Grave (Excerpt From the September 2003 Issue)
The Online Magazine of Modern Necrological Studies
Ectonecrological Distinctions: Geists, Ghosts and Spirits- Are Modern Definitions Accurate or Too Vague?
By Helenya Amaranth Gates
Geists, Ghosts and Spirits are three distinct categories, as anyone who has a basic understanding of Ectonecrology- the Necrological magickal disciplines tied to incorporeal and ectoplasmic entities- will attest. Geist has, and continues to remain a point of contention as it lacks a distinct meaning. Geist originates in German, and has the same meanings in that language as spirit or ghost has in English.
Each of these three categories have a variety of names and terms throughout the languages of many different practitioners throughout the world. Here is a attempt to explain each of these definitions, and the problems that have come up because of them. Replication of spells and practices can grow dangerous. Any miscommunication or misunderstanding of another's terms, can over time cause problems for any practitioner.
GHOSTS: GENUINE SHADES OR ECHOES?There is no certainty if Ghosts are either the spirits of the deceased, ectoplasm mimicking the deceased or something else between those two definitions. Most modern Necromancers use a definition established in Friedrich Kimura's Black Binder in the late 1960s. The Black Binder originates the modern ideal of the ghost as echo of the deceased. The premiere usage of this in the Black Binder had been Kimura's Death Wind spell, wherein she created a series of ghosts from those still living.
"They are just echoes," Kimura told me when I spoke to her last June. Still looking rather young for a woman in her late seventies, Friedrich still teaches her own small school of necromancy in Seattle. She points to those ghosts haunting and abusing the living throughout sites scattered across the world. "Like computer programs, they can be edited or created out of raw ectoplasm."
Others still oppose Kimura's methodologies. Voodoun practitioners often claim that Kimura's views are very close to being a step away from outright enslavement of who they consider to be the dead. No modern practitioner has found definite evidence in certain favor of either interpretation.
SPIRITS: OTHERWORLDLY THINGSIf the definition of Ghosts feels still vague in modern necrology, Spirits leave one feeling less informed. Spirits vary so greatly in attitudes, actions and persona its hard to capture their variety easily. Spirits are otherworldly entities who can only exist on in our material reality in ectoplasmic form. They tend to be alien beings, who are incapable of understanding humans. Vice versa is true as well.
Almost all evidence points to confirming this, although there are... exceptions that leave a few questioning the rule. For example, the 1999 incident where a group of spirits possessed a group of teenage girls. The possessed teens then walked fifteen miles into a forest, where they rescued a hiker who'd been trapped by a fallen tree. It remains uncertain of why the spirits acted to rescue the hiker, but it seems that they thought of it as an action they had to do.
That isn't the only incident, but the majority of other incidents tell the opposite story. Spirits act in some alien manner, witnesses were unable or incapable of discerning any deeper meaning to it. Practitioners can bargain with Spirits, and even in those dealings, spirits that seem directly related act very different in identical circumstances. Such bargains can't be perfectly duplicated.
GEISTSThis is the category that Kimura's work inspired. Kimura is quick to point to others for the coining of the term, as Kimura views all Ghosts as some form of Geist.
"We think most Geists are some form of decayed Ghost. They've lost part of their memories or definition, becoming like spirits, but they still want to interact with mortals." Dave Storm explained to me. Dave is one of the young ectonecrology experts that works for the United States Multiversal Survey's External Threat Containment team. His work focuses on analyzing ghosts and geists for potential threats. "It may be some sort of Ectoplasmic evolutionary process too. We just don't know yet."
Geists fall into a in-between category, for entities that resemble Spirits, but originated as Ghosts. Or Spirits who've merged with Ghosts into something new. And therein lies the problem.
Are Geists like Spirits, alien in their mannerisms? Not always. Are they like Ghosts, originally human in some way?
THE TAKEAWAYThe definition between Ghost, Geist and Spirit is vague. It remains a significant risk in modern Necrology, to be aware of what a practitioner means by their definition. Kimura and those like her treat Ghosts and Geists like computer programs. Others, like Dave Storm view them as form of ecology. These aren't clear and cut definitions.
My interviews with Storm and Kimura reinforce in me that our art, like all Magickal arts, is tainted by personal views and philosophies. Our dreams and ideas color what we do. How we think about any part of magick is defined by our own personalities. I recommend looking into the recent USMS guide to definitions, it seems like a clear beginning for some sort of standard set of definitions to me.
Helenya Gates lives in Honolulu, where she keeps three cats and a cadre of children from unleashing their own sortie of undeath.