FESTIVALS OF DARKNESS

At this time of year, as the days get darker and the nights get longer, it’s easy to be cat and candlemore aware of the mysterious side of life. Fear of the unknown is an important part of Halloween, Samhain and even Guy Fawkes Night. The ancient purpose of these rituals has always been to keep us safe from the dangers of the coming darkness.     

The word Halloween comes from the Christian festival of All Hallows Eve. However, this seasonal ritual began centuries before Christianity. Originally called Samhain (pronounced Sow’en), it marked the turning point between the end of summer and the start of winter.

Even with a good harvest stored away, people feared the deadly powers of winter on the way. So this was a time to make offerings of thanks to the sun god Baal – both for the bounty of the past summer, and for continued protection through the winter.

cauldron candlesPeople said this turning point of the year caused the veil between the worlds to become thin, bringing a time of danger, excitement and wonder. Charms and spells would be especially powerful at Samhain. Evil spirits could also come through, seeking humans to possess or destroy. Druid priests performed special rituals at this time to appease the spirits of the dead.

For additional protection, on the eve of Samhain the private home fires were put out. This made the houses look empty, so that malignant forces would pass them by. Instead, the people built a huge communal fire outside. They then feasted and danced around it, wearing fearsome masks and animal disguises of skins, horns and antlers to drive away the horrors of the dark.

The custom of trick or treat also has prehistoric roots. It began with people putting fall witchy lanefood in front of their houses to placate the demons then roaming the land looking for sustenance –preferably in human form. People later began to act out that drama themselves. They masqueraded as demons, going from house to house demanding offerings, with threats of retribution if unsatisfied – a bit like an early protection racket. The masked children who knock on doors at Halloween are performing the same ritual, still fresh from the wild side of the human psyche.

Much like our modern electoral system, in ancient times the tribe chose a leader to reign for just one year. During this year, their temporary king had every luxury available. Then they sacrificed him and chose a replacement.  

samhain-ritualThe sacrifice of the old year’s king was a central purpose of the Samhain fire. It was called the bone fire because when it was over, the shaman read the dead king’s bones in the ashes for good or bad omens. With one letter dropped, it’s now our merry bonfire. The annual burning of a man’s effigy on Guy Fawkes Night is a direct echo of this arcane ritual.     

Our early winter festivals are like a gnarled old tree. While their roots still go down to these ancient terrors, the festivals these days are more about fun than fear. It feels good to thrill to the mysteries of life when we feel perfectly safe. Or are we? Maybe the veils between the worlds really are thinner at this time of year. Wishing everyone a joyfully spooky Halloween, Samhain, and bonfire night!

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GHOSTS OF THE ROAD

(A shorter version of this article was first published in my ‘Tales from the Other Side’ column in Glastonbury’s Oracle Magazine, October 2017)

Surrounding and permeating the world we can see is a greater reality that is looking_for_magical_wonders_by_jerry8448usually invisible to us. However, most people get a sense of the realms beyond the veil at least once in their lives.

Ghost sightings are especially common. There are so many reports, and of so many different kinds, that this article is about one type only – haunted roadways near where I live in Glastonbury, in the South West of England.

Ghosts of the road are usually about emotionally charged events that happened at those places. The drama seems to leave an imprint on the atmosphere, so the peak moment keeps replaying on an endless time-loop. This can go on for hundreds of years before eventually fading away.  

coach horsesA good example of this type is the phantom coach and horses of Bath’s Royal Crescent. It continually re-enacts the drama of the playwright Richard Sheridan eloping with Elizabeth Linley. He’d already fought two duels over her honour, so their flight was electric with excitement and danger.

