Tuesday, October 30, 2012

where children fear to tread....




i come from a people that believe the dead do not always rest easy. the ghosts and shadows that have passed on continue to inhabit our daily lives. i prefer to entertain all of this as not backward thinking but rather traditional folklore. i grew up in flurry of signs, superstitions and forerunners. i am sure you are familiar with some of the more common ones - itchy hands foretells money coming, a dropped teatowel indicates a visitor. and burning ears meant you were the subject of someones conversation. a few of the more obscure ones included whistling after dark which made the wind blow. or whistling women at any time caused the wind to change direction. crows had to be counted and a fate determined. a bad omen could be softened by spitting on the ground. no money aboard the boat, especially any thing involving the number 2. never turn a bucket upside down and for christ's sake don't sit on it; for if you do you can kiss the fish goodbye. never look back at a hearse. birds in the house - certain death or birds tapping on the window - certain illness. really, i could go on forever.......

we played in the cemetery a lot especially when certain berries were present. we ate tea berries in the spring. i have no idea of the real name or even if they are edible. but we ate them because there was nothing else yet. no blueberries, raspberries, cranberries, fern roots which we called bananas, sea snails we called periwinkles or apples. a lot of our play involved finding things to eat. that said, we played among the graves, eating our tea berries and making up stories of the people who lay below the mounds. we speculated endlessly on the tiny unmarked baby graves in the back corner. we picked flowers and cleaned gull shit off the stones. we tried to find clues about inhabitants by tracing our fingers around the granite engravings and we would pick out spots to be buried. around dark we would dare each other to lay face down on the grave of someone who had had an untimely or violent death. soon we would start to hear things and the creepers would come over us. we would run for dear life out of the graveyard making sure to close the iron gate so none of the spirits could escape........

we regularly tied to call forth the dead. we held seances and secret meetings to try and raise somebody, anybody. we chanted, tried to talk in tongues, danced around fires on the beach. god knows what we would have done if they had responded - pissed our pants most likely. we wore out more than one ouija board. in the evenings we watched as our parents played uptable. where they tried to make a card table rise without touching it.. overall we were a people determined to keep a channel open between this world and the next.........

the telling of ghost stories permeated every layer of our existence. we eavesdropped when the adults told them to each other and listened entranced when they were told to us and we in turn told them to the younger children to scare them and keep them loyal. pirates, hidden treasure, ship wrecks, pacing widows with the spyglass, the phantom light that followed boats into the harbor, the restless spirits that walked the village looking for something. overall, the quiet men told the best tales - low and earnest they recalled sighting a ghost ship in the fog. the sails in shreds, the hull creaking and the cries of drowning men. these somber stories would leave us - hearts pounding and afraid to fall asleep......... 

we often combed the beaches that surrounded us looking for coloured seaglass, food, seal jawbones, and treasure. Sometimes we would come upon a rubber boot or a glove. we would encircle it and stand arguing over who should pick it up. would there be a skeletal foot or hand inside. we would scare the bejesus out ourselves thinking of what we would find. would the hand grab us in deathly grip or would the drowned soul appear and drag us into the sea to join him. it was serious stuff and we spent a lot of time poking at the object with sticks trying to get a sense of what was to come. usually one of us would grab it, eyes closed and fling it further down the beach. if nothing emerged we would eventually muster the courage to pick it up, disappointed when it revealed no bones or ghosts. we always left it where it lay......... 

i wonder sometimes why our lives were aligned so closely to the after world. was it because we lived from the sea and kept ourselves close to portents that helped protect us from such a demanding mistress. just like ancient tribes that prepared their hunters with spirit dances and rituals, we practiced our rites and tried to appease the gods. when i grew up i moved away from the sea and came to live on the prairie; there i found the air empty and oddly light. "where are your dead?" i wondered. "do they pass over without a fight?". i started to realize that people are rarely lost here on the land - they just die. where i'm from no one says all hands died, they instead say all hands were lost. and the lost can never rest.

bev

33 comments:

  1. Yep, my Mom told me to never point at a cemetery. I'm not sure what would have happened. Rest assured I never have and never will point at one.

