A to Z Challenge Folklore

Ghosts #folklore #AtoZChallenge

J is for Juju

Learn more about the challenge here.

I’m doing folklore and book review posts to reach and please a larger audience. Previous years have shown select interest in both and to minimise blogging throughout the year, I’m focusing my efforts on April.

If you’d rather check out my book review for today, go here.

Learn more about the A to Z Challenge here.

For the most part, ghosts can be kept away with one form of juju or another. Though, there are those people who prefer having their ghosts around…

Ghosts. Image credit.

ghost the spirit of a dead person that some people think they can feel or see in a place
His ghost is believed to haunt the house.
spirit a creature without a physical body, such as an angel or ghost
evil spirits
the spirit world
apparition an image of a dead person that someone sees suddenly for a short time
He claimed to have seen an apparition in the church.
poltergeist a ghost that people cannot see, which throws things or moves things around
The house was haunted by a poltergeist that makes things move around all by themselves, sometimes quite big things like beds or wardrobes.
spook informal a ghost
I’m not scared of spooks.
phantom literary a frightening and unclear image of a dead person
They had seen phantoms gliding on the surface of the water.
spectre British English, specter American English literary a ghost, especially a frightening one
She had looked like a spectre.
The following night, the spectre appeared again.

From Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English


Bernhard Baader, “Gespenstige Rathsversammlung,” Neugesammelte Volkssagen aus dem Lande Baden und den angrenzenden Gegenden (Karlsruhe: A. Gessner’sche Buchhandlung, 1859), no. 132, p. 100.

A Ghostly Council Meeting


Late one night in a spinning room in Eppingen someone asked the question, who would dare to enter the old and reputedly haunted town hall.

One girl volunteered to do this, and she took with her a switch and a black cat. Entering the council chamber she saw twelve ghostly councilmen seated around the table.

They said to her, “If you hadn’t brought the switch and the black cat with you, we would be saying something different to you!”

The terrified girl fled, and she died that same night.

Isabella Augusta, Lady Gregory, Visions and Beliefs in the West of Ireland, 2nd series (New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1920), pp. 239-40

The Blacksmith


There was a man one time that was a blacksmith, and he used to go every night playing cards, and for all his wife could say he wouldn’t leave off doing it.

So one night she got a boy to go stand in the old churchyard he’d have to pass, and to frighten him. So the boy did so, and began to groan and to try to frighten him when he came near. But it’s well known that nothing of that kind can do any harm to a blacksmith. So he went in and got hold of the boy, and told him he had a mind to choke him, and went his way.

But no sooner was the boy left alone than there came about him something in the shape of a dog, and then a great troop of cats. And they surrounded him and he tried to get away home, but he had no power to go the way he wanted but had to go with them.

And at last they came to an old forth and a faery bush, and he knelt down and made the sign of the cross and said a great many “Our Fathers,” and after a time they went into the faery bush and left him. And he was going away and a woman came out of the bush, and called to him three times, to make him look back. And he saw that it was a woman that he knew before, that was dead, and so he knew that she was amongst the faeries.

And she said to him, “It’s well for you that I was here, and worked hard for you, or you would have been brought in among them, and be like me.”

So he got home. And the blacksmith got home too and his wife was surprised to see he was no way frightened.

But he said, “You might know that there’s nothing of that sort could harm me.”

For a blacksmith is safe from all, and when he goes out in the night he keeps always in his pocket a small bit of wire, and they know him by that. So he went on playing, and they grew very poor after.

Encyclopedia of Beasts and Monsters in Myth, Legend and Folklore by Theresa Bane


The field of parapsychology loosely defines an apparition as the perceptual experience of an animal or person which is not physically present, cannot be communicated with, and has been ruled out as hallucination. It also makes a clear separation of apparitions and spirit forms. Apparitions are the supernatural visual presence of a substantial presence which may be a ghost, a spirit, or simply the image of a person, be they deceased or living.


Variations: Ghost of Fear, Okubyohgami, Zokuzokugami

The buruburu (“to shudder”) of Japanese folklore lives in rural forests in the guise of an old man or an old woman with one eye shaking with palsy. The creature does not attack its victim in its disguised form but rather drops the disguise and becomes both intangible and invisible, then it attaches to their spine causing goose-bumps to appear and the feeling of a sudden chill. Soon after the assault, the victim dies in a state of terror.

In some versions of the folklore the buruburu does not kill its prey but rather possesses the person and causes them to become overwhelmed with fear; the person locks themselves in their house, suddenly afraid of anything and everything. Sadly, in these cases, the person commits suicide.

*More can be read in the book.

Encyclopedia of Demons in World Religions and Cultures by Theresa Bane


Variations: Perchten, Trotha, Truden, Walküren

From the demonology of South Germany and Austria comes the druden (“ghosts” or “powers”). Originally they were seen as AERIAL DEVILS, demonic witches, or evil spirits that were believed to have escaped from the Land of the Dead in order to plague mankind. At night it was believed that a druden would try to sneak into a man’s room through a small opening, like a keyhole or window crack; then it would sit upon his chest and “ride” him, oftentimes causing NIGHTMARES. Should the victim awake during the assault he would see what would look like a heavyset, old, and ugly woman.