GHOSTS AND ROAD ACCIDENTS

Tales of ghost hitchhikers abound all over the world. On the Frome to Nunney road, motorists sometimes see a hitchhiker in a flannel shirt standing in the middle of the road. He then appears briefly in the back of the car before vanishing. Perhaps a car killed him on that spot. Suddenly catapulted out of his body, he may not have realised what happened at first. His spirit entered the car as if he’d been given a lift – and has continued replaying that experience ever since.

highwayman ghostPhantom highwaymen haunt many British roads. Hundreds of years ago, Pocock the highwayman died of wounds after a fight near what is now the A39, between Street and Bridgwater. People see him on his horse, which is always rather oddly galloping on the spot. The shock of this sight has apparently caused several road accidents there.

On the Brockley Road, a coach and four horses sometimes charges at oncoming traffic, creating predictable havoc and inevitable collisions. At midnight on moonless nights, a ghostly horseman also appears on this road.

Another crash-causing apparition sometimes manifests in the middle of a little road in the ancient village of North Petherton. It’s a coffin with a spectral man sitting on it. This not only startles motorists, for some strange reason it also gives cars mechanical problems. 

NOISY GHOSTS

ghost trainGhosts are not always silent. In 1857, two steam engines collided on the old Kentsford railway line. Several people died and many were badly injured. People still hear that crash and sometimes see a ghostly train go by.

On the road between Bridgwater and Western Zoyland, several people have heard the doleful hymns the Duke of Monmouth’s rebel band of men sang as they went home after the king’s army defeated them at the Battle of Sedgemoor in 1685.

This type of haunting is like a recorded hologram from the past. It doesn’t interact with us.  However, there are many different kinds of ghosts, and some are more aware than others are.

EARTH BOUND SPIRITS

The ghost of Molly the tea lady still haunts Yeovil Train Station. Although she died on the platform in the 1960s, she continues to potter around, turning things on and off, and moving cutlery around. If anyone asks her to stop that, she does.

Molly sounds like an earth-bound spirit. This type of ghost is more conscious than the holograms. In limited ways, they can interact with us and our world. They haunt places because they don’t realise that they have passed on. This is why they behave as if they are still in their physical life.

When earth-bound spirits realise they have passed on, they are then able to see the guides or loved ones who have been trying to get their attention all that time. Usually with great emotion, they are then able to accept that help and move on to the spirit world.

A STRANGE LIGHT

On the A39 between Street and the M5 is a deeply wooded area where a strange white light sometimes follows cars. As soon as anyone turns round to look at it, it vanishes. Maybe it’s something that lives in the woods, which is curious about people, but shy of making contact.

Countless numbers of strange mysteries are out there – many that we’ve heard about, and probably scores more that we haven’t. As Hamlet said, “There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamed of in your philosophy”.

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Have you ever had a ghostly experience? If you’d like to share it in confidentiality, you can contact me through my website: www.pastlifesglastonbury.co.uk

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SPOOKY STORIES

spooky-driveway1When I was a child, we lived in a haunted house. It even looked haunted, with a long driveway lined by tall trees, which kept it in perpetual shadow.

I did my piano practice in the unoccupied cottage. Everything in there was covered with white dustsheets. All the time I was practicing, it felt like someone was watching me from behind. As long as I kept on playing, I felt safe. When it was time to go, I’d suddenly slam the piano shut, grab my music sheets and rush out as fast as I could.

One night I felt a thump right next to me on my pillow. It felt like a small creature then trotted down the bed and jumped off the end. With a sigh, I figured a cat had come in the window and I’d have to put it out.

I got up, put on the light, and started looking for the cat. It was nowhere to be found. Finally, I looked behind the curtains – and saw that the windows had been closed all the time. No physical animal could have got in…

 HAUNTED GARDENS

eyesGardens as well as houses can be haunted. At another house when I was about five, the wild area behind the vegetable garden always felt eerie. In the garden of a friend’s house, some downright sinister events once took place.  

“My daughter had a friend to stay, and they wanted to sleep in the caravan in the garden,” she said. “During the night, they heard a thump on top of the caravan. Then there was scratching at the door. It got louder and then started tapping. When they went outside to look, nothing was there.

