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Every religion professes the existence of an afterlife. It provides excellent motivation when absolute faith is required of the practitioners. If their assumption is indeed true, we are all part of something much larger than we can comprehend. Among the sacred doctrines, the existence of a soul is less of a point of contention than what happens to that soul after death.

Early Romans observed the Feast of the Lemures, during which the unwholesome and malevolent specters of the restless dead were appeased. Ancient Romans performed rites to exorcise the fearful ghosts of the dead from their homes. The myth of origin of this ancient festival was that it had been instituted by Romulus to appease the spirit of Remus.

On those days, the Vestal Virgins of the temples would prepare sacred mola salsa (salt cake) from the first ears of wheat of the season. The custom involved the head of the household getting up at midnight, walking around the house with bare feet, throwing out black beans over his shoulder and repeating the incantation, "With these beans I redeem me and mine" nine times. The household would then clash bronze pots while repeating, "Ghosts of my fathers and ancestors, be gone!" nine times.

In the 8th century, as the popular observance of the Lemuria had faded, the feast of the dead, or All Saints was shifted to November 1 by Pope Gregory III (731-741). He consecrated a chapel in the Basilica of St. Peter to all the saints and fixed the anniversary, not at all by chance, to coincide with the Celtic celebration of dead spirits at Samhain.

There are many theories dealing with the existence of ghosts. Some people believe that ghosts are the residual energy left behind by an emotionally strong person or event. More energy and electrical impulses are expended during periods of high trauma or excitement, and that energy can linger indefinitely. Modern ghost hunters equip themselves with devises that locate and track energy sources. Electromagnetic detectors pick up subtle fluctuations in electromagnetic fields and low strength fields that appear to have no source at all.

Freud postulated that ghosts are a projection of our subconscious mind manifested by our fear of death and the unknown. Ghosts might also be the result of time anomalies, if time is nonlinear. An event that happened in the past might be seen briefly in our time because of fluctuations in time/space.

About The Author
Wendy Brinker is an artist and writer in Columbia, SC.

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