dezembro 02, 2012

Northern Lights and other psychic stories by E. D'Espérance 1

Northern Lights and other psychic stories
by E. D'Espérance.

Author of Shadowland

London
George Redway
1899



Psychic Stories

Introductory

One phrase of thought, certainly by no means modern, has played, and is playing, an important part in the lives and religious opinions of a vast number of persons. I allude to the general belief among certain classes of simple minded – I will not say ignorant – persons, of the frequent return to earth of the departed, and the intervention in human affairs of disembodied spirits of men.

The beliefs are not confined to one country nor to one people. Nor can they be said to exist among the most ignorant alone, for in many cases the groundwork of these beliefs defies the scientific investigator, who armed with learning, tries to explain them by the natural laws with which he is acquainted.

My studies and investigations have been more particularly in Scandinavia, in Bavaria, in the Tyrol, and among the Wendish people – the Sorbet – that small remnant of once powerful Sclavonic race (now almost extinct) which came from the East about the year A.D. 400. They inhabit a part of Saxony called the Lauzitz district, although at one time they were spread over an immense tract of country, and traces of their language are left in such names as Pemerania (po more – by the sea); Leipzig (from lipa = the lind); Brietzen (from breza = the birch). They are a somewhat phlegmatic and unimaginative people, industrious and thrifty to an extreme, in a country where industry and thrift are the characteristic features of the people. They are intelligent, matter-of-fact, practical in all their actions, deeply religious, and conservative in their ideas, keeping strictly to all the observances of church ceremonials, Saints’ and holy days, whether they belong to the Catholic or Lutheran churches; for, be it known, they are not all agreed on questions of theology. Some of the Wendish villages are peopled by adherents to the Romish Church, and others exclusively inhabited by the followers of Martin Luther.

However much they may differ in their religious opinions hey are equally well informed, and agree entirely in the belief in the return of spirits, and their influence upon the living, as well as in the possession, by certain persons, of miraculous powers of healing, divination, or water finding. They are also great believers in the efficacy of charms for the protection of children, animals, or property, one of the most common of these being a red ribbon, tied round the neck or wrist of a fine, well-grown, healthy child, or round the neck or tail of an animal that is either a favourite with its owner or is a particularly fine creature – the red ribbon being supposed to ward off evil powers in much the same way, presumably, as anything of a red colour has a deterring effect against the onslaughts of certain birds and animals. It is to be remarked that a puny child, or an animal of average, or under average quality, is not supposed to be the object of quality, is not supposed to be the object of envy by the supernatural powers, and in that case the same precautions are not taken. On the same principle it is dangerous to remark on the thriving appearance of either child or animal, lest the hidden powers should hear and act upon it to its disadvantage. Therefore it is customary, when admiration of any living creature is expressed, to quickly add the words, “Let it be as though unspoken.”

Another charm, not quite so innocent, is one curative of diseases of the skin. Any one so afflicted, they say, need only bury a garment which he has worn next the body. This garment, if discovered by any person or animal, transfers the disease from the one who wore the garment to the finder thereof. This custom is so common – being said to be a positive cure – that the authorities inflict a penalty on any one found to have buried such a garment, though, to avoid discovery, it is usual to tear it into shreds and bury it piecemeal. Many sicknesses among dogs are supposed to have been traced to the digging up of such disease-laden rags.

Among these same people are certain individuals said to be able to cure diseases by the simple process of “speaking over” the sick persons. The efficacy of the operation in two separate cases can be vouched for, as these cases occurred in the household where I was residing. One patient – the cook – had been incapacitated for some weeks, and the doctor who attended her comforted her by saying it was only a matter of time, she must be patient, and one evening sought the wise woman of the village – a crone of nearly a hundred years – and returned apparently quite cured, telling delightedly of her restored health, and at the same time asking permission to attend a ball, to be given in a day or two’s time. There did not seem to be any mistake as to the woman’s previous ailments, nor could there be any mistake as to her apparent restoration to health. But how was is done? The young woman was obstinately silent as to the words used or means employed by the healer. That was a secret she might not reveal, she said.

