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Ghosts – or the (Nearly) Invisible

Spectral Phenomena in Literature and the Media


Maria Fleischhack and Elmar Schenkel

In this volume, ghost stories are studied in the context of their media, their place in history and geography. From prehistory to this day, we have been haunted by our memories, the past itself, by inklings of the future, by events playing outside our lives, and by ourselves. Hence the lure of ghost stories throughout history and presumably prehistory. Science has been a great destroyer of myth and superstition, but at the same time it has created new black boxes which we are filling with our ghostly imagination. In this book, literature from the Middle Ages to Oscar Wilde and Neil Gaiman, children’s stories, folklore and films, ranging from the Antarctic and Russia to Haiti, are covered and show the continuing presence of spectral phenomena.

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The Loa as Ghosts in Haitian Vodou


Abstract: Loa, ghosts in Haitian Vodou, coalesce African and Creole gods, with the imagery of Catholic saints, all rooted in Haiti’s colonial history as a Spanish and later French colony with slaves of different ethnicities from the West Coast of Africa. Although the Vodou belief system rests upon a firm belief in a supreme being, vodou serviteurs1 pray to, serve and ask for guidance from their loa. In order to understand loa and possession by a loa, the concept of the soul in Vodou will be observed. At Vodou ceremonies a loa will manifest him- or herself through possession into a head of a serviteur, becoming now the “horse”, which is being “ridden” by the loa. The distinction which kind of loa is riding a person is made visible by a loa’s unique dance rhythm, song, clothing, colour, talk, sacrificial food and drink.

Historical Background

Vodou as a religion in Haiti originates in the turmoiled history of slaves brought from the Western coast of Africa to the island by Spanish and French colonialists.2 This heterogeneous group of slaves mainly originated from the west coast of Central Africa and the Bight of Benin and was mainly made up of ethnicities such as the Yoruba, Fon and Ewe.3 Naturally, they brought their own religious beliefs with them to the New World. Although slaves where decreed to be baptised and Christianised, Roman Catholic missionaries generally adopted a policy of “guided syncretism” (Fernández Olmos 8) during the...

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