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    1. excellent advice. thank you for visiting and commenting. happy halloween.

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  2. Thanks for following Carole's Chatter. Very happily following you back! Cheers

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    1. thank you carole. it was very nice of you to visit and follow. happy halloween.

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  3. This was deeply beautiful. I come from "hill folk" who descended from Cherokee and Irish. Our dead never leave us...they watch over us, protect us, and sometimes haunt us. I still tell ghost stories to my children, and some of them even listen.
    We honor and remember our ancestors, either through crazy stories, pictures, or grave visits. People who have lost this about themselves...make me sad.
    Thank you more than you'll ever know for sharing this. You truly are more talented than you know Lady!

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    1. dear chris it sounds like we were raised with very similar sensibilities. i am so superstitious, so that sometimes sucks. thank you for saying such lovely things. happy halloween.

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  4. Ooh! Perfect Halloween post! You are always a fabulous read, Dear Bev!

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    1. candace, happy halloween to you. thank you for visiting and being so nice to me.

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  5. We used to play in a graveyard in the middle of a cornfield behind my grandparent's house. You couldn't get to it until the crops had been harvested and the ground froze. It was about a mile back across the prairie and it butted up against the cow pasture. The graveyard would become overrun with weeds and vines over the summer, but my mother and aunts would take us back there and we would pull away the vines and weeds and branches and clear the graves. We weren't related to anyone buried there, but my mom and aunt had played there as children, too, and I think it became ritual for them to clean the leaves away. Ritual and respect. There were the small graves of children, which always terrified us, and a huge, crumbling headstone of a woman who died at 97, which in the early to mid 1800's was impressive - still is! We'd stay out there all day until the sun began to set and we kids would then race across the furrows to be back inside before dark. I haven't been back there in probably 10 years. But you've inspired me, Bev. I think I'll take my mom and aunts back there this winter to do a little upkeep and pay our respects. Such a beautiful post! I can picture everything. I grew up on the prairie but always wanted to live by the sea.

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    1. there is nothing more beautiful than an old graveyard. we spent so much time playing there. we would divide the graves into sections and then we would each clean and beautify our section and then we would go visiting the other sections and compare our work.

      thank you for telling me that story. and thank you for your kind words. growing up by the sea was lovely, odd and scary all rolled into one. happy halloween

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  6. I grew up in Canada in the 1950's and we observed many of the same superstitions. I had forgotten some of them. We somehow felt closer to the natural and supernatural world than many do today where we live in our electronic bubbles. Thanks for the vivid walk down memory lane. It was spooktacular!

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    1. thank you for the lovely comment. ghosts and superstitions were such an important part of our lives - they determined whether the fish would be caught and boats would return safely. happy halloween

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  7. This is fabulous! I was right there with you the entire time. You make me nostalgic for a place I've never been, a time I never knew. We had seances also, where we tried to roust Edgar Allen Poe. Glad he didn't show up. Our grave yards were tucked neatly out of suburbanite's view, sanitized. When I drove by the one old one in a nearby town, I never wanted to look at it. Afraid I'd see a wandering spirit ... because, well, I'd seen a ghost nightly when I was around 3, 4 ,and 5. Or I thought I did. My parents would find me in the morning, in the hallway, curled in a ball. That's what I'd do to make the ghost go away -- curl up. Looking back, I think I was sleepwalking. But my great grandmother always believed me. Why? Because her mother had always seen a ghost at the foot of her bed -- where she lived in England, in a place with a mote (I've seen photos) under which there were tunnels where monks traveled. Okay, see? Your post got me thinking about my own ghosts. That's what wonderful writing does -- makes readers relate.

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    1. oh you sweet thing - i walked in my sleep until i was a teenager. my mother would wake to find me gone - sometimes outside. she attributed it to my being "queer" - which was 60's heterosexual speak for "odd"

      i glad i made you think about your ghosts - that's what you do all the time to me - make me think, sometimes so hard i get a headache. :)

      happy halloween. i had only seven very warmly dressed trick or treaters.

