babies.[69] And Estries, female shape changing, blood drinking demons, were said to roam the night among the population, seeking victims. According to Sefer Hasidim, Estries were creatures created in the twilight hours before God rested.[70] An injured Estrie could be healed by eating bread and salt given her by her attacker. In Jewish demonology, Ornasis or Ornias, mentioned in The Testament of Solomon is known as a “vampire demon” also associating the two, (vampires and demons).

Greco-Roman mythology described the Empusae,[71] the Lamia,[72] and the striges. Over time the first two terms became general words to describe witches and demons respectively. Empusa was the daughter of the goddess Hecate and was described as a demonic, bronze-footed creature. She feasted on blood by transforming into a young woman and seduced men as they slept before drinking their blood.[71] The Lamia preyed on young children in their beds at night, sucking their blood, as did the gelloudes or Gello.[72] Like the Lamia, the striges feasted on children, but also preyed on adults. They were described as having the bodies of crows or birds in general, and were later incorporated into Roman mythology as strix, a kind of nocturnal bird that fed on human flesh and blood.[73]

In Azerbaijanese mythology Xortdan is the troubled soul of the dead rising from the grave.[74] Some Hortdan can be living people with certain magical properties. Some of the properties of the Hortdan include: the ability to transform into an animal, invisibility, and the propensity to drain the vitality of victims via blood loss.

Medieval and later European folklore

The 800-year-old skeleton found in Bulgaria stabbed through the chest with iron rod.[75]

Many myths surrounding vampires originated during the medieval period. The 12th-century English historians and chroniclers Walter Map and William of Newburgh recorded accounts of revenants,[21][76] though records in English legends of vampiric beings after this date are scant.[77] The Old Norse draugr is another medieval example of an undead creature with similarities to vampires.[78]

Vampires proper originate in folklore widely reported from Eastern Europe in the late 17th and 18th centuries. These tales formed the basis of the vampire legend that later entered Germany and England, where they were subsequently embellished and popularized. One of the earliest recordings of vampire activity came from the region of Istria in modern Croatia, in 1672.[79] Local reports cited the local vampire Jure Grando of the village Khring near Tinjan as the cause of panic among the villagers.[80]

A former peasant, Jure died in 1656. However, local villagers claimed he returned from the dead and began drinking blood from the people and sexually harassing his widow. The village leader ordered a stake to be driven through his heart, but when the method failed to kill him, he was subsequently beheaded with better results.[81] That was the first case in history that a real person had been described as a vampire.

During the 18th century, there was a frenzy of vampire sightings in Eastern Europe, with frequent stakings and grave diggings to identify and kill the potential revenants. Even government officials engaged in the hunting and staking of vampires.[82] Despite being called the Age of Enlightenment, during which most folkloric legends were quelled, the belief in vampires increased dramatically, resulting in a mass hysteria throughout most of Europe.[21]

The panic began with an outbreak of alleged vampire attacks in East Prussia in 1721 and in the Habsburg Monarchy from 1725 to 1734, which spread to other localities. Two famous vampire cases, the first to be officially recorded, involved the corpses of Petar Blagojevich and Miloš Čečar from Serbia. Blagojevich was reported to have died at the age of 62, but allegedly returned after his death asking his son for food. When the son refused, he was found dead the following day. Blagojevich supposedly returned and attacked some neighbours who died from loss of blood.[82]

In the second case, Miloš, an ex-soldier turned farmer who allegedly was attacked by a vampire years before, died while haying. After his death, people began to die in the surrounding area and it was widely believed that Miloš had returned to prey on the neighbours.[83][84] Another famous Serbian legend involving vampires concentrates around a certain Sava Savanović living in a watermill and killing and drinking blood from millers. The character was later used in a story written by Serbian writer Milovan Glišić and in the Yugoslav 1973 horror film Leptirica inspired by the story.

The two incidents were well-documented. Government officials examined the bodies, wrote case reports, and published books throughout Europe.[84] The hysteria, commonly referred to as the “18th-Century Vampire Controversy”, raged for a generation. The problem was exacerbated by rural epidemics of so-claimed vampire attacks, undoubtedly caused by the higher amount of superstition that was present in village communities, with locals digging up bodies and in some cases, staking them.[85]

Dissertations on vampirology

Title page of a 1603 reprinting of Daemonologie

Première page du Tractat von dem Kauen und Schmatzen der Todten in Gräbern (1734), ouvrage de vampirologie de Michael Ranft

Title page of treatise on the chewing and smacking of the dead in graves (1734), A book on Vampirology by Michael Ranft.

In 1597, King James wrote a dissertation on witchcraft titled Daemonologie in which he wrote the belief that demons could possess both the living and the dead. Within his classification of demons, he explained the concept through the notion that incubi and succubae could possess the corpse of the deceased and walk the earth. As a devil borrows a dead body, it would seem so visibly and naturally to any man who converses with them and that any substance within the body would remain intolerably cold to others which they abuse.[86]

In 1645 the Greek librarian of the Vatican, Leo Allatius, produced the first methodological description of the Balkan beliefs in vampires (Greek: vrykolakas) in his work De Graecorum hodie quorundam opinationibus (“On certain modern opinions among the Greeks”).[87]

From 1679, Philippe Rohr devotes an essay to the dead who chew their shrouds in their graves, subject resumed later by Otto in 1732, and then by Michael Ranft in 1734. The subject was based on the peculiar phenomenon that when digging up graves, it was discovered that some corpses had at some point either devoured the interior fabric of their coffin or their own limbs.[88] Ranft described in his treatise of a tradition in some parts of Germany, that to prevent the dead from masticating they placed a mound of dirt under their chin in the coffin, placed a piece of money and a stone in the mouth, or tied a handkerchief tightly around the throat.[89] While in 1732 an anonymous writer calling itself “the doctor Weimar” discusses the non-putrefaction of these creatures, from a theological point of view.[90] in 1733, Johann Christoph Harenberg wrote a general treatise on vampirism and the Marquis d’Argens Boyer cites local cases. Theologians and clergymen are also addressing the topic.[91]

Some theological disputes arose. The non-decay of vampires’ bodies could recall the incorruption of the bodies of the saints of the Catholic Church. A paragraph on vampires was included in the second edition (1749) of De servorum Dei beatificatione et sanctorum canonizatione, On the beatification of the servants of God and on canonization of the blessed, written by Prospero Lambertini (Pope Benedict XIV).[92] In his opinion, while the incorruption of the bodies of saints was the effect of a divine intervention, all the phenomena attributed to vampires were purely natural or the fruit of “imagination, terror and fear”. In other words, vampires did not exist[93]

Dom Augustine Calmet, a French theologian and scholar, put together a comprehensive treatise in 1751 titled Treatise on the Apparitions of Spirits and on Vampires or Revenants which investigated the existence of vampires, demons, spectres and many other matters relating to the occult of his time throughout European history. Calmet conducted extensive research and amassed judicial reports of vampiric incidents and extensively researched theological and mythological accounts as well, utilizing the scientific method in his analysis to come up with methods for determining the validity for cases of this nature. As he stated in his treatise:[94]

[T]hey see, it is said, men who have been dead for several months, come back to earth, talk, walk, infest villages, ill use both men and beasts, suck the blood of their near relations, make them ill, and finally cause their death; so that people can only save themselves from their dangerous visits and their hauntings by exhuming them, impaling them, cutting off their heads, tearing out the heart, or burning them. These revenants are called by the name of oupires or vampires, that is to say, leeches; and such particulars are related of them, so singular, so detailed, and invested with such probable circumstances and such judicial information, that one can hardly refuse to credit the belief which is held in those countries, that these revenants come out of their tombs and produce those effects which are proclaimed of them.

Calmet had numerous readers, including both a critical Voltaire and numerous supportive demonologists who interpreted the treatise as claiming that vampires existed.[85] Philosophical Dictionary, Voltaire wrote:[95]

These vampires were corpses, who went out of their graves at night to suck the blood of the living, either at their throats or stomachs, after which they returned to their cemeteries. The persons so sucked waned, grew pale, and fell into consumption; while the sucking corpses grew fat, got rosy, and enjoyed an excellent appetite. It was in Poland, Hungary, Silesia, Moravia, Austria, and Lorraine, that the dead made this good cheer.

The controversy in Austria only ceased when Empress Maria Theresa of Austria sent her personal physician, Gerard van Swieten, to investigate the claims of vampiric entities. He concluded that vampires did not exist and the Empress passed laws prohibiting the opening of graves and desecration of bodies, sounding the end of the vampire epidemics. Other European countries followed suit. Despite this condemnation, the vampire lived on in artistic works and in local superstition.[85]

Non-European beliefs

Beings having many of the attributes of European vampires appear in the folklore of Africa, Asia, North and South America, and India. Classified as vampires, all share the thirst for blood.[96]

Africa

Various regions of Africa have folktales featuring beings with vampiric abilities: in West Africa the Ashanti people tell of the iron-toothed and tree-dwelling asanbosam,[97] and the Ewe people of the adze, which can take the form of a firefly and hunts children.[98] The eastern Cape region has the impundulu, which can take the form of a large taloned bird and can summon thunder and lightning, and the Betsileo people of Madagascar tell of the ramanga, an outlaw or living vampire who drinks the blood and eats the nail clippings of nobles.[99]

The Americas

The Loogaroo is an example of how a vampire belief can result from a combination of beliefs, here a mixture of French and African Vodu or voodoo. The term Loogaroo possibly comes from the French loup-garou (meaning “werewolf”) and is common in the culture of Mauritius. However, the stories of the Loogaroo are widespread through the Caribbean Islands and Louisiana in the United States.[100] Similar female monsters are the Soucouyant of Trinidad, and the Tunda and Patasola of Colombian folklore, while the Mapuche of southern Chile have the bloodsucking snake known as the Peuchen.[101] Aloe vera hung backwards behind or near a door was thought to ward off vampiric beings in South American superstition.[36] Aztec mythology described tales of the Cihuateteo, skeletal-faced spirits of those who died in childbirth who stole children and entered into sexual liaisons with the living, driving them mad.[32]

During the late 18th and 19th centuries the belief in vampires was widespread in parts of New England, particularly in Rhode Island and Eastern Connecticut. There are many documented cases of families disinterring loved ones and removing their hearts in the belief that the deceased was a vampire who was responsible for sickness and death in the family, although the term “vampire” was never actually used to describe the deceased. The deadly disease tuberculosis, or “consumption” as it was known at the time, was believed to be caused by nightly visitations on the part of a dead family member who had died of consumption themselves.[102] The most famous, and most recently recorded, case of suspected vampirism is that of nineteen-year-old Mercy Brown, who died in Exeter, Rhode Island in 1892. Her father, assisted by the family physician, removed her from her tomb two months after her death, cut out her heart and burned it to ashes.[103]

Asia

Rooted in older folklore, the modern belief in vampires spread throughout Asia with tales of ghoulish entities from the mainland, to vampiric beings from the islands of Southeast Asia.

South Asia also developed other vampiric legends. The Bhūta or Prét is the soul of a man who died an untimely death. It wanders around animating dead bodies at night, attacking the living much like a ghoul.[104] In northern India, there is the BrahmarākŞhasa, a vampire-like creature with a head encircled by intestines and a skull from which it drank blood. The figure of the Vetala who appears in South Asian legend and story may sometimes be rendered as “Vampire” (see the section on “Ancient Beliefs” above).

Although vampires have appeared in Japanese cinema since the late 1950s, the folklore behind it is western in origin.[105] However, the Nukekubi is a being whose head and neck detach from its body to fly about seeking human prey at night.[106]

The manananggal of Philippine mythology.