 At that time, I found a bird drowned in the pond, which felt like a bad omen. And there was a tree that used to shake as if somebody was climbing in it, when no one was there. So we decided to start having lots of jolly barbecues in the garden, to change the atmosphere. That seemed to drive away whatever it was.”

 THE GIRL WHO SAW GHOSTS

Another friend told me how her daughter, Vicki, was able to see ghosts. On a visit to Kings College Hospital in London she said, “We were walking down the corridor and Vicki said she could see ghosts everywhere. They were lying on stretchers, sitting on chairs, walking along – the place was full of them. She was so frightened she was clutching onto me. I tried to get her to wait for me with the lady in charge of the flower shop, but she refused to let me go.

3D render depicting an overgrown neglected cemetaryin misty twilight.

At another time, we were on a drive with my partner. We stopped at a church in the middle of nowhere. Vicki went with him to look at the churchyard – but came rushing out straight away and jumped back into the car, very frightened. She said she could see strange things over the graves.

One day when we were visiting friends, she said there was a little old lady sitting in a chair. For us, the chair was empty of course. We got her to describe what the old lady looked like, and what she was wearing. When they went through the family album, they found a photo of a great grandmother who was dressed exactly as Vicki had described.

One of the men did an experiment – he slowly tipped the chair forward and asked Vicki what she saw then. She said the old lady looked left and right, and then disappeared. That happened every time he tipped the chair forward.”

 ASTRAL PROJECTION

astral1Ghosts are not always the spirits of dead people. They can also be astral projections from the living. A few years ago, a male friend and I were drifting apart because we had little in common. In the small hours one night, I went into the kitchen for some water. There was enough moonlight, so I didn’t bother to put the light on.

I nearly dropped my glass when I saw this man’s face hovering in the air outside the window. I must have been half-asleep at the time, which was why I could see an astral form. When the fright fully woke me up, the image disappeared.

Although most people don’t see the astral plane when in full waking consciousness, there are many other ways to sense astral projections and psychic connections. For example, when we see someone clearly in our mind’s eye, it’s often a sign they’re thinking about us. It’s also worth bearing in mind that negative feelings we think are our own may in fact be coming from someone else.   

pd_arl_010_astral_travelFor many children, especially when still very young, the astral world can be as real as the physical. Sarah told me of an experience she had when she was about five years old. 

“One night, I got up from bed and went into the kitchen where the adults were. But nobody took any notice of me. I couldn’t stand it! So I decided to go and annoy my sister, thinking that’ll get me some attention. She hated being poked. So I went to poke her – and my hand went right through her! That really frightened me. I went back to bed as fast as I could!”

 THE EXORCIST

Strange experiences can also occur in broad daylight, with normal looking people. This account was first published in my book Magic Past Lives. An acupuncturist who is now passed on told me about this strange incident that he saw on a train.

A man in a business suit was sitting diagonally opposite an equally conventionally dressed woman. There was an unheard exchange between them. The man then started reading his newspaper, holding it up like a barrier.

31-les-allies-dans-la-magieThe woman became angry, and started flicking aggressively at his paper. When that didn’t work, she rolled up her newspaper and began to slap it loudly on the palm of her hand. The man continued to ignore her. It then looked like she was trying to beam bad vibes at him with strange and vehement hand gestures. He steadfastly continued reading his paper.

At the next stop, she got off the train. The others in the carriage gave a round of applause to him for withstanding what was clearly a psychic attack. My friend suggested to him that it might be a good idea to see an exorcist now. To which the man calmly replied, “I am an exorcist”.

HEAVENLY PROTECTION

The following account from one of my readers is also about a daytime experience with paranormal undertones – but this time with a very different vibration.

“A few years ago on a dark winter afternoon I was working at a community center. Three of us were standing around the reception desk. We were the only people there at that late hour. We were talking about how strange it was that that particular date was a traumatic anniversary for all of us.

