October 1, 2012

Haunted Folklore (Part One): Evolution of an Apparition, By Kristina Wojtaszek

Editor's note: EC is pleased to publish Kristina Wojtaszek's five-part weekly series on haunted folklore beginning today. Kristina is one of the authors whose work is featured in e-book (and a paper edition) called Specter Spectacular: 13 Ghostly Tales, which is now available to chill and thrill readers. Published by World Weaver Press, the stories run the gamut from touching to terrifying. As for this five-part series, come back to EC each Monday of this month for Kristina's insight on all things ghostly.

The stranger in the photograph that was never there, the wailing from the abandoned house next door, the sudden chill that makes your hair stand on end… Ghosts. Ghouls. Specters and spooks. We've all heard tell of unexplainable spiritual encounters, perhaps even experienced them ourselves. But who are these mysterious figures that return from the dead, and how long have they been doing so? Though the earliest history of ghost tales may evade us, it is still worth the dig, because buried beneath unfathomable layers of time and lore lay the bones of an ancient and surprising story; an evolutionary lineage that descends straight from the thrones of the gods and goddesses of old.

At Home, by Emma Florence Harrison

Irish tales of fairies often share many of the eerie attributes of ghost stories, and with good reason. Often referred to as the "good people," many believe fairies to be fallen angels. It is said that as the rebellious angels were cast out of heaven, the Lord stopped his hand and they stayed wherever they were at that moment, be it in air, water, earth, or under the earth. The dead and fairies appear to live in close quarters, beneath the earth and just beyond the realm of life, especially when comparing tales of fairies being dug out of their mounds to the exhumation of human remains. In fact, many Irish tales end with a witnessed ghost disappearing somewhere near a known fairy mound. If we delve into a bit of etymology, the word fairy can be traced back to the Latin Fata which refers to the three Fates--the old women who spin and cut the threads of life. Banshee is a Gaelic word that literally means "fairy woman." Though most know her as an ugly, keening hag, she has also been revealed to be The Morrigan, the Irish phantom queen or goddess of battles and war. Round and round we dance, holding the hands of the fairies, who might be devils, goddesses, or spirits of the dead, just as in the tale of the man caught in the fairy ring who saw in their faces his dead relations.

The Emerald Isle is not the only land to host specters with ties to higher powers. From the Muslim Iblīs, comparable to Christianity's Satan, came the Arabic ghūl, the predecessor to lesser demons and spirits all the way down to the highly ambiguous ghoul of today. Other examples include doppelgangers, ghostly double images that often forewarn death, which likely descended from the French scythe-bearing Ankou (Death) himself, and the Russian rusalki, ghosts of murdered young women who may once have been river nymphs. The great Germanic Holle, goddess of birth, death and reincarnation, has also fallen through time and lore to the obscure apparition of a woman in white, while the Hawaiian goddess Pele has drifted from her volcanic origins to wander along roadsides, perhaps forming the first legends of hitchhiking ghosts. Today we are left with many, diverse species of specters. But all of these, it seems, are the evolutionary remnants of a single, common ancestor; the death-defying human soul. 


Kristina Wojtaszek grew up as a woodland sprite and mermaid, playing around the shores of Lake Michigan. At any given time she could be found with live snakes tangled in her hair and worn out shoes filled with sand. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Wildlife Management as an excuse to spend her days lost in the woods with a book in hand. She currently resides in the high desert country of Wyoming with her husband and two small children. She is fascinated by fairy tales and fantasy and her favorite haunts are libraries and cemeteries. Follow her @KristinaWojtasz  or on her blog, Twice Upon a Time.


6 comments

  1. Very nice. I'm looking forward to the rest of the series. Just the thing to take the sting out of Monday mornings.

    ReplyDelete
  2. It's always fascinating to learn about the origins of the different characters involved in fairy tales, ghost stories and myths of different cultures!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Fascinating and informative

    ReplyDelete
  4. It is fascinating and amazing to learn about the importance of supernatural in fairy tales, and myth of certain religious practices. I find it incredible how different world’s religions somehow have similar believes when it comes to tales of the supernatural. Somehow we all believe in the close connections between the living and the dead, and how we are only separated by the unknown boundaries.

    ReplyDelete
  5. This reading was very interesting to me. It was interesting to read about evolution ghost and angles. I am not a person who really believes or should I say entertains the thoughts of ghost being real so reading this was very intriguing in some ways. In the reading when it said how the rebellious angels were cast out of heaven and the Lord stopped his hand and they stayed wherever they were at the moment was very interesting. It made me think, is that true? Are the rebellious angles here on earth? Is that possible? It is very interesting to see and hear other people’s views on things like this. Often times I find myself getting confused with what I believe after reading or hearing other people’s views. However I like hearing new things because it gives me the desire to dig deeper and find out more things. I’m excited to read part two of this reading.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I love reading, and hearing a good ghost story, but shudder at the thought of actually being a part of one, Kristina Wojtaszek’s “Haunted Folklore (Part One): Evolution of an Apparition, is a wonderful introduction into the land of myth, and folklore. It is fascinating to think of the place of origin, or how the stories came about when hearing, or reading tales of mystery. Surely these stories have to have some truth to them, even if it is only the minutest of truth. I love how the stories have ways of adapting into different cultures and even different parts of the world. The stories have to be loved, and valued otherwise they would not be so diverse, and would not have the staying power to be retold through generations. It seems like the first telling’s were more idealized and made into something “pretty”, and the adaptations that followed were made into things of dread, or used as a mean to scare. Whatever the case the stories are wonderful and a good read.
    Serena W. 10
    November 19, 2012

    ReplyDelete