Legends of female vampire-like beings who can detach parts of their upper body also occur in the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia. There are two main vampire-like creatures in the Philippines: the Tagalog Mandurugo (“blood-sucker”) and the Visayan Manananggal (“self-segmenter”). The mandurugo is a variety of the aswang that takes the form of an attractive girl by day, and develops wings and a long, hollow, thread-like tongue by night. The tongue is used to suck up blood from a sleeping victim.[107]

The manananggal is described as being an older, beautiful woman capable of severing its upper torso in order to fly into the night with huge bat-like wings and prey on unsuspecting, sleeping pregnant women in their homes. They use an elongated proboscis-like tongue to suck fetuses from these pregnant women. They also prefer to eat entrails (specifically the heart and the liver) and the phlegm of sick people.[107]

The Malaysian Penanggalan may be either a beautiful old or young woman who obtained her beauty through the active use of black magic or other unnatural means, and is most commonly described in local folklore to be dark or demonic in nature. She is able to detach her fanged head which flies around in the night looking for blood, typically from pregnant women.[108] Malaysians would hang jeruju (thistles) around the doors and windows of houses, hoping the Penanggalan would not enter for fear of catching its intestines on the thorns.[109]

The Leyak is a similar being from Balinese folklore of Indonesia.[110] A Kuntilanak or Matianak in Indonesia,[111] or Pontianak or Langsuir in Malaysia,[112] is a woman who died during childbirth and became undead, seeking revenge and terrorizing villages. She appeared as an attractive woman with long black hair that covered a hole in the back of her neck, with which she sucked the blood of children. Filling the hole with her hair would drive her off. Corpses had their mouths filled with glass beads, eggs under each armpit, and needles in their palms to prevent them from becoming langsuir. This description would also fit the Sundel Bolongs.[113]

Jiangshi, sometimes called “Chinese vampires” by Westerners, are reanimated corpses that hop around, killing living creatures to absorb life essence () from their victims. They are said to be created when a person’s soul (魄 ) fails to leave the deceased’s body.[114] However, some have disputed the comparison of jiang shi with vampires, as jiang shi are usually represented as mindless creatures with no independent thought.[115] One unusual feature of this monster is its greenish-white furry skin, perhaps derived from fungus or mould growing on corpses.[116] Jiangshi legends have inspired a genre of jiangshi films and literature in Hong Kong and East Asia. Films like Encounters of the Spooky Kind and Mr. Vampire were released during the jiangshi cinematic boom of the 1980s and 1990s.[117][118]

Modern beliefs

In modern fiction, the vampire tends to be depicted as a suave, charismatic villain.[23] Despite the general disbelief in vampiric entities, occasional sightings of vampires are reported. Indeed, vampire hunting societies still exist, although they are largely formed for social reasons.[21] Allegations of vampire attacks swept through the African country of Malawi during late 2002 and early 2003, with mobs stoning one individual to death and attacking at least four others, including Governor Eric Chiwaya, based on the belief that the government was colluding with vampires.[119]

In early 1970 local press spread rumours that a vampire haunted Highgate Cemetery in London. Amateur vampire hunters flocked in large numbers to the cemetery. Several books have been written about the case, notably by Sean Manchester, a local man who was among the first to suggest the existence of the “Highgate Vampire” and who later claimed to have exorcised and destroyed a whole nest of vampires in the area.[120] In January 2005, rumours circulated that an attacker had bitten a number of people in Birmingham, England, fuelling concerns about a vampire roaming the streets. However, local police stated that no such crime had been reported and that the case appears to be an urban legend.[121]

A female vampire costume.

In 2006, a physics professor at the University of Central Florida wrote a paper arguing that it is mathematically impossible for vampires to exist, based on geometric progression. According to the paper, if the first vampire had appeared on 1 January 1600, and it fed once a month (which is less often than what is depicted in films and folklore), and every victim turned into a vampire, then within two and a half years the entire human population of the time would have become vampires.[122] The paper made no attempt to address the credibility of the assumption that every vampire victim would turn into a vampire.

In one of the more notable cases of vampiric entities in the modern age, the chupacabra (“goat-sucker”) of Puerto Rico and Mexico is said to be a creature that feeds upon the flesh or drinks the blood of domesticated animals, leading some to consider it a kind of vampire. The “chupacabra hysteria” was frequently associated with deep economic and political crises, particularly during the mid-1990s.[123]

In Europe, where much of the vampire folklore originates, the vampire is usually considered a fictitious being, although many communities may have embraced the revenant for economic purposes. In some cases, especially in small localities, vampire superstition is still rampant and sightings or claims of vampire attacks occur frequently. In Romania during February 2004, several relatives of Toma Petre feared that he had become a vampire. They dug up his corpse, tore out his heart, burned it, and mixed the ashes with water in order to drink it.[124]

Vampirism and the vampire lifestyle also represent a relevant part of modern day’s occultist movements.[125] The mythos of the vampire, his magickal qualities, allure, and predatory archetype express a strong symbolism that can be used in ritual, energy work, and magick, and can even be adopted as a spiritual system.[126] The vampire has been part of the occult society in Europe for centuries and has spread into the American sub-culture as well for more than a decade, being strongly influenced by and mixed with the neo gothic aesthetics.[127]

Collective noun

Coven‘ has been used as a collective noun for vampires, possibly based on the Wiccan usage. An alternative collective noun is a ‘house’ of vampires.[128] David Malki, author of Wondermark, suggests in Wondermark No. 566 the use of the collective noun ‘basement’, as in “A basement of vampires.”[129]

Origins of vampire beliefs

Commentators have offered many theories for the origins of vampire beliefs, trying to explain the superstition – and sometimes mass hysteria – caused by vampires. Everything ranging from premature burial to the early ignorance of the body’s decomposition cycle after death has been cited as the cause for the belief in vampires.

Pathology

Decomposition

Paul Barber in his book Vampires, Burial and Death has described that belief in vampires resulted from people of pre-industrial societies attempting to explain the natural, but to them inexplicable, process of death and decomposition.[130]

People sometimes suspected vampirism when a cadaver did not look as they thought a normal corpse should when disinterred. Rates of decomposition vary depending on temperature and soil composition, and many of the signs are little known. This has led vampire hunters to mistakenly conclude that a dead body had not decomposed at all, or, ironically, to interpret signs of decomposition as signs of continued life.[131]

Corpses swell as gases from decomposition accumulate in the torso and the increased pressure forces blood to ooze from the nose and mouth. This causes the body to look “plump,” “well-fed,” and “ruddy”—changes that are all the more striking if the person was pale or thin in life. In the Arnold Paole case, an old woman’s exhumed corpse was judged by her neighbours to look more plump and healthy than she had ever looked in life.[132] The exuding blood gave the impression that the corpse had recently been engaging in vampiric activity.[41]

Darkening of the skin is also caused by decomposition.[133] The staking of a swollen, decomposing body could cause the body to bleed and force the accumulated gases to escape the body. This could produce a groan-like sound when the gases moved past the vocal cords, or a sound reminiscent of flatulence when they passed through the anus. The official reporting on the Petar Blagojevich case speaks of “other wild signs which I pass by out of high respect”.[134]

After death, the skin and gums lose fluids and contract, exposing the roots of the hair, nails, and teeth, even teeth that were concealed in the jaw. This can produce the illusion that the hair, nails, and teeth have grown. At a certain stage, the nails fall off and the skin peels away, as reported in the Blagojevich case—the dermis and nail beds emerging underneath were interpreted as “new skin” and “new nails”.[134]

Premature burial

It has also been hypothesized that vampire legends were influenced by individuals being buried alive because of shortcomings in the medical knowledge of the time. In some cases in which people reported sounds emanating from a specific coffin, it was later dug up and fingernail marks were discovered on the inside from the victim trying to escape. In other cases the person would hit their heads, noses or faces and it would appear that they had been “feeding.”[135] A problem with this theory is the question of how people presumably buried alive managed to stay alive for any extended period without food, water or fresh air. An alternate explanation for noise is the bubbling of escaping gases from natural decomposition of bodies.[136] Another likely cause of disordered tombs is grave robbing.[137]

Contagion

Folkloric vampirism has been associated with clusters of deaths from unidentifiable or mysterious illnesses, usually within the same family or the same small community.[102] The epidemic allusion is obvious in the classical cases of Petar Blagojevich and Arnold Paole, and even more so in the case of Mercy Brown and in the vampire beliefs of New England generally, where a specific disease, tuberculosis, was associated with outbreaks of vampirism. As with the pneumonic form of bubonic plague, it was associated with breakdown of lung tissue which would cause blood to appear at the lips.[138]

Porphyria

In 1985 biochemist David Dolphin proposed a link between the rare blood disorder porphyria and vampire folklore. Noting that the condition is treated by intravenous haem, he suggested that the consumption of large amounts of blood may result in haem being transported somehow across the stomach wall and into the bloodstream. Thus vampires were merely sufferers of porphyria seeking to replace haem and alleviate their symptoms.[139]

The theory has been rebuffed medically as suggestions that porphyria sufferers crave the haem in human blood, or that the consumption of blood might ease the symptoms of porphyria, are based on a misunderstanding of the disease. Furthermore, Dolphin was noted to have confused fictional (bloodsucking) vampires with those of folklore, many of whom were not noted to drink blood.[140] Similarly, a parallel is made between sensitivity to sunlight by sufferers, yet this was associated with fictional and not folkloric vampires. In any case, Dolphin did not go on to publish his work more widely.[141] Despite being dismissed by experts, the link gained media attention[142] and entered popular modern folklore.[143]

Rabies

Rabies has been linked with vampire folklore. Dr Juan Gómez-Alonso, a neurologist at Xeral Hospital in Vigo, Spain, examined this possibility in a report in Neurology. The susceptibility to garlic and light could be due to hypersensitivity, which is a symptom of rabies. The disease can also affect portions of the brain that could lead to disturbance of normal sleep patterns (thus becoming nocturnal) and hypersexuality. Legend once said a man was not rabid if he could look at his own reflection (an allusion to the legend that vampires have no reflection). Wolves and bats, which are often associated with vampires, can be carriers of rabies. The disease can also lead to a drive to bite others and to a bloody frothing at the mouth.[144][145]

Psychodynamic theories

In his 1931 treatise On the Nightmare, Welsh psychoanalyst Ernest Jones asserted that vampires are symbolic of several unconscious drives and defence mechanisms. Emotions such as love, guilt, and hate fuel the idea of the return of the dead to the grave. Desiring a reunion with loved ones, mourners may project the idea that the recently dead must in return yearn the same. From this arises the belief that folkloric vampires and revenants visit relatives, particularly their spouses, first.[146]

In cases where there was unconscious guilt associated with the relationship, however, the wish for reunion may be subverted by anxiety. This may lead to repression, which Sigmund Freud had linked with the development of morbid dread.[147] Jones surmised in this case the original wish of a (sexual) reunion may be drastically changed: desire is replaced by fear; love is replaced by sadism, and the object or loved one is replaced by an unknown entity. The sexual aspect may or may not be present.[148] Some modern critics have proposed a simpler theory: People identify with immortal vampires because, by so doing, they overcome, or at least temporarily escape from, their fear of dying.[149]

The innate sexuality of bloodsucking can be seen in its intrinsic connection with cannibalism and folkloric one with incubus-like behaviour. Many legends report various beings draining other fluids from victims, an unconscious association with semen being obvious. Finally Jones notes that when more normal aspects of sexuality are repressed, regressed forms may be expressed, in particular sadism; he felt that oral sadism is integral in vampiric behaviour.[150]

Political interpretations

The reinvention of the vampire myth in the modern era is not without political overtones.[151] The aristocratic Count Dracula, alone in his castle apart from a few demented retainers, appearing only at night to feed on his peasantry, is symbolic of the parasitic Ancien regime. In his entry for “Vampires” in the Dictionnaire philosophique (1764), Voltaire notices how the end of the 18th century coincided with the decline of the folkloric belief in the existence of vampires but that now “there were stock-jobbers, brokers, and men of business, who sucked the blood of the people in broad daylight; but they were not dead, though corrupted. These true suckers lived not in cemeteries, but in very agreeable palaces”.[152]

Marx defined capital as “dead labour which, vampire-like, lives only by sucking living labour, and lives the more, the more labour it sucks”.[153] Werner Herzog, in his Nosferatu the Vampyre, gives this political interpretation an extra ironic twist when protagonist Jonathon Harker, a middle-class solicitor, becomes the next vampire; in this way the capitalist bourgeois becomes the next parasitic class.[154]

Psychopathology

A number of murderers have performed seemingly vampiric rituals upon their victims. Serial killers Peter Kürten and Richard Trenton Chase were both called “vampires” in the tabloids after they were discovered drinking the blood of the people they murdered. Similarly, in 1932, an unsolved murder case in Stockholm, Sweden was nicknamed the “Vampire murder“, because of the circumstances of the victim’s death.[155] The late-16th-century Hungarian countess and mass murderer Elizabeth Báthory became particularly infamous in later centuries’ works, which depicted her bathing in her victims’ blood in order to retain beauty or youth.[156]

Modern vampire subcultures

Vampire lifestyle is a term for a contemporary subculture of people, largely within the Goth subculture, who consume the blood of others as a pastime; drawing from the rich recent history of popular culture related to cult symbolism, horror films, the fiction of Anne Rice, and the styles of Victorian England.[157] Active vampirism within the vampire subculture includes both blood-related vampirism, commonly referred to as sanguine vampirism, and psychic vampirism, or supposed feeding from pranic energy.[125][158]

Vampire bats

Main article: Vampire bat

A vampire bat in Peru

Although many cultures have stories about them, vampire bats have only recently become an integral part of the traditional vampire lore. Indeed, vampire bats were only integrated into vampire folklore when they were discovered on the South American mainland in the 16th century.[159] Although there are no vampire bats in Europe, bats and owls have long been associated with the supernatural and omens, although mainly because of their nocturnal habits,[159][160] and in modern English heraldic tradition, a bat means “Awareness of the powers of darkness and chaos”.[161]

The three species of actual vampire bats are all endemic to Latin America, and there is no evidence to suggest that they had any Old World relatives within human memory. It is therefore impossible that the folkloric vampire represents a distorted presentation or memory of the vampire bat. The bats were named after the folkloric vampire rather than vice versa; the Oxford English Dictionary records their folkloric use in English from 1734 and the zoological not until 1774. Although the vampire bat’s bite is usually not harmful to a person, the bat has been known to actively feed on humans and large prey such as cattle and often leave the trademark, two-prong bite mark on its victim’s skin.[159]

The literary Dracula transforms into a bat several times in the novel, and vampire bats themselves are mentioned twice in it. The 1927 stage production of Dracula followed the novel in having Dracula turn into a bat, as did the film, where Béla Lugosi would transform into a bat.[159] The bat transformation scene would again be used by Lon Chaney Jr. in 1943’s Son of Dracula.[162]

In modern fiction

Count Dracula as portrayed by Béla Lugosi in 1931’s Dracula.