In different years, but on exactly that date, one of us had been diagnosed with cancer, and the other two had bad car accidents. Now the day had come round again and we were all three together, talking about it. We couldn’t help wondering if another awful thing was destined to happen to us on that day. 

All of a sudden, a nun in full habit – the only time I’ve seen a nun in full habit in that town – came rushing in, asking directions to a nearby highway. We told her how to get there and she rushed out.

mary-medalThen a few seconds later, she came rushing in again. She pulled out a large plastic bag full of Virgin Mary medals, gave one to each of us and said, ‘These will protect you’.

We’d stopped talking as soon as she came into the building, so she couldn’t have heard our conversation. No further bad things happened to any of us on that day.

There’s no way of knowing if that was because of the talisman the nun gave us – but I still have it, and I carry it with me all the time. The three of us still talk about the day a nun came in and gave us protection against the bad luck of that date.”

 GHOSTLY FOOTSTEPS

Protection from the spirit world can take many strange forms. A friend of mine, Peter, once had a small factory. It had an attic that was hardly used – a few things were stored up there, but it was mostly an open wooden floor. 

“We learned that whenever we heard ghostly footsteps walking up there, it was a warning from the other side,” said Peter. “When it sounded like a woman walking briskly along in high-heel shoes, it was about something wrong on the financial side of the business. Maybe someone was trying to pay us with a bouncy cheque – that sort of thing.

Then there was the slower and heavier footfall of a man. Whenever we heard this, it meant problems or dangers on the factory floor. We always checked our systems whenever we heard these footsteps. And they always turned out to be valid warnings.”

 COMFORTING VISITS FROM THE OTHER SIDE

proxyMany paranormal experiences come to us with the intent to help or comfort. This is especially true when the spirits of those who have recently passed over appear to loved ones to reassure them that all is well. They want their grieving families or friends to know that they are still alive, just living in another realm.

One of my readers e-mailed me with the following account:

“When I was a small child, I had a favorite uncle who passed over. I was at his funeral and felt such a loss knowing I would miss him in the future. Even though I saw him lying in the casket I knew in my heart that he was no longer there – that was just the shell of his body.

The following morning, as I was getting up for school, I saw him standing in the doorway in his favorite blue pinstriped suit. He just looked at me for a moment as though to let me know everything was going to be all right. Then he was gone.

I couldn’t tell anyone because we weren’t allowed to talk about such things back when I was a child. I know in my heart he came back to give me peace of mind. To let me know he would always be watching over me, even though no words were spoken.”

We live in a reality that is more mysterious than it seems. Countless people can recall at least one strange occurrence in their lives. Have you ever experienced anything that feels paranormal? If you’d like to share your experiences, you’re welcome to add your comments to this article, or contact me more privately through the Contact Page on my website.

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THE GHOSTS OF GLASTONBURY

Crow MoonHuge numbers of people have encountered ghosts. Individual researchers and organisations like the Society for Psychical Research have collected tottering piles of their accounts. Even so, these are probably just the tip of the iceberg compared to all the experiences that people don’t bother to report.

But what are ghosts? And where do they come from?

One theory says that traumatic past events leave an imprint on the astral atmosphere. The ghosts we see are therefore a kind of fading echo.

However, many places seem more actively haunted than that. Perhaps these spirits find it hard to let go of experiences they had in that place.

With its rich and ancient history, Glastonbury is a prime location for that kind of ghost.

GLASTONBURY ABBEY
A good place to set off on this virtual ghost tour is Glastonbury Abbey. In the middle ages, it dominated this area for the best part of a thousand years. Moreover, it wasn’t just any Abbey. It was the oldest, most powerful and most prestigious in the land.

So it’s hardly surprising to find the Abbey’s monks still hanging around. People have seen them in all kinds of unlikely places – walking through houses, passing by windows – two were even seen fishing in the River Brue.Abbey

Visitors to the Abbey can sometimes hear the faint sound of their chanting. Cold shivers and goosebumps come up when they find out that no earthly choirs were practicing that day.