*More can be read in the book.

Haunted house. Image credit.

The Encyclopedia of Witches, Witchcraft and Wicca by Rosemary Ellen Guiley

Gallows Hill

The execution site of those condemned as witches in the infamous witch trails in Salem, Massachusetts. Gallows Hill has been believed to be haunted ever since the trials in 1692–93. Nineteen men and women were hanged from the trees at Gallows Hill. The site was long considered the meeting grounds for witches at annual sabbats. It also was oracular: young persons who wished to know their future in marriage, and the identities of their future spouses, would go to Gallows Hill at night and listen for the answers to be revealed to them by the ghosts of the dead witches. Whenever an important event was about to happen, the neighbourhood would be filled with the screechings and screamings of the haunting witches (see ghosts, hauntings and witchcraft). Gallows Hill is now a residential area.

ghosts, hauntings and witchcraft

Hauntings by ghosts and poltergeists are sometimes blamed on witches and witchcraft, particularly in areas where fear of magic runs high. In Brazil, for example, where fear of magic is strong among the working class, many cases of poltergeist activity are attributed to witches’ curses laid on families.

The notion that witches were responsible for ghosts and hauntings took root on the Continent and in the British Isles after the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century. The belief that dead men walk the earth as ghosts has been universal since ancient times. The Catholic Church used ghosts to its own ends, teaching that they were the souls of those stuck in purgatory, who could not rest until they atoned for their sins, and that they were sent by God to roam the realm of the living. The Reformation rejected the concept of purgatory and said all souls went straight to heaven or hell, from which they never emerged. This required a new explanation for ghosts. In general, the Protestant church denied their existence, claiming that ghosts were a Catholic fraud used to manipulate the masses.

Those who did see ghosts were led to think that they were caused by the Devil, demons and witches, who also were manipulating the populace in a battle for souls. Two camps formed: those who dismissed ghosts as foolishness and those who saw ghosts as proof of demonic forces.

*More can be read in the book.

The Encyclopedia of Celtic Mythology and Folklore by Patricia Monaghan

Dogs were also believed to see ghosts of the dead, witches, or other persons only visible to people with second sight.

Black Vaughan

British folklore figure. In Lancastershire this savage ghost was said to have been so vile in life that he remained on earth to torment his neighbours after his death, even resorting to shape-shifting into a fly to drive their horses wild. The ghost was finally exorcised by a woman with a newborn baby, whose purity and innocence Black Vaughan could not tolerate.

*More can be read in the book.

Ghost in Graveyard. Image credit.

The Element Encyclopedia of 5000 Spells by Judika Illes

The Cemetery

The cemetery is the threshold between the realms of the living and the dead. It too is a place of transformation. Many spells demand that a spell either be cast in the graveyard or that spell remnants be buried there, as if one were conducting a funeral. These include protection, banishing and love spells as well as hexes. Significantly, many necromantic spells, spells for communicating with those who have passed on to the next life, do not require a trip to the cemetery.

The cemetery, like the more general crossroads, swirls with energy, albeit of a more specific kind: ghosts, souls of the departed, abstract life and death forces, spiritual entities, protective guardians and those malevolent beings who are attracted to grief or decay all make their home in the cemetery.

Whether the cemetery is a benevolent or a threatening place depends largely on cultural perceptions of what happens to the soul after death. Cultures that depend on protective ancestral spirits rarely fear the cemetery; cultures who believe that human memory and emotion truly dies, leaving nothing but a hungry, destructive ghost will avoid the graveyard except for purposes of malevolent magic.


To prevent hauntings, surround your home with living bean plants. Not only do beans repel ghosts but allegedly, the plants sing to wandering ghosts, guiding them to the next realm. If you’d like to hear these songs, a shamanic art, sit under the vines while they’re in bloom. Meditate or allow yourself to fall asleep.

Do you have ghosts? Can’t get rid of them, no matter what you do? Keep lilies in your home and garden. They won’t repel ghosts or banish them but they will keep the ghosts well behaved, preventing them from causing harm or mischief.

*More can be read in the book.

Further Reading:

Folklore in a Nutshell by Ronel

Tales of apparitions or ghosts appearing in buildings, lonely roads and graveyards have long been told around campfires the world over. Unlike household spirits who seem intent on a specific task – such as the boggart or brownie – these ghosts have chaotic behaviour. Some seem to be intent on finishing the business they left behind when they died, while others seem agitated and haunting a specific place – probably where they died violently.

The burburu of Japanese folklore is a ghost that lives in the forest, disguised as an old man or woman. When it attacks, it drops its disguise and becomes invisible and intangible, running chills down their victim’s spine who then dies soon after from terror. In some cases, it doesn’t scare their victim, but possesses them for a short while instead. The person, once free, becomes terrified and hides themselves in their house, believing everything is out to get them. This usually ends in suicide.