The vampire is now a fixture in popular fiction. Such fiction began with 18th-century poetry and continued with 19th-century short stories, the first and most influential of which was John Polidori‘s The Vampyre (1819), featuring the vampire Lord Ruthven.[163] Lord Ruthven’s exploits were further explored in a series of vampire plays in which he was the anti-hero. The vampire theme continued in penny dreadful serial publications such as Varney the Vampire (1847) and culminated in the pre-eminent vampire novel of all time: Dracula by Bram Stoker, published in 1897.[164]

Over time, some attributes now regarded as integral became incorporated into the vampire’s profile: fangs and vulnerability to sunlight appeared over the course of the 19th century, with Varney the Vampire and Count Dracula both bearing protruding teeth,[165] and Murnau’s Nosferatu (1922) fearing daylight.[166] The cloak appeared in stage productions of the 1920s, with a high collar introduced by playwright Hamilton Deane to help Dracula ‘vanish’ on stage.[167] Lord Ruthven and Varney were able to be healed by moonlight, although no account of this is known in traditional folklore.[168] Implied though not often explicitly documented in folklore, immortality is one attribute which features heavily in vampire film and literature. Much is made of the price of eternal life, namely the incessant need for blood of former equals.[169]

Literature

Main article: Vampire literature

Carmilla” by D. H. Friston, 1872

The vampire or revenant first appeared in poems such as The Vampire (1748) by Heinrich August Ossenfelder, Lenore (1773) by Gottfried August Bürger, Die Braut von Corinth (The Bride of Corinth) (1797) by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Robert Southey‘s Thalaba the Destroyer (1801), John Stagg‘s “The Vampyre” (1810), Percy Bysshe Shelley‘s “The Spectral Horseman” (1810) (“Nor a yelling vampire reeking with gore”) and “Ballad” in St. Irvyne (1811) about a reanimated corpse, Sister Rosa, Samuel Taylor Coleridge‘s unfinished Christabel and Lord Byron‘s The Giaour.[170]

Byron was also credited with the first prose fiction piece concerned with vampires: The Vampyre (1819). This was in reality authored by Byron’s personal physician, John Polidori, who adapted an enigmatic fragmentary tale of his illustrious patient, “Fragment of a Novel” (1819), also known as “The Burial: A Fragment”.[21][164] Byron’s own dominating personality, mediated by his lover Lady Caroline Lamb in her unflattering roman-a-clef, Glenarvon (a Gothic fantasia based on Byron’s wild life), was used as a model for Polidori’s undead protagonist Lord Ruthven. The Vampyre was highly successful and the most influential vampire work of the early 19th century.[171]

Varney the Vampire was a landmark popular mid-Victorian era gothic horror story by James Malcolm Rymer and Thomas Peckett Prest, which first appeared from 1845 to 1847 in a series of pamphlets generally referred to as penny dreadfuls because of their inexpensive price and typically gruesome contents.[163] The story was published in book form in 1847 and runs to 868 double-columned pages. It has a distinctly suspenseful style, using vivid imagery to describe the horrifying exploits of Varney.[168] Another important addition to the genre was Sheridan Le Fanu‘s lesbian vampire story Carmilla (1871). Like Varney before her, the vampire Carmilla is portrayed in a somewhat sympathetic light as the compulsion of her condition is highlighted.[172]

No effort to depict vampires in popular fiction was as influential or as definitive as Bram Stoker‘s Dracula (1897).[173] Its portrayal of vampirism as a disease of contagious demonic possession, with its undertones of sex, blood and death, struck a chord in Victorian Europe where tuberculosis and syphilis were common. The vampiric traits described in Stoker’s work merged with and dominated folkloric tradition, eventually evolving into the modern fictional vampire.[163]

Drawing on past works such as The Vampyre and “Carmilla”, Stoker began to research his new book in the late 19th century, reading works such as The Land Beyond the Forest (1888) by Emily Gerard and other books about Transylvania and vampires. In London, a colleague mentioned to him the story of Vlad Ţepeş, the “real-life Dracula,” and Stoker immediately incorporated this story into his book. The first chapter of the book was omitted when it was published in 1897, but it was released in 1914 as Dracula’s Guest.[174]

The latter part of the 20th century saw the rise of multi-volume vampire epics. The first of these was Gothic romance writer Marilyn RossBarnabas Collins series (1966–71), loosely based on the contemporary American TV series Dark Shadows. It also set the trend for seeing vampires as poetic tragic heroes rather than as the more traditional embodiment of evil. This formula was followed in novelist Anne Rice’s highly popular and influential Vampire Chronicles (1976–2003).[175]

The 21st century brought more examples of vampire fiction, such as J.R. Ward‘s Black Dagger Brotherhood series, and other highly popular vampire books which appeal to teenagers and young adults. Such vampiric paranormal romance novels and allied vampiric chick-lit and vampiric occult detective stories are a remarkably popular and ever-expanding contemporary publishing phenomenon.[176] L.A. Banks’ The Vampire Huntress Legend Series, Laurell K. Hamilton‘s erotic Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter series, and Kim Harrison‘s The Hollows series, portray the vampire in a variety of new perspectives, some of them unrelated to the original legends. Vampires in the Twilight series (2005–2008) by Stephenie Meyer ignore the effects of garlic and crosses, and are not harmed by sunlight (although it does reveal their supernatural nature).[177] Richelle Mead further deviates from traditional vampires in her Vampire Academy series (2007–present), basing the novels on Romanian lore with two races of vampires, one good and one evil, as well as half-vampires.[178]

Film and television

Main article: Vampire films

An iconic scene from F. W. Murnau‘s Nosferatu, 1922.

Considered one of the preeminent figures of the classic horror film, the vampire has proven to be a rich subject for the film and gaming industries. Dracula is a major character in more films than any other but Sherlock Holmes, and many early films were either based on the novel of Dracula or closely derived from it. These included the landmark 1922 German silent film Nosferatu, directed by F. W. Murnau and featuring the first film portrayal of Dracula—although names and characters were intended to mimic Draculas, Murnau could not obtain permission to do so from Stoker’s widow, and had to alter many aspects of the film. In addition to this film was Universal’s Dracula (1931), starring Béla Lugosi as the Count in what was the first talking film to portray Dracula. The decade saw several more vampire films, most notably Dracula’s Daughter in 1936.[179]

The legend of the vampire was cemented in the film industry when Dracula was reincarnated for a new generation with the celebrated Hammer Horror series of films, starring Christopher Lee as the Count. The successful 1958 Dracula starring Lee was followed by seven sequels. Lee returned as Dracula in all but two of these and became well known in the role.[180] By the 1970s, vampires in films had diversified with works such as Count Yorga, Vampire (1970), an African Count in 1972’s Blacula, the BBC’s Count Dracula featuring French actor Louis Jourdan as Dracula and Frank Finlay as Abraham Van Helsing, and a Nosferatu-like vampire in 1979’s Salem’s Lot, and a remake of Nosferatu itself, titled Nosferatu the Vampyre with Klaus Kinski the same year. Several films featured female, often lesbian, vampire antagonists such as Hammer Horror’s The Vampire Lovers (1970) based on Carmilla, though the plotlines still revolved around a central evil vampire character.[180]

The pilot for the Dan Curtis 1972 television series Kolchak: The Night Stalker revolved around reporter Carl Kolchak hunting a vampire on the Las Vegas strip. Later films showed more diversity in plotline, with some focusing on the vampire-hunter, such as Blade in the Marvel ComicsBlade films and the film Buffy the Vampire Slayer.[163] Buffy, released in 1992, foreshadowed a vampiric presence on television, with adaptation to a long-running hit TV series of the same name and its spin-off Angel. Still others showed the vampire as protagonist, such as 1983’s The Hunger, 1994’s Interview with the Vampire and its indirect sequel of sorts Queen of the Damned, and the 2007 series Moonlight. Bram Stoker’s Dracula was a noteworthy 1992 film which became the then-highest grossing vampire film ever.[181]

This increase of interest in vampiric plotlines led to the vampire being depicted in films such as Underworld and Van Helsing, and the Russian Night Watch and a TV miniseries remake of ‘Salem’s Lot, both from 2004. The series Blood Ties premiered on Lifetime Television in 2007, featuring a character portrayed as Henry Fitzroy, illegitimate son of Henry VIII of England turned vampire, in modern-day Toronto, with a female former Toronto detective in the starring role. A 2008 series from HBO, entitled True Blood, gives a Southern take to the vampire theme.[177]

In 2008 the BBC Three series Being Human became popular in Britain. It featured an unconventional trio of a vampire, a werewolf and a ghost who are sharing a flat in Bristol.[182][183] Another popular vampire-related show is CW’s The Vampire Diaries. The continuing popularity of the vampire theme has been ascribed to a combination of two factors: the representation of sexuality and the perennial dread of mortality.[184]

Games

The role-playing game Vampire: the Masquerade has been influential upon modern vampire fiction and elements of its terminology, such as embrace and sire, appear in contemporary fiction.[163] Popular video games about vampires include Castlevania, which is an extension of the original Bram Stoker Dracula novel, and Legacy of Kain.[185]

Serpent (symbolism)

Serpent (symbolism)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Maya Vision Serpent

The serpent, or snake, is one of the oldest and most widespread mythological symbols. The word is derived from Latin serpens, a crawling animal or snake. Snakes have been associated with some of the oldest rituals known to humankind[1][2] and represent dual expression[3] of good and evil.[4]

In some cultures, snakes were fertility symbols. For example, the Hopi people of North America performed an annual snake dance to celebrate the union of Snake Youth (a Sky spirit) and Snake Girl (an Underworld spirit) and to renew the fertility of Nature. During the dance, live snakes were handled and at the end of the dance the snakes were released into the fields to guarantee good crops. “The snake dance is a prayer to the spirits of the clouds, the thunder and the lightning, that the rain may fall on the growing crops.”[5] In other cultures[which?], snakes symbolized the umbilical cord, joining all humans to Mother Earth. The Great Goddess often had snakes as her familiars—sometimes twining around her sacred staff, as in ancient Crete—and they were worshiped as guardians of her mysteries of birth and regeneration.[6]

Symbolic values frequently assigned to serpents[edit]

Fertility and rebirth[edit]

Historically, serpents and snakes represent fertility or a creative life force. As snakes shed their skin through sloughing, they are symbols of rebirth, transformation, immortality, and healing.[7] The ouroboros is a symbol of eternity and continual renewal of life.

In some Abrahamic traditions, the serpent represents sexual desire.[8] According to some interpretations of the Midrash, the serpent represents sexual passion.[9] In Hinduism, Kundalini is a coiled serpent, the residual power of pure desire.[10]

Guardianship[edit]

Meditating Buddha being shielded by the naga Mucalinda. Cambodia, 1150 to 1175

Serpents are represented as potent guardians of temples and other sacred spaces. This connection may be grounded in the observation that when threatened, some snakes (such as rattlesnakes or cobras) frequently hold and defend their ground, first resorting to threatening display and then fighting, rather than retreat. Thus, they are natural guardians of treasures or sacred sites which cannot easily be moved out of harm’s way.