Different people at unconnected times have also managed to photograph white spectral forms in the Abbey grounds.

Although most of the monks who haunt Glastonbury seem to be here in a spirit of devotion, psychics have also perceived some from the darker side of Abbey life.

• There is a suicidal monk, of quite high office – blackmailed about his illegitimate child with a local woman.

• A harmless mad monk wanders the orchard, mumbling to himself. His madness came of innocently drinking the dregs of a lethal poison meant for someone else.

• The restless ghost of a monk who was secretly one of Henry VIII’s spies still prowls around the grounds.

GHOSTS OF FAMOUS ABBOTS

• In the 10th century, St Dunstan was both Abbot of Glastonbury Abbey and Archbishop of Canterbury. Many think that he now haunts St Dunstan’s church in his birthplace of Baltonsborough.

• Abbot Whiting is said to haunt Dod Lane – originally called ‘Dead Lane’ because funeral processions once went along this road. Whiting was hung, drawn and quartered on the Tor for resisting the king’s Dissolution of the Monasteries. So it’s not surprising to hear that his ghost may be haunting this ancient funerary pathway.

BLIGH BOND’S GHOST MESSAGES
A good source of information about Glastonbury’s ghostly monks was the architect and church restorer, Frederick Bligh Bond.

From 1907 to 1922, he used automatic writing to see if he could find out about the original structures of the Abbey. At that time, very little was known about that. Archaeological digging later showed that everything the ghost monks told Bligh Bond about the old Abbey was correct.G'bury monks

These monks were also quite chatty about themselves. (N.B. I have modernised the medieval spelling for easier reading)

“Why cling I to that which is not?” one of them remarked. “Part of me dwells in the past and is bound to that which my carnal soul loved and called ‘home’ these many years. Yet I, Johannes, am of many parts, and the better part does other things. Laus, Laus, Deo! Only that part which remembers clings like memory to what it sees yet.”

Johannes said he mostly remembers just the little things about his Abbey life. However, these human touches truly bring these memories to life for us.

“I remember using the stairs often for my fatness,” he said. “But it availed me not, though my father prior recommended it often. Alas! I waxed more fat.”

And: “I loved the rain on our hundred roofs and myriad voice that came from the waterspouts, when the gargoyles shouted each to each. The cloisters whispered comfort and refreshment as we lay under the dormer roof in parched and sultry nights. I did sleep on the south side, next to the great gable, and so I heard the sound whilst the others slept. Vai Mubi, that it is departed and the voices are heard no more.”

THE GEORGE AND PILGRIM HOTEL
George_and_Pilgrims_Hotel,_GlastonburyGlastonbury’s most famously haunted place is the George and Pilgrim Hotel. It was built in about 1475, to accommodate wealthy pilgrims and other Abbey visitors.

In the years of intrigue leading up to the 1540 Dissolution, all kinds of secret matters went on via the underground passage that used to run from the hotel’s cellar to the Abbey Gatehouse.

One of the hotel managers told me that both guests and staff regularly report paranormal encounters. He described his own experience:

“It was late night, after closing time. The place was locked up, the guests all in their rooms. A few of us were sitting quietly chatting. Suddenly the back door slammed. Footsteps came down the passage. We went to see who it was, but no-one was there – and all the doors were still locked.”

Other incidents people often report are:

• A man in historical dress walks through the bar then disappears.
• Ghostly footsteps creak in the passages.
• An inexplicable smell of cigar smoke drifts into certain bedrooms in the small hours of the night.
• Moving lights and sudden bangs happen at odd moments.
• A violent argument rages in the small lounge when no one is there.
• Spectral monks sometimes waft through the passages.
• Frightening presences lurk in certain bedrooms at night.

MAGDALENE STREET CHAPEL
The top of Magdelene Street is one of the oldest parts of town, and has some strange tales of its own to tell.

