The Ancient History Of Ghosts

Ghosts and ghost stories have been told long since Ancient times, every culture doing so in their own special and unique way. Follow along as I break down the belief among various cultures.


The Chinese believed that if you died a lonely death weren’t properly laid to rest, that with the light of a torch at nighttime, their spirit would manifest whole-bodily. The spirits of ancestors that needed to convey a message or warning of some kind, would do so in your dreams. These ideas were firmly believed to be very real as it was greatly influenced by the worshiping of Ancient ancestors and the by the belief that those who passed obtained power to influence the living. Every year and currently, on the fifteenth day of the seventh month, a festival is held to calm these spirits and ghosts, simply called the Ghost Festival. This month is special as they believe the veil between the living and the dead is at its thinnest, allowing them to cross over. In this event, offerings such as food and gifts are displayed out in attempts to honor the spirits, hoping chaos would not arise. Confucius, as we all know as a great Chinese Philosopher, firmly believed in the power of these ghost stories as well, as he thought they would bestow appropriate morality onto the living.


In India, ghosts were called ‘Bhoots’, who would appear with the capabilities to shift their look unexpectedly. To send the message that something was not right, the feet of these spirits would be backwards. They were also believed to be looking for a body to possess. Since they allegedly died miserably before their time, they’d be saddened and typically infuriated. They are known to cause trouble and turmoil, although some cultures believe them to be beneficial if they made themselves known in dreams. 


In this Culture, death was final, no possibility of return. No matter the life they lived, their soul would end up in the land of the dead, know as ‘Irkalla’, where a dark queen by the name of Ereshkigal. Not a single soul could leave unless they had a special mission to complete. If something needed to be made right, only then could they descend downward, taking on the form of sickness among the living. Before any treatment could be given by doctors, patients needed to confess their sins and darkest secrets as these sicknesses were portrayed as a punishment from the Gods or by spirits at the fault of the patient, until innocence was proven. (Guilty until proven innocent in this case.)


The Celtics celebrated the dead in late October to early November as they believed at this time, spirits roamed the earth. They cooked up meals that the deceased ate while they were living and indulged in the food themselves. This celebration was called ‘Samhain.’ While partaking, they wore of masks to disguise themselves from the spirits, for they believe doing so would dodge any harm from them. Over time, it evolved into what is now known as Halloween.


In Greece, it was believed that there were three realms when one passed on. A coin would be placed on their mouths as a sign of respect and a ‘ticket’ so to speak, so that they would be taken over the Styx (river). To obtain a better seat on this ride, the coin would need to be of greater value. Once crossed, a three headed dog would be waiting for them along with three judges to consider the life they previously lived. After contemplation, the deceased would then be given water from the Lethe (River) to forget their previous life. The judges would then direct them to one of the distinct locations. If you were a soldier who had died during a battle, you went to—essentially—a paradise. If you were a good person, paradise would be your destination as well. And although there wasn’t an ‘eternal hell’, if you were rather bad, you would be sent to a place until you had paid for the sins you committed when you were alive.

Ghosts in the Middle Ages

In Europe, spirits were distinguished in two ways: souls of the deceased (who came back for a specific reason) and demons (lingering only to torment the living). Then, there was Purgatory, a place located somewhere in between where souls would pay for their sins for a certain amount of time. 

Ghosts were described as being saddened and/or sorrowful versions of the person they were before, only more pale and wore of rags. Most of the sightings reported were male. There were cases of large groups and armies of ghosts being spotted in the forest near Cambridge, England and knights of the living often challenged the entities. If the spirits were to be defeated, they would then vanish. 

Thank You For Reading. As always, you can share your experiences in the comments below!


Photo by Blaise_L of Pixbay This article is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License by Joshua J. Mark

Disclaimer: The information above is a combination of prior knowledge and research. No works were copied or plagiarized, only referenced. While anyone is welcome to comment, I attempt to make this a positive and friendly community where we can share our experiences. Any derogatory or negative comment(s) will be deleted. As always, reader discretion is advised.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.