At Angkor in Cambodia, numerous stone sculptures present hooded multi-headed nāgas as guardians of temples or other premises. A favorite motif of Angkorean sculptors from approximately the 12th century CE onward was that of the Buddha, sitting in the position of meditation, his weight supported by the coils of a multi-headed naga that also uses its flared hood to shield him from above. This motif recalls the story of the Buddha and the serpent king Mucalinda: as the Buddha sat beneath a tree engrossed in meditation, Mucalinda came up from the roots of the tree to shield the Buddha from a tempest that was just beginning to arise.

The Gadsden flag of the American Revolution depicts a rattlesnake coiled up and poised to strike. Below the image of the snake is the legend, “Don’t tread on me.” The snake symbolized the dangerousness of colonists willing to fight for their rights and homeland. The motif is repeated in the First Navy Jack of the US Navy.

Poison and medicine[edit]

Serpents are connected with poison and medicine. The snake’s venom is associated with the chemicals of plants and fungi[11][12][13] that have the power to either heal, poison or provide expanded consciousness (and even the elixir of life and immortality) through divine intoxication. Because of its herbal knowledge and entheogenic association the snake was often considered one of the wisest animals, being (close to the) divine. Its divine aspect combined with its habitat in the earth between the roots of plants made it an animal with chthonic properties connected to the afterlife and immortality. Asclepius, the god of medicine and healing, carried a staff with one serpent wrapped around it, which has become the symbol of modern medicine. Moses also had a replica of a serpent on a pole, the Nehushtan, mentioned in Numbers 21:8.

Vengefulness and vindictiveness[edit]

Serpents are connected with vengefulness and vindictiveness. This connection depends in part on the experience that venomous snakes often deliver deadly defensive bites without giving prior notice or warning to their unwitting victims. Although a snake is defending itself from the encroachment of its victim into the snake’s immediate vicinity, the unannounced and deadly strike may seem unduly vengeful when measured against the unwitting victim’s perceived lack of blameworthiness.

Edgar Allan Poe‘s famous short story “The Cask of Amontillado” invokes the image of the serpent as a symbol for petty vengefulness. The story is told from the point of view of the vindictive Montresor, who hatches a secret plot to murder his rival Fortunato in order to avenge real or imagined insults. Before carrying out his scheme, Montresor reveals his family’s coat-of-arms to the intended victim: “A huge human foot d’or, in a field azure; the foot crushes a serpent rampant whose fangs are imbedded in the heel.” Fortunato, not suspecting that he has offended Montresor, fails to understand the symbolic import of the coat-of-arms, and blunders onward into Montresor’s trap.

Mythology[edit]

Main article: Snakes in mythology

African mythology[edit]

Mami Wata, important in African and African-American religions[14][15]

In Africa the chief centre of serpent worship was Dahomey, but the cult of the python seems to have been of exotic origin, dating back to the first quarter of the 17th century. By the conquest of Whydah the Dahomeyans were brought in contact with a people of serpent worshipers, and ended by adopting from them the beliefs which they at first despised. At Whydah, the chief centre, there is a serpent temple, tenanted by some fifty snakes. Every python of the danh-gbi kind must be treated with respect, and death is the penalty for killing one, even by accident. Danh-gbi has numerous wives, who until 1857 took part in a public procession from which the profane crowd was excluded; a python was carried round the town in a hammock, perhaps as a ceremony for the expulsion of evils. The rainbow-god of the Ashanti was also conceived to have the form of a snake. His messenger was said to be a small variety of boa, but only certain individuals, not the whole species, were sacred. In many parts of Africa the serpent is looked upon as the incarnation of deceased relatives. Among the Amazulu, as among the Betsileo of Madagascar, certain species are assigned as the abode of certain classes. The Maasai, on the other hand, regard each species as the habitat of a particular family of the tribe.

Ancient Near East[edit]

Main article: Snake worship

Snake cults were well established in Canaanite religion in the Bronze Age, for archaeologists have uncovered serpent cult objects in Bronze Age strata at several pre-Israelite cities in Canaan: two at Megiddo,[16] one at Gezer,[17] one in the sanctum sanctorum of the Area H temple at Hazor,[18] and two at Shechem.[19]

In the surrounding region, serpent cult objects figured in other cultures. A late Bronze Age Hittite shrine in northern Syria contained a bronze statue of a god holding a serpent in one hand and a staff in the other.[20] In 6th-century Babylon, a pair of bronze serpents flanked each of the four doorways of the temple of Esagila.[21] At the Babylonian New Year’s festival, the priest was to commission from a woodworker, a metalworker and a goldsmith two images one of which “shall hold in its left hand a snake of cedar, raising its right [hand] to the god Nabu“.[22] At the tell of Tepe Gawra, at least seventeen Early Bronze Age Assyrian bronze serpents were recovered.[23]

Christian mythology[edit]

In the Gospel of John 3:14–15, Jesus makes direct comparison between the raising up of the Son of Man and the act of Moses in raising up the serpent as a sign, using it as a symbol associated with salvation: “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life“.

Chthonic serpents and sacred trees[edit]

In many myths, the chthonic serpent (sometimes a pair) lives in or is coiled around a Tree of Life situated in a divine garden. In the Genesis story of the Torah and Biblical Old Testament, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is situated in the Garden of Eden together with the tree of life and the Serpent. In Greek mythology, Ladon coiled around the tree in the garden of the Hesperides protecting the entheogenic golden apples.

Níðhöggr gnaws the roots of Yggdrasil in this illustration from a 17th-century Icelandic manuscript.

Similarly Níðhöggr (Nidhogg Nagar), the dragon of Norse mythology, eats from the roots of the Yggdrasil, the World Tree.

Under yet another Tree (the Bodhi tree of Enlightenment), the Buddha sat in ecstatic meditation. When a storm arose, the mighty serpent king Mucalinda rose up from his place beneath the earth and enveloped the Buddha in seven coils for seven days, so as not to break his ecstatic state.

The Vision Serpent was also a symbol of rebirth in Mayan mythology, with origins going back to earlier Maya conceptions, lying at the center of the world as the Mayans conceived it. “It is in the center axis atop the World Tree. Essentially the World Tree and the Vision Serpent, representing the king, created the center axis which communicates between the spiritual and the earthly worlds or planes. It is through ritual that the king could bring the center axis into existence in the temples and create a doorway to the spiritual world, and with it power”. (Schele and Friedel, 1990: 68)

The Sumerian deity, Ningizzida, is accompanied by two gryphons Mushussu; it is the oldest known image of two snakes coiling around an axial rod, dating from before 2000 BCE.

Sometimes the Tree of Life is represented (in a combination with similar concepts such as the World Tree and Axis mundi or “World Axis”) by a staff such as those used by shamans. Examples of such staffs featuring coiled snakes in mythology are the caduceus of Hermes, the Rod of Asclepius, the staff of Moses, and the papyrus reeds and deity poles entwined by a single serpent Wadjet, dating to earlier than 3000 BCE. The oldest known representation of two snakes entwined around a rod is that of the Sumerian fertility god Ningizzida. Ningizzida was sometimes depicted as a serpent with a human head, eventually becoming a god of healing and magic. It is the companion of Dumuzi (Tammuz), with whom it stood at the gate of heaven. In the Louvre, there is a famous green steatite vase carved for King Gudea of Lagash (dated variously 2200–2025 BCE) with an inscription dedicated to Ningizzida. Ningizzida was the ancestor of Gilgamesh, who, according to the epic, dived to the bottom of the waters to retrieve the plant of life. But while he rested from his labor, a serpent came and ate the plant. The snake became immortal, and Gilgamesh was destined to die.

Ancient North American serpent imagery often featured rattlesnakes.

Ningizzida has been popularized in the 20th century by Raku Kei Reiki (a.k.a. “The Way of the Fire Dragon”), where “Nin Giz Zida” is believed to be a fire serpent of Tibetan rather than Sumerian origin. “Nin Giz Zida” is another name for the ancient Hindu concept Kundalini, a Sanskrit word meaning either “coiled up” or “coiling like a snake”. “Kundalini” refers to the mothering intelligence behind yogic awakening and spiritual maturation leading to altered states of consciousness. There are a number of other translations of the term, usually emphasizing a more serpentine nature to the word—e.g. “serpent power”. It has been suggested by Joseph Campbell that the symbol of snakes coiled around a staff is an ancient representation of Kundalini physiology. The staff represents the spinal column with the snake(s) being energy channels. In the case of two coiled snakes, they usually cross each other seven times, a possible reference to the seven energy centers called chakras.

In Ancient Egypt, where the earliest written cultural records exist, the serpent appears from the beginning to the end of their mythology. Ra and Atum (“he who completes or perfects”) became the same god, Atum, the “counter-Ra,” was associated with earth animals, including the serpent: Nehebkau (“he who harnesses the souls”) was the two headed serpent deity who guarded the entrance to the underworld. He is often seen as the son of the snake goddess Renenutet. She often was confused with (and later was absorbed by) their primal snake goddess Wadjet, the Egyptian cobra, who from the earliest of records was the patron and protector of the country, all other deities, and the pharaohs. Hers is the first known oracle. She was depicted as the crown of Egypt, entwined around the staff of papyrus and the pole that indicated the status of all other deities, as well as having the all-seeing eye of wisdom and vengeance. She never lost her position in the Egyptian pantheon.

The image of the serpent as the embodiment of the wisdom transmitted by Sophia was an emblem used by gnosticism, especially those sects that the more orthodox characterized as “Ophites” (“Serpent People”). The chthonic serpent was one of the earth-animals associated with the cult of Mithras. The Basilisk, the venomous “king of serpents” with the glance that kills, was hatched by a serpent, Pliny the Elder and others thought, from the egg of a cock.

Outside Eurasia, in Yoruba mythology, Oshunmare was another mythic regenerating serpent.

The Rainbow Serpent (also known as the Rainbow Snake) is a major mythological being for Aboriginal people across Australia, although the creation myth associated with it are best known from northern Australia. In Fiji Ratumaibulu was a serpent god who ruled the underworld and made fruit trees bloom. In the Northern Flinders Ranges reigns The Arkaroo, serpent who drank Lake Frome empty, refuges into the mountains, carving valleys and waterholes, earthquakes through snoring.

Cosmic serpents[edit]

The serpent, when forming a ring with its tail in its mouth, is a clear and widespread symbol of the “All-in-All”, the totality of existence, infinity and the cyclic nature of the cosmos. The most well known version of this is the Aegypto-Greek Ourobouros. It is believed to have been inspired by the Milky Way, as some ancient texts refer to a serpent of light residing in the heavens. The Ancient Egyptians associated it with Wadjet, one of their oldest deities as well as another aspect, Hathor. In Norse mythology the World Serpent (or Midgard serpent) known as Jörmungandr encircled the world in the ocean’s abyss biting its own tail.

Vishnu resting on Ananta-Shesha, with Lakshmi massaging his “lotus feet”

In Hindu mythology Lord Vishnu is said to sleep while floating on the cosmic waters on the serpent Shesha. In the Puranas Shesha holds all the planets of the universe on his hoods and constantly sings the glories of Vishnu from all his mouths. He is sometimes referred to as “Ananta-Shesha,” which means “Endless Shesha”. In the Samudra manthan chapter of the Puranas, Shesha loosens Mount Mandara for it to be used as a churning rod by the Asuras and Devas to churn the ocean of milk in the heavens in order to make Soma (or Amrita), the divine elixir of immortality. As a churning rope another giant serpent called Vasuki is used.

In pre-Columbian Central America Quetzalcoatl was sometimes depicted as biting its own tail. The mother of Quetzalcoatl was the Aztec goddess Coatlicue (“the one with the skirt of serpents”), also known as Cihuacoatl (“The Lady of the serpent”). Quetzalcoatl‘s father was Mixcoatl (“Cloud Serpent”). He was identified with the Milky Way, the stars and the heavens in several Mesoamerican cultures.

The demigod Aidophedo of the West African Ashanti is also a serpent biting its own tail. In Dahomey mythology of Benin in West Africa, the serpent that supports everything on its many coils was named Dan. In the Vodou of Benin and Haiti Ayida-Weddo (a.k.a. Aida-Wedo, Aido Quedo, “Rainbow-Serpent”) is a spirit of fertility, rainbows and snakes, and a companion or wife to Dan, the father of all spirits. As Vodou was exported to Haiti through the slave trade Dan became Danballah, Damballah or Damballah-Wedo. Because of his association with snakes, he is sometimes disguised as Moses, who carried a snake on his staff. He is also thought by many to be the same entity of Saint Patrick, known as a snake banisher.

