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DECK THE HOLIDAY'S: 08/05/10

Thursday, August 5, 2010

GHOSTS AND SPIRITS: JAPANESE, JEWISH AND NATIVE AMERICAN BEIIEFS



   Since Halloween is just a few months away, and ghoulies and ghosties are on everyone's mind.  It might be a good time to explore how various cultures handle paranormal beliefs.  I will write about the basic beliefs of the Japanese, Jewish and Native Americans.
   We Americans are quite open minded about the paranormal, especially lately with the many different shows about ghosts and other paranormal activity.  More than 30 percent of all Americans believe in ghosts. I have never seen one personally, but the town I live in, in California has 2 expected places that are known for being haunted.  One I have stayed the night in (one of them is a hotel and the other used to be a boys prison). 
   Let's put our beliefs aside for a moment and take a look into the basic beliefs of three other cultures regarding ghosts and spirits.

  JAPAN
  
   The Japanese culture, which is rich in superstition and the paranormal, is also very open to the belief of a spirit world.  In fact, many individual cultures of Japan believe that the living are always surrounded by spirits.
   Some among the ancient Japanese believed that spirits were the cause of disease and hunger.  They thought that evil spirits who were seeking retribution even brought on natural disasters like tidal waves, hurricanes, and floods.
  Another popular belief had spirits caught between the land of the living and the world of shadows.  These beliefs said that an unpurified human soul would return to the land of the living as a ghost.  Oftentimes, these spirits were believed to have returned because of certain unpardonable sins like envy, jealousy, or anger.  It was those unforgivable sins that spurred them on to seek revenge.
   Today, many Japanese still believe that spirits who are not delivered through prayer by those who love them, can be caught in limbo between the land of the living and the land of the dead.  For this reason, many Japanese death rituals are very specific and highly honored.

THE JEWISH FAITH

   According to some Jewish folklore, a spirit could attach itself to a living person for the purposes of controlling their behavior.  However, unlike possession as typically identified, this spirit, called a "dybuk", would stay only long enough to complete a particular task.  It was not believed that the spirit's intent was to overtake a living creature for an extended period of time.
   Such spirits were not necessarily bad either.  Some, in fact were believed to have been sent to assist the living.  For example, a person who was struggling with the same kind of issue might respond by latching onto the individual just long enough to help him or her through the problem.  Some referred to these ghosts as "spirit guides."
   Some Jewish people also believe that spirits were created in the twilight of creation, after man but before creation ceased.  As such, they are caught in limbo that is not of this world nor of the heavens.  Some call these entities angels while still others call them demons.

NATIVE AMERICANS

   The Native American culture has long embraced the idea of the spirit world.  However, the great spirits of Native America bore no resemblance to the ghosts or demons that we typically think of today.  Instead, these were considered to be the very spirits of nature herself-the sun and moon, the sky, the earth, the sea, trees, animals, and of course mankind.
   Native American spirits were to be sought and prized for the gifts that they bring and the lessons that they teach.  Some tribes believed that the best of their people, maidens and warriors alike, went on to become spirit guides.  These guides were supposedly capable of keeping their individual charges from going astray as well as for keeping their people, as a whole, on the right path.
   Other tribes embraced animal spirits as an important source of knowledge, strength, and character.  Still others put their beliefs in the Creator and the vast number of spirits that he would send to his people.
   As it turns out most cultures embrace the concept of phosts or spirits in some way.  Even heavily Communistic countries like China, still have stories and myths about ghosts, spirits, and demons. 
  One last few words in closing.  This year as Halloween rolls around, don't worry about ghosts and ghouls and just have fun! TRICK-OR-TREEEAAT!!!!!