Another case was that of the gardener, who was suffering from rheumatism and swollen joints. His cure was nor so rapid. He was obliged to pay three visits to the same wise woman; nevertheless the cure was completed within ten days.

Another method of healing practiced by men on their own sex. Is that of “pulling”. The patient is stretched on the ground, his body twisted, and his limbs pulled till they accord with measurements taken by the “doctor” while the patient was in good health. This method is, they say, singularly successful with many diseases. If the patient is nor cured it is generally asserted that it is because the “doctor has lost or forgotten his measurements.” From the reports of the patients themselves this process of cure is not without certain drawbacks; for, it cured of his maladies, he comes out of the struggle with a distinct sensation of soreness, and a few blue of black marks on his body.

The “Water Finder” is a man much in request. One whom I have met in the exercise of his calling interested me greatly. He was of the peasant class, yet superior to the ordinary type, with quiet, refined manners, low voice and slow of speech, and having a somewhat abstracted and slightly melancholy look about the eyes, that now and again gave place to a startled expression when he was spoken to. I followed him for a couple of hours one morning, nothing his movements, as he walked slowly along carrying a forked willow twig in his hands. Is was a question whether there was water to fill some new fish ponds that were about to be made, and the services of the Water Finder were engaged to find out, first, if there was water to be had, and second, where, and at what depths. Grasping a prong of the forked twig (draw) in each hand, holding it upright, the apex pointing to the skies, the man walked slowly onward in a zigzag direction, followed by several curious and interested onlookers. After a time the twig writhed like a living thing in his hands, and bent over outwards till the apex pointed to the earth.

“Here is water.” He remarked quietly. “Mark the place.”

“How deep?” asked the forest, who walked by his side.

“Thirty feet at least!”

“Too deep! Go on.”

A little later the same writhing of the twig occurred, and again it pointed downwards.

“Here is also water. Mark the place!”

“How deep think you?”

“Ten feet about.”

Again and again the performance was repeated, the Water Finder giving instructions that the places the places should be marked, and stating the depth at which water would be found.

In answer to inquiries as to how he knew of the depth, he replied that it was only by experience, and that he had learned to judge of the distance of the water. The nearer the surface, he said, the more like a living thing did the twig act. Indeed it sometimes blistered or broke the skin of his hands, in twisting itself downwards.

“What do you suppose is the reason of its acting in this manner?” he was asked.

“I cannot tell. It is, I suppose, the life that is in the twig that longs for water, and tries to reach it. The twig must be cut from a branch that grows beside and overhangs water, and it must only have been cut a few hours; it must be thirsty, but not dried and withered, or it will nor act.”

“But if left to itself it would lie and wither; water would have no power to draw it nearer to it?”

“No! There must be something in my hands which helps it, but do not understand it. There are so many things we cannot understand!”

Among the party who accompanied the Water Finder there were several who held the twig as directed, but in every case except one, that of a lady, the twig remained perfectly passive. With the day, however, the twig became quite lively when she came near the indicated spots; and when she carried it towards a pond of water, it wrenched itself with such force that it caused an abrasion of the skin on the lady’s palms.

Boring later at the marked spots, the fact was proved that water existed there and at or about the indicated depths. From the supply of water obtained from the springs found by the Water Finder, on that occasion, a miniature lake of 2500 feet long, by 800 or 900 feet broad, has been filled, as well as a fish pond of nearly double that area.

There are to be found also certain persons gifted with the power of stemming the flow of blood from wounds. Many cases are related where accidents, to men or animals, appeared likely to result in death from loss of blood had it not been for the timely arrival of the “Blood Stopper,” who, by touching the open wound, or passing his hand over the veins, caused instant cessation of the flow of blood.