The serpent Hydra is a star constellation representing either the serpent thrown angrily into the sky by Apollo or the Lernaean Hydra as defeated by Heracles for one of his Twelve Labors. The constellation Serpens represents a snake being tamed by Ophiuchus the snake-handler, another constellation. The most probable interpretation is that Ophiuchus represents the healer Asclepius.

Dragons[edit]

An ancient painting of Nuwa and Fuxi unearthed in Xinjiang

Occasionally, serpents and dragons are used interchangeably, having similar symbolic functions. The venom of the serpent is thought to have a fiery quality similar to a fire spitting dragon. The Greek Ladon and the Norse Níðhöggr (Nidhogg Nagar) are sometimes described as serpents and sometimes as dragons. In Germanic mythology, serpent (Old English: wyrm, Old High German: wurm, Old Norse: ormr) is used interchangeably with the Greek borrowing dragon (OE: draca, OHG: trahho, ON: dreki). In China and especially in Indochina, the Indian serpent nāga was equated with the lóng or Chinese dragon. The Aztec and Toltec serpent god Quetzalcoatl also has dragon like wings, like its equivalent in K’iche’ Maya mythology Q’uq’umatz (“feathered serpent”), which had previously existed since Classic Maya times as the deity named Kukulkan.

Greek mythology[edit]

The archaic Gorgon at the pediment of the Temple of Artemis in Corfu as shown at the Archaeological Museum of Corfu. She wears a belt of intertwined snakes, a fertility symbol.[24]

The Minoan Snake Goddess brandished a serpent in either hand, perhaps evoking her role as source of wisdom, rather than her role as Mistress of the Animals (Potnia theron), with a leopard under each arm.

Serpents figured prominently in archaic Greek myths. According to some sources, Ophion (“serpent”, a.k.a. Ophioneus), ruled the world with Eurynome before the two of them were cast down by Cronus and Rhea. The oracles of the Ancient Greeks were said to have been the continuation of the tradition begun with the worship of the Egyptian cobra goddess, Wadjet.

Typhon the enemy of the Olympian gods is described as a vast grisly monster with a hundred heads and a hundred serpents issuing from his thighs, who was conquered and cast into Tartarus by Zeus, or confined beneath volcanic regions, where he is the cause of eruptions. Typhon is thus the chthonic figuration of volcanic forces. Serpent elements figure among his offspring; among his children by Echidna are: Cerberus (a monstrous three-headed dog with a snake for a tail and a serpentine mane); the serpent-tailed Chimaera; the serpent-like chthonic water beast Lernaean Hydra; and the hundred-headed serpentine dragon Ladon. Both the Lernaean Hydra and Ladon were slain by Heracles.

Python was the earth-dragon of Delphi, she always was represented in the vase-paintings and by sculptors as a serpent. Pytho was the chthonic enemy of Apollo, who slew her and remade her former home his own oracle, the most famous in Classical Greece.

Statue of Asclepius

Medusa and the other Gorgons were vicious female monsters with sharp fangs and hair of living, venomous snakes whose origins predate the written myths of Greece and who were the protectors of the most ancient ritual secrets. The Gorgons wore a belt of two intertwined serpents in the same configuration of the caduceus. The Gorgon was placed at the center, highest point of one of the pediments on the Temple of Artemis at Corfu.

Asclepius, the son of Apollo and Koronis, learned the secrets of keeping death at bay after observing one serpent bringing another (which Asclepius himself had fatally wounded) back to life with healing herbs. To prevent the entire human race from becoming immortal under Asclepius’s care, Zeus killed him with a bolt of lightning. Asclepius’ death at the hands of Zeus illustrates man’s inability to challenge the natural order that separates mortal men from the gods. In honor of Asclepius, snakes were often used in healing rituals. Non-poisonous snakes were left to crawl on the floor in dormitories where the sick and injured slept. The Bibliotheca claimed that Athena gave Asclepius a vial of blood from the Gorgons. Gorgon blood had magical properties: if taken from the left side of the Gorgon, it was a fatal poison; from the right side, the blood was capable of bringing the dead back to life. However, Euripides wrote in his tragedy Ion that the Athenian queen Creusa had inherited this vial from her ancestor Erichthonios, who was a snake himself and had received the vial from Athena. In this version the blood of Medusa had the healing power while the lethal poison originated from Medusa’s serpents.

Olympias, the mother of Alexander the Great and a princess of the primitive land of Epirus, had the reputation of a snake-handler, and it was in serpent form that Zeus was said to have fathered Alexander upon her.[25] Aeetes, the king of Colchis and father of the sorceress Medea, possessed the Golden Fleece. He guarded it with a massive serpent that never slept. Medea, who had fallen in love with Jason of the Argonauts, enchanted it to sleep so Jason could seize the Fleece. (See Lamia (mythology)).

When not driven by horses, the chariot of the Greek sun god is described as being pulled by fiery draconic beings.[26] The most notable instance of this is observed in the episode in which Medea is given her grandfather’s chariot, which is pulled by serpents through the sky.

Jewish mythology[edit]

Naag or serpent

In the Hebrew Bible the serpent in the Garden of Eden lured Eve with the promise of being like God, tempting her that despite God’s warning, death would not be the result, that God was withholding knowledge from her. The serpent is identified as having hidden knowledge: “Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made” (Genesis 3:1). There is no indication in Genesis that the Serpent was a deity in its own right but only saturn the fallen Angel, although it is one of only two cases of animals that talk in the Pentateuch, Balaam‘s ass being the other. Although the identity of the Serpent as Satan is identified in the New Testament Holy Scripture Book of Revelation,[27] in Genesis the Serpent is merely portrayed as a deceptive creature or trickster, promoting as good what God had directly forbidden, and particularly cunning in its deception (Gen. 3:4–5 and 3:22) https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=gen%203%3A4&version=AMP;NKJV https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Gen+3%3A22&version=AMP;NKJV.

The staff of Moses transformed into a snake and then back into a staff (Exodus 4:2–4). The Book of Numbers 21:6–9 provides an origin for an archaic copper serpent, Nehushtan by associating it with Moses. This copper snake according to the Biblical text is wrapped around a pole and used for healing. Book of Numbers 21:9 “And Moses made a snake of copper, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a snake had bitten any man, when he beheld the snake of brass, he lived.”

When the reformer King Hezekiah came to the throne of Judah in the late 8th century BCE, “He removed the high places, broke the sacred pillars, smashed the idols, and broke into pieces the copper snake that Moses had made: for unto those days the children of Israel did burn incense to it: and he called it Nehushtan.”2 Kings 18:4.

Nagas[edit]

Hoysala sculpture of a Naga couple, Halebidu

Main article: Nāga

Naga (Sanskrit:नाग) is the Sanskrit/Pāli word for a deity or class of entity or being, taking the form of a very large snake, found in Hinduism and Buddhism. The naga primarily represents rebirth, death and mortality, due to its casting of its skin and being symbolically “reborn”.

Brahmins associated naga with Shiva and with Vishnu, who rested on a 100 headed naga coiled around Shiva’s neck. The snake represented freedom in Hindu mythology because they cannot be tamed.

Nagas of Indochina[edit]

Serpents, or nāgas, play a particularly important role in Cambodian, Isan and Laotian mythology. An origin myth explains the emergence of the name “Cambodia” as resulting from conquest of a naga princess by a Kambuja lord named Kaundinya: the descendants of their union are the Khmer people.[28] George Coedès suggests the Cambodian myth is a basis for the legend of “Phra Daeng Nang Ai”, in which a woman who has lived many previous lives in the region is reincarnated as a daughter of Phraya Khom (Thai for Cambodian,) and causes the death of her companion in former lives who has been reincarnated as a prince of the Nagas. This leads to war between the “spirits of the air” and the Nagas: Nagas amok are rivers in spate, and the entire region is flooded.[29] The Myth of the Toad King tells how introduction of Buddhist teachings led to war with the sky deity Phaya Thaen, and ended in a truce with nagas posted as guardians of entrances to temples.[30]

Native American mythology[edit]

In America some of the Native American tribes[which?] give reverence to the rattlesnake as grandfather and king of snakes who is able to give fair winds or cause tempest. Among the Hopi of Arizona the serpent figures largely in one of the dances. The rattlesnake was worshiped in the Natchez temple of the sun and the Aztec deity Quetzalcoatl was a feathered serpent-god. In many Meso-American cultures, the serpent was regarded as a portal between two worlds. The tribes of Peru are said to have adored great snakes in the pre-Inca days and in Chile the Mapuche made a serpent figure in their deluge beliefs.

A Horned Serpent is a popular image in Northern American natives’ mythology.

In one Native North American story, an evil serpent kills one of the gods’ cousins, so the god kills the serpent in revenge, but the dying serpent unleashes a great flood. People first flee to the mountains and then, when the mountains are covered, they float on a raft until the flood subsides. The evil spirits that the serpent god controlled then hide out of fear.[31] The Mound Builders associated great mystical value to the serpent, as the Serpent Mound demonstrates, though we are unable to unravel the particular associations.

Nordic mythology[edit]

See also: Jörmungandr

Jörmungandr, alternately referred to as the Midgard Serpent or World Serpent, is a sea serpent of the Norse mythology, the middle child of Loki and the giantess Angrboða.

According to the Prose Edda, Odin took Loki‘s three children, Fenrisúlfr, Hel and Jörmungandr. He tossed Jörmungandr into the great ocean that encircles Midgard. The serpent grew so big that he was able to surround the Earth and grasp his own tail, and as a result he earned the alternate name of the Midgard Serpent or World Serpent. Jörmungandr’s arch enemy is the god Thor.

In the Poetic Edda, Odin tells of 8 serpents gnawing on the roots of Yggdrasil: Nidhöggr, Gravvitnir, Moin, Goin, Grábakr, Grafvölluðr, Svafnir and Ofnir.

Sea serpents[edit]

Sea serpents were giant cryptozoological creatures once believed to live in water, whether sea monsters such as the Leviathan or lake monsters such as the Loch Ness Monster. If they were referred to as “sea snakes“, they were understood to be the actual snakes that live in Indo-Pacific waters (Family Hydrophiidae).

Modern symbolism[edit]

Modern medicine[edit]

The Star of Life features a Rod of Asclepius

Snakes entwined the staffs both of Hermes (the caduceus) and of Asclepius, where a single snake entwined the rough staff. On Hermes’ caduceus, the snakes were not merely duplicated for symmetry, they were paired opposites. (This motif is congruent with the phurba.) The wings at the head of the staff identified it as belonging to the winged messenger, Hermes, the Roman Mercury, who was the god of magic, diplomacy and rhetoric, of inventions and discoveries, the protector both of merchants and that allied occupation, to the mythographers’ view, of thieves. It is however Hermes’ role as psychopomp, the escort of newly deceased souls to the afterlife, that explains the origin of the snakes in the caduceus since this was also the role of the Sumerian entwined serpent god Ningizzida, with whom Hermes has sometimes been equated.

In Late Antiquity, as the arcane study of alchemy developed, Mercury was understood to be the protector of those arts too and of arcane or occult “Hermetic’ information in general. Chemistry and medicines linked the rod of Hermes with the staff of the healer Asclepius, which was wound with a serpent; it was conflated with Mercury’s rod, and the modern medical symbol – which should simply be the rod of Asclepius – often became Mercury’s wand of commerce. Another version is used in alchemy whereas the snake is crucified, known as Nicolas Flamel‘s caduceus. Art historian Walter J. Friedlander, in The Golden Wand of Medicine: A History of the Caduceus Symbol in Medicine (1992) collected hundreds of examples of the caduceus and the rod of Asclepius and found that professional associations were just somewhat more likely to use the staff of Asclepius, while commercial organizations in the medical field were more likely to use the caduceus.

Modern political propaganda[edit]

Following the Christian context as a symbol for evil, serpents are sometimes featured in political propaganda. They were used to represent Jews in antisemitic propaganda. Snakes were also used to represent the evil side of drugs in such films as Narcotic[32] and Narcotics: Pit of Despair.[33]

Evolutionary origins[edit]

The anthropologist Lynn Isbell has argued that, as primates, the serpent as a symbol of death is built into our unconscious minds because of our evolutionary history. Isbell argues that for millions of years snakes were the only significant predators of primates, and that this explains why fear of snakes is one of the most common phobias worldwide and why the symbol of the serpent is so prevalent in world mythology; the serpent is an innate image of danger and death.[34][35] Furthermore, the psychoanalyst Joseph Lewis Henderson and the ethnologist Maude Oakes have argued that the serpent is a symbol of initiation and rebirth precisely because it is a symbol of death.[36]

Ghost

Image result for GHOSTS GIFS

Image result for GHOSTS GIFS

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Ghost

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Ghost
Hammersmith Ghost.PNG
Engraving of the Hammersmith Ghost in Kirby’s Wonderful and Scientific Museum, a magazine published in 1804[1]
Grouping Legendary creature
Sub grouping Undead
Similar creatures Revenant
Other name(s) Spirits
Region Europe, The Americas, Asia, Africa, Oceania (Worldwide)

In folklore, a ghost (sometimes known as an apparition, haunt, phantom, poltergeist, shade, specter or spectre, spirit, spook, and wraith) is the soul or spirit of a dead person or animal that can appear to the living. Descriptions of ghosts vary widely from an invisible presence to translucent or barely visible wispy shapes, to realistic, lifelike visions. The deliberate attempt to contact the spirit of a deceased person is known as necromancy, or in spiritism as a séance.