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  8. I have never told a ghost story in my life, do I believe in ghosts yes I do and in the afterlife and spirts that are not at rest am I afraid of them nope no bloody way......this post has made me wonder did I miss out on something as a child not telling ghost stories and such.......hmmmmmm.........no I didn't I had a great childhood.......

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    1. dearest jo-anne - i needed the shit scared out of me as a child. i loved all the drama of the ghost story and the graveyard. but to be honest i loved any kind of drama.
      happy halloween and thank you for visiting and commenting. i love seeing your little picture and name show up.

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  9. Dear Bev, you've written many posts that have drawn me into your life--with you mom, especially, when she visited. But this one truly intrigues me. I find it wholly satisfying as it raises such philosophical questions about life and death, hope and despair, superstition and folklore, childhood and adulthood as well as the afterlife, the foibles of adults, the fears and tingles of childhood.

    Raised as a Roman Catholic, folklore and ghost stories were never part of my life. My grandmother did have an ouija board, but my mother forbade me from playing it, although my grandmother ignored that and insisted I play with her. I felt a frisson of fear when I did so.

    This posting could be turned into a fascinating short article for a magazine. Think about it. Peace.

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    1. dear dee - you are making me blush. thank you so much. just like jo-anne, i love seeing your little picture and name show up here.

      where i was raised it appeared that religion and folklore were comfortable bedfellows. ghosts were common and superstitions were followed like commandments. weird isn't it.

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  10. I love the macabre. Always have. I don't know why. Went from Nancy Drew to Alfred Hitchcock to The Exorcist and all that followed. I keep hoping I'll find myself in a haunted house -- castle, if I have my way -- but so far I've had no luck.

    This stuff fascinates me.

    Thanks for a great post as always. Hope you enjoyed your Halloween.

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    1. oh dear june, i'm so glad you survived the storm. i never comment on facebook as i'm afraid it may lead to my mother finding this blog (ha ha) but i followed your progress and thought about you. stay safe.

      thanks and i too love all the scary shit. i spent half my childhood screaming my head off.

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  11. Thanks for coming by my blog and following!
    Now following back!
    XOXO, Leslie

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    1. thank you leslie for commenting and following.

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  12. Though I didn't grow up near the shore, my heart and soul are deeply entrenched here in New England. And yes, I grew up with many of the same superstitions and activities. I was always very comfortable in graveyards, still am actually!

    Thank you so much for writing this. Beautifully written.

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  13. thank you amy. this connection with the afterworld has stayed with me

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  14. Hello Bev!

    I thought I'd bob by :) Have to say that is a really interesting post, I was raised in a household that didn't speak of the afterlife or death in general. I think with the upbringing you have there is no fear, just understanding and curiousity.

    It's a wonderful thing.

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    1. thank you loki lou for visiting and commenting. there was quite a bit of fear but excitement won the day.

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  15. Hey there Bev, I made it (eventually)!

    My family have always played with supersitions, paying the lip service to them but never really beleiving them. That said they hold a facination for me!

    Nice to have 'met you'. New follower too ;-)

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    1. hey there sleepy joe. i think our beliefs were so intertwined with our lives. we felt safe as a people if we followed our rituals. thanks for the visit, comment and follow

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  16. Absolutely fascinating stuff. Thank you for the visit and the follow. I am happy to be following you back.

    Kathy
    http://gigglingtruckerswife.blogspot.com

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    1. thank you kathy for the visiting, commenting and following.

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  17. Hi! I am your newest follower and was hoping that you would stop by my blog and follow me back!

    www.enjoyingtheepiphany.com

    Thanks,
    Sarah

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    1. hi sarah. i visited and your blog is just lovely. i quickly became a follower and will be a frequent visitor.

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  18. hi bev,
    we have more or less the same superstitious beliefs. I also believe in ghost and afterlife. very interesting post you have here. thanks for dropping by.

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