The small chapel and garden there is on the site of an old hospice once run by the Abbey. People have 41b st margarets chapel and almshousesglimpsed ethereal monks here too, as well as a tall figure of white light in the entrance to the chapel.

A heavy feeling of sadness once permeated the place – especially in one of the upper rooms. A few years ago, the sad feeling was taken seriously enough to receive a full church exorcism.

I decided to see what more I could find out about that. Without giving them any information, I asked three different psychics to tune in and see what they could sense about that place. They came up with remarkably similar perceptions.

The sad tale that emerged was about a woman who gave birth in that upper room. She was in great fear, because she knew certain persons wanted her or the baby dead.

Desperately, she tried to hide the baby and keep the birth a secret. But one day, men burst into her room and snatched her child from her arms. She never saw it again, and grieved forever after.

THE BATTLE OF SEDGEMORE
In the 17th century, the Duke of Monmouth tried to raise a rebellion against the Crown. The king’s army brutally crushed the small rebel force at the Battle of Sedgemore, fairly near to Glastonbury.

Six of the Glastonbury men who had joined Monmouth’s forces were publicly hanged near to where the 8 ass rms 1Assembly Rooms is today. The spectre of those hanging figures is still sometimes sensed there today.

The Sedgemore battlefield itself is famously haunted. The ghostly sound of marching troops – maybe the King’s men – sometimes echoes down Glastonbury High Street, and makes the ground shake for no visible reason.

THE SPIRIT OF THE PILGRIMS
The procession of devoted pilgrims coming to Glastonbury over the centuries has also left a strong imprint. Sensitives say that along Chilkwell Street in the still hours of the night, it’s still possible to feel the pilgrims’ tearful joy as they reached this important destination.

spooky TorGLASTONBURY TOR
The Tor has a rich mystical history, and many strange things happen there. Because there’s just too much to fit in here, the Tor has its own articles, which you can read at these links:

Mysteries of Glastonbury Tor

The Mists of Avalon

HOUSEHOLD GHOSTS
pet ghostGlastonbury also has its share of private household ghosts – even pet cats and dogs sometimes haunt their old homes.

Someone who was visiting a house in Roman Way said, “I went to get something from the kitchen. There I saw someone who I hadn’t been introduced to. On my return to the sitting room, I asked who it was.

My hosts were surprised and said no one else was in the house. When I described her, they said it sounded like the woman they’d bought the house from.

She’d left the place against her wishes when she and her husband sold it, and died shortly afterwards. The rumour was that she’d committed suicide.”

Another Glastonian told me that when she’s out driving she sometimes glimpses the ghost of her late father in the back seat of her car. When he was alive, he was always telling her to drive more cautiously – so she thinks these appearances are partly to say hello, and partly to remind her to be careful.

A young Glastonbury woman told me that she knows when her Grandad’s ghost has come to call because all the lights go fully bright.

“When I say ‘come on Grandad, you know I don’t like the lights so bright’ he dims them again,” she said.

Another household hauntee decided to challenge her ghost. She demanded, “If you’re real, why don’t you prove it and switch the kettle on?”

She said she had the fright of her life when the kettle suddenly started to boil all by itself.

WHAT TO DO IF YOU MEET A GHOST
The first thing to do is keep calm. Many ghosts come to us for positive reasons. These are often family or friends who have passed on. They want us to know that they’re not really dead – they are just living in another realm. When this kind of ghost appears, be open to any messages they may wish to give you.

Other ghosts haunt certain places because strong memories are keeping them there. Often filled with fear, sorrow or anger, these hauntings can feel the most disturbing.

However, if you have an encounter like this, the ghost may be hardly aware of you. Breathe slowly and deeply to keep yourself calm. Say ‘I wish you peace’. Then ask higher powers to guide this spirit to the light.

With this preparation in mind, who knows – one day you may give a sad spirit exactly the help they might have needed for centuries.

Have you ever encountered a ghost? If so I’ve love to hear about it. You can add your comments to this article, or CONTACT ME through my website.
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