The belief in the existence of an afterlife, as well as manifestations of the spirits of the dead is widespread, dating back to animism or ancestor worship in pre-literate cultures. Certain religious practices—funeral rites, exorcisms, and some practices of spiritualism and ritual magic—are specifically designed to rest the spirits of the dead. Ghosts are generally described as solitary, human-like essences that haunt particular locations, objects, or people they were associated with in life, though stories of ghostly armies and the ghosts of animals rather than humans have also been recounted.[2][3]

Terminology[edit]

Further information: Spirit, Soul, wikt:anima, Genius (mythology), and Geist

The English word ghost continues Old English gást, from a hypothetical Common Germanic *gaistaz. It is common to West Germanic, but lacking in North Germanic and East Germanic (the equivalent word in Gothic is ahma, Old Norse has andi m., önd f.). The pre-Germanic form was *ghoisdo-s, apparently from a root denoting “fury, anger” reflected in Old Norse geisa “to rage”. The Germanic word is recorded as masculine only, but likely continues a neuter s-stem. The original meaning of the Germanic word would thus have been an animating principle of the mind, in particular capable of excitation and fury (compare óðr). In Germanic paganism, “Germanic Mercury“, and the later Odin, was at the same time the conductor of the dead and the “lord of fury” leading the Wild Hunt.

Besides denoting the human spirit or soul, both of the living and the deceased, the Old English word is used as a synonym of Latin spiritus also in the meaning of “breath” or “blast” from the earliest attestations (9th century). It could also denote any good or evil spirit, such as angels and demons; the Anglo-Saxon gospel refers to the demonic possession of Matthew 12:43 as se unclæna gast. Also from the Old English period, the word could denote the spirit of God, viz. the “Holy Ghost“.

The now-prevailing sense of “the soul of a deceased person, spoken of as appearing in a visible form” only emerges in Middle English (14th century). The modern noun does, however, retain a wider field of application, extending on one hand to “soul”, “spirit”, “vital principle“, “mind“, or “psyche“, the seat of feeling, thought, and moral judgement; on the other hand used figuratively of any shadowy outline, or fuzzy or unsubstantial image; in optics, photography, and cinematography especially, a flare, secondary image, or spurious signal.[4]

The synonym spook is a Dutch loanword, akin to Low German spôk (of uncertain etymology); it entered the English language via American English in the 19th century.[5][6][7][8] Alternative words in modern usage include spectre (from Latin spectrum), the Scottish wraith (of obscure origin), phantom (via French ultimately from Greek phantasma, compare fantasy) and apparition. The term shade in classical mythology translates Greek σκιά,[9] or Latin umbra,[10] in reference to the notion of spirits in the Greek underworld. “Haint” is a synonym for ghost used in regional English of the southern United States,[11] and the “haint tale” is a common feature of southern oral and literary tradition.[12] The term poltergeist is a German word, literally a “noisy ghost”, for a spirit said to manifest itself by invisibly moving and influencing objects.[13]

Wraith is a Scots word for ghost, spectre, or apparition. It appeared in Scottish Romanticist literature, and acquired the more general or figurative sense of portent or omen. In 18th- to 19th-century Scottish literature, it also applied to aquatic spirits. The word has no commonly accepted etymology; the OED notes “of obscure origin” only.[14] An association with the verb writhe was the etymology favored by J. R. R. Tolkien.[15] Tolkien’s use of the word in the naming of the creatures known as the Ringwraiths has influenced later usage in fantasy literature. Bogey[16] or bogy/bogie is a term for a ghost, and appears in Scottish poet John Mayne‘s Hallowe’en in 1780.[17][18]

A revenant is a deceased person returning from the dead to haunt the living, either as a disembodied ghost or alternatively as an animated (“undead“) corpse. Also related is the concept of a fetch, the visible ghost or spirit of a person yet alive.

Typology[edit]

Anthropological context[edit]

A notion of the transcendent, supernatural, or numinous, usually involving entities like ghosts, demons, or deities, is a cultural universal.[19] In pre-literate folk religions, these beliefs are often summarized under animism and ancestor worship. Some people believe the ghost or spirit never leaves Earth until there is no-one left to remember the one who died.[20]

In many cultures malignant, restless ghosts are distinguished from the more benign spirits involved in ancestor worship.[21]

Ancestor worship typically involves rites intended to prevent revenants, vengeful spirits of the dead, imagined as starving and envious of the living. Strategies for preventing revenants may either include sacrifice, i.e., giving the dead food and drink to pacify them, or magical banishment of the deceased to force them not to return. Ritual feeding of the dead is performed in traditions like the Chinese Ghost Festival or the Western All Souls’ Day. Magical banishment of the dead is present in many of the world’s burial customs. The bodies found in many tumuli (kurgan) had been ritually bound before burial,[22] and the custom of binding the dead persists, for example, in rural Anatolia.[23]

Nineteenth-century anthropologist James Frazer stated in his classic work, The Golden Bough, that souls were seen as the creature within that animated the body.[24]

Ghosts and the afterlife[edit]

Although the human soul was sometimes symbolically or literally depicted in ancient cultures as a bird or other animal, it appears to have been widely held that the soul was an exact reproduction of the body in every feature, even down to clothing the person wore. This is depicted in artwork from various ancient cultures, including such works as the Egyptian Book of the Dead, which shows deceased people in the afterlife appearing much as they did before death, including the style of dress.

Fear of ghosts[edit]

Main article: Fear of ghosts

Yūrei (Japanese ghost) from the Hyakkai Zukan, ca. 1737

While deceased ancestors are universally regarded as venerable, and often believed to have a continued presence in some form of afterlife, the spirit of a deceased person that persists in the material world (a ghost) is regarded as an unnatural or undesirable state of affairs and the idea of ghosts or revenants is associated with a reaction of fear. This is universally the case in pre-modern folk cultures, but fear of ghosts also remains an integral aspect of the modern ghost story, Gothic horror, and other horror fiction dealing with the supernatural.

Common attributes[edit]

Another widespread belief concerning ghosts is that they are composed of a misty, airy, or subtle material. Anthropologists link this idea to early beliefs that ghosts were the person within the person (the person’s spirit), most noticeable in ancient cultures as a person’s breath, which upon exhaling in colder climates appears visibly as a white mist.[20] This belief may have also fostered the metaphorical meaning of “breath” in certain languages, such as the Latin spiritus and the Greek pneuma, which by analogy became extended to mean the soul. In the Bible, God is depicted as synthesising Adam, as a living soul, from the dust of the Earth and the breath of God.

In many traditional accounts, ghosts were often thought to be deceased people looking for vengeance (vengeful ghosts), or imprisoned on earth for bad things they did during life. The appearance of a ghost has often been regarded as an omen or portent of death. Seeing one’s own ghostly double or “fetch” is a related omen of death.[25]

Union Cemetery in Easton, Connecticut is home to the legend of the White Lady.

White ladies were reported to appear in many rural areas, and supposed to have died tragically or suffered trauma in life. White Lady legends are found around the world. Common to many of them is the theme of losing or being betrayed by a husband or fiancé. They are often associated with an individual family line or regarded as a harbinger of death similar to a banshee.

Legends of ghost ships have existed since the 18th century; most notable of these is the Flying Dutchman. This theme has been used in literature in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Coleridge.

Cultural[edit]

The idea of ghosts can be considered a tradition for certain cultures. Many believe in the spirit world and often try to stay in contact with their loved ones.

Locale[edit]

See also: Haunted house

A place where ghosts are reported is described as haunted, and often seen as being inhabited by spirits of deceased who may have been former residents or were familiar with the property. Supernatural activity inside homes is said to be mainly associated with violent or tragic events in the building’s past such as murder, accidental death, or suicide—sometimes in the recent or ancient past. But not all hauntings are at a place of a violent death, or even on violent grounds. Many cultures and religions believe the essence of a being, such as the ‘soul‘, continues to exist. Some religious views argue that the ‘spirits’ of those who have died have not ‘passed over’ and are trapped inside the property where their memories and energy are strong.

History[edit]

Ancient Near East and Egypt[edit]

There are many references to ghosts in Mesopotamian religions – the religions of Sumer, Babylon, Assyria, and other early states in Mesopotamia. Traces of these beliefs survive in the later Abrahamic religions that came to dominate the region.[26] Ghosts were thought to be created at time of death, taking on the memory and personality of the dead person. They traveled to the netherworld, where they were assigned a position, and led an existence similar in some ways to that of the living. Relatives of the dead were expected to make offerings of food and drink to the dead to ease their conditions. If they did not, the ghosts could inflict misfortune and illness on the living. Traditional healing practices ascribed a variety of illnesses to the action of ghosts, while others were caused by gods or demons.[27]

The Hebrew Bible contains few references to ghosts, associating spiritism with forbidden occult activities cf. Deuteronomy 18:11. The most notable reference is in the First Book of Samuel (I Samuel 28:3–19 KJV), in which a disguised King Saul has the Witch of Endor summon the spirit or ghost of Samuel.

Egyptian Akh glyph – The soul and spirit re-united after death

There was widespread belief in ghosts in ancient Egyptian culture. The soul and spirit were believed to exist after death, with the ability to assist or harm the living, and the possibility of a second death. Over a period of more than 2,500 years, Egyptian beliefs about the nature of the afterlife evolved constantly. Many of these beliefs were recorded in hieroglyph inscriptions, papyrus scrolls and tomb paintings. The Egyptian Book of the Dead compiles some of the beliefs from different periods of ancient Egyptian history.[28] In modern times, the fanciful concept of a mummy coming back to life and wreaking vengeance when disturbed has spawned a whole genre of horror stories and films.[29]

Classical Antiquity[edit]

Archaic and Classical Greece[edit]

Apulian red-figure bell krater depicting the ghost of Clytemnestra waking the Erinyes, circa 380-370 B.C.

Ghosts appeared in Homer‘s Odyssey and Iliad, in which they were described as vanishing “as a vapor, gibbering and whining into the earth”. Homer’s ghosts had little interaction with the world of the living. Periodically they were called upon to provide advice or prophecy, but they do not appear to be particularly feared. Ghosts in the classical world often appeared in the form of vapor or smoke, but at other times they were described as being substantial, appearing as they had been at the time of death, complete with the wounds that killed them.[30]

By the 5th century BC, classical Greek ghosts had become haunting, frightening creatures who could work to either good or evil purposes. The spirit of the dead was believed to hover near the resting place of the corpse, and cemeteries were places the living avoided. The dead were to be ritually mourned through public ceremony, sacrifice, and libations, or else they might return to haunt their families. The ancient Greeks held annual feasts to honor and placate the spirits of the dead, to which the family ghosts were invited, and after which they were “…firmly invited to leave until the same time next year.”[31]

The 5th-century BC play Oresteia contains one of the first ghosts to appear in a work of fiction.[32]

Roman Empire and Late Antiquity[edit]

Athenodorus and the Ghost, by Henry Justice Ford, c.1900

The ancient Romans believed a ghost could be used to exact revenge on an enemy by scratching a curse on a piece of lead or pottery and placing it into a grave.[33]

Plutarch, in the 1st century AD, described the haunting of the baths at Chaeronea by the ghost of a murdered man. The ghost’s loud and frightful groans caused the people of the town to seal up the doors of the building.[34] Another celebrated account of a haunted house from the ancient classical world is given by Pliny the Younger (c. 50 AD).[35] Pliny describes the haunting of a house in Athens of the Stoic philosopher Athenodorus, who lived about 100 years before Pliny. Athenodorus was working late at night when he was disturbed by a ghost bound in chains. He followed the ghost outside where it indicated a spot on the ground. When Athenodorus later excavated the area, a shackled skeleton was unearthed. The haunting ceased when this was given a proper reburial.[36] The writers Plautus and Lucian also wrote stories about haunted houses.

