Navajo Ghost Sickness

Posted on: May 3rd, 2012 by blackmagus

Ghost sickness, according to Navajo folklore, was generally attributed to communication with the dead or connecting a person’s living thoughts with the thoughts and behaviors of the deceased.  And while they were not likely to conjure up the same strangeness as psychics you might know from TV, they did find themselves enraptured by something incredible – a deeply felt connection with those beyond this place.

Those effected by the Ghost Sickness were said to first associate their experiences with a nagging and all encompassing sense of fear – a fear that followed them wherever they went.  This was soon followed by nightmares where the spirits of the dead contacted the living and conveyed messages to them – even begging the living to join them in the mysterious world of the after.  Other feelings that soon followed included; a sense of dread; a feverish almost catatonic despondency – as though the person was no longer living in the world already, and finally dark and shadowed hallucinations.

Ordinarily the sickness was combated with rituals, but in 1881 many of these rituals/ceremonies were banned.  As a result, the surviving members found themselves halfway turning towards western psychology – (still in its infancy) – in the hopes of exorcising the ghost sickness that swept through many Native American communities.  The rituals were intensely spiritualized. Western medicine used more electricity.

One of the most interesting aspects of the Navajo ghost sickness is what it tells us about our brains; and the bound relationship the living have with those who are… gone. The lines between life and death murky at best and we all know how quickly the dead come alive, your grandmothers engagement ring, a letter from someone underground, someone’s cologne, feeling the ashes of your dog. This sickness (or longing) can be traced back to the Navajo chindi – which was a concept where ghosts who stayed behind, carried with them the burden of everything negative the held to.

The key is crossing over, no matter river it is.



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