Monday, February 15, 2016

Sharon's Ghost

A friend told me this story a long time ago.  The details have been obscured by my flawed memory but her emotions remain vivid.    She was terrified by the events she described to me.  I can't remember the specific roads she named or the city she lived in, but I remember the story and the look of horror that filled her face as she told her tale.

 My friend, Sharon, was a counselor where I worked.  She was older than most people that worked at the clinic with me.  Her hair was short and she wasn't a woman who was prone to dressing herself up or making herself any grander than she actually was.  Sharon was down to earth and there was an openness about her that was rare in any professional.  She told people the details of her personal life without much hesitation.  On first meeting her, she told me about her failed marriage and her troubled childhood.  She was an open book.

The only thing she was reluctant to talk about was this ghost story.  It terrified her and took her nine months to open up and trust me enough to tell me the details of the ghost that haunted her for two years.  After her marriage dissolved, Sharon found herself struggling financially and she had to move into an old house that had been in her family for generations.  It wasn't large or fancy.  The plumbing didn't work right and there was water damage, but she had a roof over her head and that was enough.  She would have been happy if she hadn't known the house's history.  She remembered stories of her great aunt who had lived and died in the house.  Her great aunt hadn't been a pleasant woman.  She had been the kind of country, southern woman who most people steered clear of.  She had some Native American blood and people in the small town she was from thought that she would curse them if they crossed her. 

Sharon was not happy about moving into her house.  Her great aunt had been creepy to say the least.   At first, Sharon ignored the noises that crept through her aunt's old  house.  She tried to ignore the noises and attributed them to old plumbing and leaky pipes.  When Sharon first heard a child crying at night, she thought it was her daughter.  She checked on her daughter all the time. She thought that she was crying and going back to sleep.  There was no reason to worry.  However, when her daughter began complaining about the crying in the night Sharon began to get worried.  She grew even more worried when her boyfriend complained about the crying when no one was home. 

Things got worse from here.  Shadows crept up on her when she was sleeping.  The crying grew worse and worse.  There was a cold spot in the middle of the house.  Something pulled her hair while she was sleeping.  Terror consumed her every moment.  She began asking more questions about her aunt and what had happened in the house.  Legends swirled around her aunt like smoke. Her aunt was a bad woman.  People said she had a disagreement with a little girl and the little girl had gone missing. 

Sharon began looking for a new place to live.   Just before they moved, Sharon went under the house to check the ever leaking plumbing and what she found sent her from the house without even packing her thing.  Buried in the mud beneath her house, was the skeleton of a little girl.     Sharon left the house and never went back.

Sharon hasn't told many people this story.  It is hard for even to repeat it.  She still fears her great aunt, even in death, even now that she has moved and the ghosts are gone.  

Friday, February 12, 2016

How Valentine's Day Started with Naked Ladies and Dead Animals

It is time for my annual Valentine's Day Post.  This is my favorite post of the year because Valentine's Days origins are so interesting.  I hope you all have a happy Valentine's Day!

My favorite thing about holidays are their bizarre origins.  Most of our modern celebrations have roots in old pagan traditions.  Valantine's Day is no different.  Its pagan roots are just more bizarre than most. They are so strange I like to write about them every year.  I know it is slightly off topic, but naked people being flogged with animal hides is worth discussing in any forum. Apparently the ancient roots of Valentine's Day begins with the Romans. The Romans celebrated Lupercalia from Feb. 13 to 15. In Roman mythology Lupercus was the equivalent of the Greek god Pan who was known to be a sexy sort of fellow who promoted fertility. His holiday was a somewhat romantic kind of celebration. During Lupercalia the men would sacrifice a goat and a dog and then whip women with the hides of the dead animals. The women would line up naked in order to be whipped. They did this because they believed this ritual would make them more fertile. Afterwards, there would be lottery in which men and women would be paired up for a night of naked fun.

I know, you are now wishing we still celebrated Valentine's day this way. Enough with the cheesy cards. Where are the dead animals, whippings, and naked people? It was the Catholic Church that ruined the fun. Emperor Claudius II killed two Valentine's in different years of February 14th. Both men were martyred and the day derives its name from these two martyred saints. In the 5th century, Pope Gelasius I got confused and merged the two martyrs into one person and named February 14th after them. He also absorbed the romantic traditions of Lupercalia into the day in order to soften the pagan debauchery and retake the day for Christianity. Christianity has a long history of doing this type of thing. Christmas was taken from Roman Saturnalia traditions and Norse Yule traditions. By absorbing pagan holidays rather than forbidding them, ancient Christians were able to gain new followers rather than lose them.

Chaucer and Shakespeare can be credited with further romanticizing St. Valentine's day and turning it into the romantic, kissy holiday it is today, but I will always think back to better days when women ran naked through the streets being beaten with dead animals.