In the New Testament, Jesus has to persuade the Disciples that he is not a ghost following the resurrection, Luke 24:37–39 (some versions of the Bible, such as the KJV and NKJV, use the term “spirit”). Similarly, Jesus’ followers at first believed he was a ghost (spirit) when they saw him walking on water.

One of the first persons to express disbelief in ghosts was Lucian of Samosata in the 2nd century AD. In his tale “The Doubter” (circa 150 AD), he relates how Democritus “the learned man from Abdera in Thrace” lived in a tomb outside the city gates to prove that cemeteries were not haunted by the spirits of the departed. Lucian relates how he persisted in his disbelief despite practical jokes perpetrated by “some young men of Abdera” who dressed up in black robes with skull masks to frighten him.[37] This account by Lucian notes something about the popular classical expectation of how a ghost should look.

In the 5th century AD, the Christian priest Constantius of Lyon recorded an instance of the recurring theme of the improperly buried dead who come back to haunt the living, and who can only cease their haunting when their bones have been discovered and properly reburied.[38]

Middle Ages[edit]

Ghosts reported in medieval Europe tended to fall into two categories: the souls of the dead, or demons. The souls of the dead returned for a specific purpose. Demonic ghosts existed only to torment or tempt the living. The living could tell them apart by demanding their purpose in the name of Jesus Christ. The soul of a dead person would divulge their mission, while a demonic ghost would be banished at the sound of the Holy Name.[39]

Most ghosts were souls assigned to Purgatory, condemned for a specific period to atone for their transgressions in life. Their penance was generally related to their sin. For example, the ghost of a man who had been abusive to his servants was condemned to tear off and swallow bits of his own tongue; the ghost of another man, who had neglected to leave his cloak to the poor, was condemned to wear the cloak, now “heavy as a church tower”. These ghosts appeared to the living to ask for prayers to end their suffering. Other dead souls returned to urge the living to confess their sins before their own deaths.[40]

Medieval European ghosts were more substantial than ghosts described in the Victorian age, and there are accounts of ghosts being wrestled with and physically restrained until a priest could arrive to hear its confession. Some were less solid, and could move through walls. Often they were described as paler and sadder versions of the person they had been while alive, and dressed in tattered gray rags. The vast majority of reported sightings were male.[41]

There were some reported cases of ghostly armies, fighting battles at night in the forest, or in the remains of an Iron Age hillfort, as at Wandlebury, near Cambridge, England. Living knights were sometimes challenged to single combat by phantom knights, which vanished when defeated.[42]

From the medieval period an apparition of a ghost is recorded from 1211, at the time of the Albigensian Crusade.[43] Gervase of Tilbury, Marshal of Arles, wrote that the image of Guilhem, a boy recently murdered in the forest, appeared in his cousin’s home in Beaucaire, near Avignon. This series of “visits” lasted all of the summer. Through his cousin, who spoke for him, the boy allegedly held conversations with anyone who wished, until the local priest requested to speak to the boy directly, leading to an extended disquisition on theology. The boy narrated the trauma of death and the unhappiness of his fellow souls in Purgatory, and reported that God was most pleased with the ongoing Crusade against the Cathar heretics, launched three years earlier. The time of the Albigensian Crusade in southern France was marked by intense and prolonged warfare, this constant bloodshed and dislocation of populations being the context for these reported visits by the murdered boy.

Haunted houses are featured in the 9th-century Arabian Nights (such as the tale of Ali the Cairene and the Haunted House in Baghdad).[44]

European Renaissance to Romanticism[edit]

Hamlet and his father’s ghost” by Henry Fuseli (1796 drawing). The ghost is wearing stylized plate armor in 17th-century style, including a morion type helmet and tassets. Depicting ghosts as wearing armor, to suggest a sense of antiquity, was common in Elizabethan theater.

Renaissance magic took a revived interest in the occult, including necromancy. In the era of the Reformation and Counter Reformation, there was frequently a backlash against unwholesome interest in the dark arts, typified by writers such as Thomas Erastus.[45] The Swiss Reformed pastor Ludwig Lavater supplied one of the most frequently reprinted books of the period with his Of Ghosts and Spirits Walking By Night.[46]

The Child BalladSweet William’s Ghost” (1868) recounts the story of a ghost returning to his fiancée begging her to free him from his promise to marry her. He cannot marry her because he is dead but her refusal would mean his damnation. This reflects a popular British belief that the dead haunted their lovers if they took up with a new love without some formal release.[47]The Unquiet Grave” expresses a belief even more widespread, found in various locations over Europe: ghosts can stem from the excessive grief of the living, whose mourning interferes with the dead’s peaceful rest.[48] In many folktales from around the world, the hero arranges for the burial of a dead man. Soon after, he gains a companion who aids him and, in the end, the hero’s companion reveals that he is in fact the dead man.[49] Instances of this include the Italian fairy taleFair Brow” and the Swedish “The Bird ‘Grip’“.

Modern period of western culture[edit]

Spiritualist movement[edit]

By 1853, when the popular song Spirit Rappings was published, Spiritualism was an object of intense curiosity.

Main article: Spiritualism

Spiritualism is a monotheistic belief system or religion, postulating a belief in God, but with a distinguishing feature of belief that spirits of the dead residing in the spirit world can be contacted by “mediums“, who can then provide information about the afterlife.[50]

Spiritualism developed in the United States and reached its peak growth in membership from the 1840s to the 1920s, especially in English-language countries.[51][52] By 1897, it was said to have more than eight million followers in the United States and Europe,[53] mostly drawn from the middle and upper classes, while the corresponding movement in continental Europe and Latin America is known as Spiritism.

The religion flourished for a half century without canonical texts or formal organization, attaining cohesion by periodicals, tours by trance lecturers, camp meetings, and the missionary activities of accomplished mediums.[54] Many prominent Spiritualists were women. Most followers supported causes such as the abolition of slavery and women’s suffrage.[51] By the late 1880s, credibility of the informal movement weakened, due to accusations of fraud among mediums, and formal Spiritualist organizations began to appear.[51] Spiritualism is currently practiced primarily through various denominational Spiritualist Churches in the United States and United Kingdom.

Spiritism[edit]

Main article: Spiritism

Spiritism, or French spiritualism, is based on the five books of the Spiritist Codification written by French educator Hypolite Léon Denizard Rivail under the pseudonym Allan Kardec reporting séances in which he observed a series of phenomena that he attributed to incorporeal intelligence (spirits). His assumption of spirit communication was validated by many contemporaries, among them many scientists and philosophers who attended séances and studied the phenomena. His work was later extended by writers like Leon Denis, Arthur Conan Doyle, Camille Flammarion, Ernesto Bozzano, Chico Xavier, Divaldo Pereira Franco, Waldo Vieira, Johannes Greber,[55] and others.

Spiritism has adherents in many countries throughout the world, including Spain, United States, Canada,[56] Japan, Germany, France, England, Argentina, Portugal, and especially Brazil, which has the largest proportion and greatest number of followers.[57]

Scientific view[edit]

See also: Paranormal

The physician John Ferriar wrote “An Essay Towards a Theory of Apparitions” in 1813 in which he argued that sightings of ghosts were the result of optical illusions. Later the French physician Alexandre Jacques François Brière de Boismont published On Hallucinations: Or, the Rational History of Apparitions, Dreams, Ecstasy, Magnetism, and Somnambulism in 1845 in which he claimed sightings of ghosts were the result of hallucinations.[58][59]

David Turner, a retired physical chemist, suggested that ball lightning could cause inanimate objects to move erratically.[60]

Joe Nickell of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry wrote that there was no credible scientific evidence that any location was inhabited by spirits of the dead.[61] Limitations of human perception and ordinary physical explanations can account for ghost sightings; for example, air pressure changes in a home causing doors to slam, or lights from a passing car reflected through a window at night. Pareidolia, an innate tendency to recognize patterns in random perceptions, is what some skeptics believe causes people to believe that they have ‘seen ghosts’.[62] Reports of ghosts “seen out of the corner of the eye” may be accounted for by the sensitivity of human peripheral vision. According to Nickell, peripheral vision can easily mislead, especially late at night when the brain is tired and more likely to misinterpret sights and sounds.[63]

According to research in anomalistic psychology visions of ghosts may arise from hypnagogic hallucinations (“waking dreams” experienced in the transitional states to and from sleep).[64] In a study of two experiments into alleged hauntings (Wiseman et al. 2003) came to the conclusion “that people consistently report unusual experiences in ‘haunted’ areas because of environmental factors, which may differ across locations.” Some of these factors included “the variance of local magnetic Žfields, size of location and lighting level stimuli of which witnesses may not be consciously aware”.[65]

Some researchers, such as Michael Persinger of Laurentian University, Canada, have speculated that changes in geomagnetic fields (created, e.g., by tectonic stresses in the Earth’s crust or solar activity) could stimulate the brain’s temporal lobes and produce many of the experiences associated with hauntings.[66] Sound is thought to be another cause of supposed sightings. Richard Lord and Richard Wiseman have concluded that infrasound can cause humans to experience bizarre feelings in a room, such as anxiety, extreme sorrow, a feeling of being watched, or even the chills.[67] Carbon monoxide poisoning, which can cause changes in perception of the visual and auditory systems,[68] was speculated upon as a possible explanation for haunted houses as early as 1921.

By religion[edit]

Judæo-Christianity[edit]

Further information: Allhallowtide

Witch of Endor by Nikolai Ge, depicting King Saul encountering the ghost of Samuel, 1857.

The Hebrew Torah and the Bible contain a few references to ghosts, associating spiritism with forbidden occult activities.[69] The most notable reference is in the First Book of Samuel,[70] in which a disguised King Saul has the Witch of Endor summon the spirit or ghost of Samuel. In the New Testament, Jesus has to persuade the Disciples that he is not a ghost following the resurrection, Luke 24:37–39 (some versions of the Bible, such as the KJV and NKJV, use the term “spirit”). Similarly, Jesus’ followers at first believe he is a ghost (spirit) when they see him walking on water.[71]

Some denominations within the Christian Church[citation needed] consider ghosts as beings who while tied to earth, no longer live on the material plane,[72] while others teach that ghosts are beings who linger in an interim state before continuing their journey to heaven.[72][73][74][75] On occasion, God would allow the souls in this state to return to earth to warn the living of the need for repentance.[76] Jews and Christians are taught that it is sinful to attempt to conjure or control spirits in accordance with Deuteronomy XVIII: 9–12.[77][78]

Some ghosts are actually said to be demons in disguise, who the Church teaches, in accordance with I Timothy 4:1, that they “come to deceive people and draw them away from God and into bondage.”[79] As a result, attempts to contact the dead may lead to unwanted contact with a demon or an unclean spirit, as was said to occur in the case of Robbie Mannheim, a fourteen-year-old Maryland youth.[80] The Seventh-Day Adventist view is that a “soul” is not equivalent to “spirit” or “ghost” (depending on the Bible version), and that save for the Holy Spirit, all spirits or ghosts are demons in disguise. Furthermore, they teach that in accordance with (Genesis 2:7, Ecclesiastes 12:7), there are only two components to a “soul”, neither of which survives death—with each returning to its respective source.

Christadelphians reject the view of a living, conscious soul after death.[81]

The Talmud[82] tells of a being called a shade שד that is similar to other creatures in that it lives and dies but consists only of a form but lacks matter that forms mass, thus rendering it invisible. Since it has no physical mass it is capable of transporting itself from one end of the world to the other.

Islam[edit]

Muslims believe that ghosts are in fact jinn. The Qur’an discusses spirits known as jinn.[83]

Buddhism[edit]

In Buddhism, there are a number of planes of existence into which a person can be reborn, one of which is the realm of hungry ghosts.[citation needed]

By culture[edit]

African folklore[edit]

For the Igbo people, a man is simultaneously a physical and spiritual entity. However, it is his spirited dimension that is eternal.[84] In the Akan conception, we witness five parts of the human personality. We have the Nipadua (body), the Okra (soul), Sunsum (spirit), Ntoro (character from father), Mogya (character from mother).[84] The Humr people of Sudan consume the drink Umm Nyolokh, which is created from the liver and marrow of giraffes. Umm Nyolokh often contains DMT and other psychoactive substances from plants the giraffes eat such as Acacia, and is known to cause hallucinations of giraffes, believed to be the giraffes ghosts by the Humr.[85][86]

European folklore[edit]

Further information: Revenant, Necromancy, and Samhain

Belief in ghosts in European folklore is characterized by the recurring fear of “returning” or revenant deceased who may harm the living. This includes the Scandinavian gjenganger, the Romanian strigoi, the Serbian vampir, the Greek vrykolakas, etc. In Scandinavian and Finnish tradition, ghosts appear in corporeal form, and their supernatural nature is given away by behavior rather than appearance. In fact, in many stories they are first mistaken for the living. They may be mute, appear and disappear suddenly, or leave no footprints or other traces.