These wonders are not believed in and practiced by the peasant class alone. The services of the “Water Finder” and “Blood Stopper” are sought by all, whether high or low. Indeed, a certain nobleman at the Court is said to possess the water-finding power in a high degree, and is not above practicing it when required.

Under these circumstances, in a district where miracles such as described are of daily occurrence, one can scarcely wonder that the people are firm believers in supernatural influences, ghosts, and haunted houses or localities.

The up-to-date materialist would say that it is only in such a hot-bed of superstition that ghosts can thrive, and that the miracles can be explained by natural laws; that, in point of fact, the miracles could not be performed among persons of more enlightened and scientifically trained minds; that, given a few ignorant villagers, a modicum of credulity, together with one or two knaves to cunningly mix the whole, miracle and ghosts could be produced ad libitum.

Spiritualists would say, on the contrary, that the simple lives, the simple faith, and religious instincts of the people bring them nearer to the great unseen world of spirits; and that their minds not being hampered or biased by skeptical or materialistic ideas, the spiritual influences have a fair field for their operations.

Be this as it may, it is not my province to assert the one or the other, but only to relate facts, and leave the reader to judge which is the more reasonable conclusion. One remark, however, I must add. It is hard to see what part ignorance, faith, credulity, or cunning can play in the actions of a willow twig, or in the sudden cessation of the flow of blood from the cur arteries of a horse.

It is true that the belief in ghostly visitants can have at times very unpleasant results, and one is inclined to anathematize the overweening credulity which caused them. I will relate one case in point, where this belief was the cause of a serious loss and the escape of some daring burglars.

The home of a friend of mine in the same district was one night entered by burglars. They made their entrance – as was discovered too late – through one of the second floor windows by means of a ladder. The whole of that floor was unoccupied at night, save one little room in which a man-servant slept. On the floor below – the ground floor – the watchman and the dogs were supposed to keep guard. On the following morning the robbery was discovered. A quantity of jewellery, plate, and valuables was missing, and, as if to show how leisurely the thieves had prosecuted their search, they had chosen, and evidently lighted, some choice, cigars, and had also emptied a bottle of wine.

On comparing notes, it turned out that every one in the house had heard sounds of footsteps, of doors opening, and of low voices in conversation, but such sounds being usual, no one had thought it worth while to get out of bed to investigate matters.

“Of course I heard something moving about,” said the lady of the house, “but that is so often to be heard that, if I disturbed myself every time, I should never get a night’s rest.

The night watchman, and old retainer of the family, remorsefully confessed that he had heard the sounds, and that the dogs had barked and growled for some time. “But,” he added, “I quietened them so as not to disturb anybody, because of course I naturally thought that it was the old baron or some of the other ghosts that always walk about the castle at night.”

The servant who slept near to the rooms which had been the scene of the robbery confessed to having been aroused by sounds of whispering and by hearing the dogs bark; but he, too, concluded it could only be the ghosts a little more in evidence than usual, and crossed himself piously, praying that they might not come near him.

So the burglars got clear away with their booty and were never traced.

Though, according to report, “the old baron and other ghosts” continue to perambulate the castle rooms, the barred shutters that have since been provided to all the accessible windows and the electric bells communicating with various departments of the household, that have been arranged in every room, have  afforded protection against non-ghostly or burglariously-minded intruders.

It was my residence in this castle, and association with the people in the vicinity, that suggested to me the idea of collecting the various stories, and presenting them to the public. Those contained in this volume are but a very small part of what have been related to me. I have chosen them because, in all cases where I have not myself participated in the recorded incidents, the narrators are known to me, as well as to hundreds of other people, as being both trustworthy and veracious. Where names have been used in the stories, they are the actual names of the people and places. When initials only have been used, it is because the persons most concerned are either still living themselves, or their near relatives are still on earth, and object to having any clue to their identity given to the public.

In most cases, where it has been practicable, there stories have, moreover, been submitted to the actors therein or the narrators thereof, on order that no inaccuracy might inadvertently be published.


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