English folklore is particularly notable for its numerous haunted locations.

Belief in the soul and an afterlife remained near universal until the emergence of atheism in the 18th century.[citation needed] In the 19th century, spiritism resurrected “belief in ghosts” as the object of systematic inquiry, and popular opinion in Western culture remains divided.[87]

South and Southeast Asia[edit]

North India[edit]

Main article: Bhoot (ghost)

A bhoot or bhut (भूत, ભૂત, or بهوت) is a supernatural creature, usually the ghost of a deceased person, in the popular culture, literature and some ancient texts of the Indian subcontinent. Interpretations of how bhoots come into existence vary by region and community, but they are usually considered to be perturbed and restless due to some factor that prevents them from moving on (to transmigration, non-being, nirvana, or heaven or hell, depending on tradition). This could be a violent death, unsettled matters in their lives, or simply the failure of their survivors to perform proper funerals.[88]

In Central and Northern India, Aojha spirit guides play a central role.[citation needed] It duly happens when in the night someone sleeps and decorates something on the wall, and they say that if one sees the spirit the next thing in the morning he will become a spirit too, and that to a skondho kata, which means a spirit without a head and the soul of the body will remain the dark with the dark lord from the spirits who reside in the body of every human in Central and Northern India. It is also believed that if someone calls one from behind, never turn back and see because the spirit may catch the human to make it a spirit. Other types of spirits in Hindu Mythology include Baital, an evil spirit who haunts cemeteries and takes demonic possession of corpses, and Pishacha, a type of flesh-eating demon.

Bengal and East India

There are many kinds of ghosts and similar supernatural entities that frequently come up in Bengali culture, its folklores and form an important part in Bengali peoples’ socio-cultural beliefs and superstitions. It is believed that the spirits of those who cannot find peace in the afterlife or die unnatural deaths remain on Earth. The common word for ghosts in Bengali is bhoot or bhut (Bengali:ভূত). This word has an alternative meaning: ‘past’ in Bengali. Also the word Pret (Sanskrit) is used in Bengali to mean ghost. In Bengal, ghosts are believed to be the spirit after death of an unsatisfied human being or a soul of a person who dies in unnatural or abnormal circumstances (like murder, suicide or accident). Even it is believed that other animals and creatures can also be turned into ghost after their death.

Austronesia[edit]

There are many Malay ghost myths, remnants of old animist beliefs that have been shaped by later Hindu, Buddhist, and Muslim influences in the modern states of Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei. Some ghost concepts such as the female vampires Pontianak and Penanggalan are shared throughout the region. Ghosts are a popular theme in modern Malaysian and Indonesian films. There are also many references to ghosts in Filipino culture, ranging from ancient legendary creatures such as the Manananggal and Tiyanak to more modern urban legends and horror films. The beliefs, legends and stories are as diverse as the people of the Philippines.

There was widespread belief in ghosts in Polynesian culture, some of which persists today. After death, a person’s ghost normally traveled to the sky world or the underworld, but some could stay on earth. In many Polynesian legends, ghosts were often actively involved in the affairs of the living. Ghosts might also cause sickness or even invade the body of ordinary people, to be driven out through strong medicines.[89]

East and Central Asia[edit]

Further information: Preta

China[edit]

An image of Zhong Kui, the vanquisher of ghosts and evil beings, painted sometime before 1304 A.D. by Gong Kai

There are many references to ghosts in Chinese culture. Even Confucius said, “Respect ghosts and gods, but keep away from them.”[90]

The ghosts take many forms, depending on how the person died, and are often harmful. Many Chinese ghost beliefs have been accepted by neighboring cultures, notably Japan and southeast Asia. Ghost beliefs are closely associated with traditional Chinese religion based on ancestor worship, many of which were incorporated in Taoism. Later beliefs were influenced by Buddhism, and in turn influenced and created uniquely Chinese Buddhist beliefs.

Many Chinese today believe it possible to contact the spirits of their ancestors through a medium, and that ancestors can help descendants if properly respected and rewarded. The annual ghost festival is celebrated by Chinese around the world. On this day, ghosts and spirits, including those of the deceased ancestors, come out from the lower realm. Ghosts are described in classical Chinese texts as well as modern literature and films.

A recent article in the China Post stated that nearly eighty-seven percent of Chinese office workers believe in ghosts, and some fifty-two percent of workers will wear hand art, necklaces, crosses, or even place a crystal ball on their desks to keep ghosts at bay, according to the poll.

Japan[edit]

Utagawa Kuniyoshi, The Ghosts, c. 1850

Main articles: Yūrei, Onryō, and Japanese ghost story

Yūrei (幽霊?) are figures in Japanese folklore, analogous to Western legends of ghosts. The name consists of two kanji, (), meaning “faint” or “dim”, and (rei), meaning “soul” or “spirit”. Alternative names include 亡霊 (Bōrei) meaning ruined or departed spirit, 死霊 (Shiryō) meaning dead spirit, or the more encompassing 妖怪 (Yōkai) or お化け (Obake).

Like their Chinese and Western counterparts, they are thought to be spirits kept from a peaceful afterlife.

Thailand[edit]

Krasue, a Thai female ghost known as Ap in Khmer

Ghosts in Thailand are part of local folklore and have now become part of the popular culture of the country. Phraya Anuman Rajadhon was the first Thai scholar who seriously studied Thai folk beliefs and took notes on the nocturnal village spirits of Thailand. He established that, since such spirits were not represented in paintings or drawings, they were purely based on descriptions of popular orally transmitted traditional stories. Therefore, most of the contemporary iconography of ghosts such as Nang Tani, Nang Takian,[91] Krasue, Krahang,[92] Phi Hua Kat, Phi Pop, Phi Phong, Phi Phraya, and Mae Nak has its origins in Thai films that have now become classics.[93][94] The most feared spirit in Thailand is Phi Tai Hong, the ghost of a person who has died suddenly of a violent death.[95] The folklore of Thailand also includes the belief that sleep paralysis is caused by a ghost, Phi Am.

Tibet[edit]

There is widespread belief in ghosts in Tibetan culture. Ghosts are explicitly recognized in the Tibetan Buddhist religion as they were in Indian Buddhism,[96] occupying a distinct but overlapping world to the human one, and feature in many traditional legends. When a human dies, after a period of uncertainty they may enter the ghost world. A hungry ghost (Tibetan: yidag, yi-dvags; Sanskrit: preta, प्रेत) has a tiny throat and huge stomach, and so can never be satisfied. Ghosts may be killed with a ritual dagger or caught in a spirit trap and burnt, thus releasing them to be reborn. Ghosts may also be exorcised, and an annual festival is held throughout Tibet for this purpose. Some say that Dorje Shugden, the ghost of a powerful 17th-century monk, is a deity, but the Dalai Lama asserts that he is an evil spirit, which has caused a split in the Tibetan exile community.

Americas[edit]

Mexico[edit]

Catrinas, one of the most popular figures of the Day of the Dead celebrations in Mexico

There is extensive and varied belief in ghosts in Mexican culture. The modern state of Mexico before the Spanish conquest was inhabited by diverse peoples such as the Maya and Aztec, and their beliefs have survived and evolved, combined with the beliefs of the Spanish colonists. The Day of the Dead incorporates pre-Columbian beliefs with Christian elements. Mexican literature and films include many stories of ghosts interacting with the living.

United States[edit]

According to the Gallup Poll News Service, belief in haunted houses, ghosts, communication with the dead, and witches had an especially steep increase over the 1990s.[97] A 2005 Gallup poll found that about 32 percent of Americans believe in ghosts.[98]

Depiction in the arts[edit]

Main articles: Ghost story and List of ghost films

Ghosts are prominent in the popular cultures of various nations. The ghost story is ubiquitous across all cultures from oral folktales to works of literature. While ghost stories are often explicitly meant to be scary, they have been written to serve all sorts of purposes, from comedy to morality tales. Ghosts often appear in the narrative as sentinels or prophets of things to come. Belief in ghosts is found in all cultures around the world, and thus ghost stories may be passed down orally or in written form.[99]

Spirits of the dead appear in literature as early as Homer‘s Odyssey, which features a journey to the underworld and the hero encountering the ghosts of the dead,[99] and the Old Testament, in which the Witch of Endor summons the spirit of the prophet Samuel.[99]

Renaissance to Romanticism (1500 to 1840)[edit]

Eugène Delacroix. The Phantom on the Terrace, Hamlet, 1843.

One of the more recognizable ghosts in English literature is the shade of Hamlet’s murdered father in Shakespeare’s The Tragical History of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. In Hamlet, it is the ghost who demands that Prince Hamlet investigate his “murder most foul” and seek revenge upon his usurping uncle, King Claudius.

John Dee and Edward Kelley invoking the spirit of a deceased person (engraving from the Astrology by Ebenezer Sibly, 1806)

In English Renaissance theater, ghosts were often depicted in the garb of the living and even in armor, as with the ghost of Hamlet’s father. Armor, being out-of-date by the time of the Renaissance, gave the stage ghost a sense of antiquity.[100] But the sheeted ghost began to gain ground on stage in the 19th century because an armored ghost could not satisfactorily convey the requisite spookiness: it clanked and creaked, and had to be moved about by complicated pulley systems or elevators. These clanking ghosts being hoisted about the stage became objects of ridicule as they became clichéd stage elements. Ann Jones and Peter Stallybrass, in Renaissance Clothing and the Materials of Memory, point out, “In fact, it is as laughter increasingly threatens the Ghost that he starts to be staged not in armor but in some form of ‘spirit drapery’.”[citation needed]

Victorian/Edwardian (1840 to 1920)[edit]

The ghost of a pirate, from Howard Pyle‘s Book of Pirates (1903)

The “classic” ghost story arose during the Victorian period, and included authors such as M. R. James, Sheridan Le Fanu, Violet Hunt, and Henry James. Classic ghost stories were influenced by the gothic fiction tradition, and contain elements of folklore and psychology. M. R. James summed up the essential elements of a ghost story as, “Malevolence and terror, the glare of evil faces, ‘the stony grin of unearthly malice’, pursuing forms in darkness, and ‘long-drawn, distant screams’, are all in place, and so is a modicum of blood, shed with deliberation and carefully husbanded…”.[101] One of the key early appearances by ghosts was The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole in 1764, considered to be the first gothic novel.[102][99]

Famous literary apparitions from this period are the ghosts of A Christmas Carol, in which Ebenezer Scrooge is helped to see the error of his ways by the ghost of his former colleague Jacob Marley, and the ghosts of Christmas Past, Christmas Present, and Christmas Yet to Come.

Modern era (1920 to 1970)[edit]

Brown Lady of Raynham Hall, a claimed ghost photograph by Captain Hubert C. Provand. First published in Country Life magazine, 1936

Professional parapsychologists and “ghosts hunters”, such as Harry Price, active in the 1920s and 1930s, and Peter Underwood, active in the 1940s and 1950s, published accounts of their experiences with ostensibly true ghost stories such as Price’s The Most Haunted House in England, and Underwood’s Ghosts of Borley (both recounting experiences at Borley Rectory). The writer Frank Edwards delved into ghost stories in his books of his, like “Stranger than Science.”

Children’s benevolent ghost stories became popular, such as Casper the Friendly Ghost, created in the 1930s and appearing in comics, animated cartoons, and eventually a 1995 feature film.

With the advent of motion pictures and television, screen depictions of ghosts became common, and spanned a variety of genres; the works of Shakespeare, Dickens and Wilde have all been made into cinematic versions. Novel-length tales have been difficult to adapt to cinema, although that of The Haunting of Hill House to The Haunting in 1963 is an exception.[102]

Sentimental depictions during this period were more popular in cinema than horror, and include the 1947 film The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, which was later adapted to television with a successful 1968–70 TV series.[102] Genuine psychological horror films from this period include 1944’s The Uninvited, and 1945’s Dead of Night.

Post-modern (1970–present)[edit]

The 1970s saw screen depictions of ghosts diverge into distinct genres of the romantic and horror. A common theme in the romantic genre from this period is the ghost as a benign guide or messenger, often with unfinished business, such as 1989’s Field of Dreams, the 1990 film Ghost, and the 1993 comedy Heart and Souls.[103] In the horror genre, 1980’s The Fog, and the A Nightmare on Elm Street series of films from the 1980s and 1990s are notable examples of the trend for the merging of ghost stories with scenes of physical violence.