The druden from the folklore of Germany and Austria are believed to have escaped the land of the dead and are out to torment people while they sleep, much like nightmares riding their victims.

Certain places, like Gallows Hill in Salem, Massachusetts, is a known haunted place where the ghosts of the victims of the Salem Witch Trials were executed. People will go there to listen to the voices in the air to learn their future. At times, screeches will fill the air to warn of something important about to happen.

Those who believe they can commune with spirits usually do it in the cemetery, though most necromantic spells don’t actually require a trip to the local cemetery as ghosts can be found anywhere. It is usually those out to do harm that go the cemetery to find ghosts to do their bidding as certain things from a person’s grave can be used to bind them.

Dogs are great at seeing ghosts. Lilies keep ghosts calm. And bean plants repel ghosts. If you can’t call your local Grimm to round up the ghosts to send them back where they belong, these can keep you safe.

Ghosts in Modern Culture

Caspar (1995) Film

I’m sure everyone has seen this movie:

Ghostbusters Film series

And this one is my favourite in the franchise (girl power, humour, Chris Hemsworth…)

Ghost (1990) Film

And I’m sure everyone has seen this one, too.

BBC’s Merlin

There are several ghosts shown in the series, but the one that truly interacted with the living was Uther’s ghost.

Ghost Uther. Image credit.

When a stranger gives Arthur the power to summon the spirits of the dead, the King finds himself torn between head and heart. Unable to resist temptation, he seizes the chance to speak to the person he misses most – his father, Uther. But the Spirit World is a dark and dangerous place…

…Elsewhere, Gwen is walking down a corridor when she suddenly senses a ghostly presence. She calls out, but the doors suddenly start to rattle and a nearby window starts opening and closing. Gwen closes it, but the shutters start banging again and the candles lining the corridor blow out.

Frightened, Gwen tries to flee, but is attacked by an invisible force. She is thrown to the ground and dragged down the hall by her arms. When the presence finally lets go, she gets up and runs away as more objects are hurled after her. She makes it to the kitchen and shuts the door just as a spear flies down the hall and embeds in the wood, missing her by inches. However, pots and pans from nearby shelves begin flying around the room and one smashes Gwen in the head, knocking her out. As she lies unconscious, a fire magically starts and the room begins to burn. Fortunately, Merlin finds Gwen and rescues her.

Learn more here.

The Vampire Diaries

Alaric watches invisibly as Damon speaks to his grave. Image credit.

“Anna said it’s like being here with all of us, only we can’t see her or hear her, and she can’t interact with anyone. She’s all alone. ” — Jeremy Gilbert about ghosts in Ghost World

Ghost, or Veiled Matter, was the soul of a deceased supernatural person that could, under certain circumstances, appear as a visible manifestation to the living from the Other Side. In even rarer circumstances, ghosts could physically interact with the living world. However, following the destruction of the Other Side in Home, the term is defunct.

Souls of supernatural beings can continue to linger for an indeterminate amount of time as spirits in the Space In-between until they find peace or move on to another afterlife.

Learn more here.

Harry Potter book series by JK Rowling

Hogwarts ghosts: Bloody Baron, Fat Friar, Nearly-Headless Nick, Grey Lady. Image credit.

ghost was the imprint of the soul of a once-living wizard or witch, and as such, a type of spirit.[6] These fleshless spirits were either afraid of death or had some extraordinarily strong connection to the locations they haunt.[7]

Ghosts were visible, and appeared as a greyish-silver apparition of their former (living) selves. However, they were unable to have much physical influence; they passed through solid objects without damaging themselves or the material, but created disturbances in waterfire and air. The temperature dropped in the immediate vicinity of a ghost. Their presence could also turn flames blue.[1]

Muggles could not become ghosts, nor could they see ghosts clearly.[1]

Learn more here.

Percy Jackson book series by Rick Riordan

Minos. Image credit
Bianca di Angelo. Image credit.

ghost is a soul, spirit or deceased individual that resides in the land of the living, which is believed to appear or become manifest to the living, typically as a nebulous image.

Nico di Angelo spends most of the book trying to bring his sister back from the dead. When he finally succeeds in summoning her ghost she does not wish to return to life. Later it is revealed that the son of Hades was being manipulated by Minos, who wants him to get revenge on Daedalus but when he realizes this he exiles the king’s ghost to the underworld.

Learn more here.

Ghosts in My Writing

Origin of the Fae: Ghosts

Ghosts are only in the mortal realm when they’ve escaped from the Land of the Dead. Grimms go around dragging them back to where they belong. Those with the need to go back to the Land of the Living are usually the victims of a violent death – murder, most likely – and have unfinished business. Once they have been avenged or whatever it was they needed to finish is done, they no longer have this need to go where they don’t belong.
They have the form they had before they died, only with the colour leeched from them. They are intangible and can become invisible. They have the power to move objects, create haunting sounds, and inspire terror by their mere presence. Some ghosts are malevolent and out to murder those they believe are in their way.
Dogs can see ghosts, no matter human or fae in origin. Having lilies and orchids in the home can diffuse a ghost’s powers. The only way to banish a ghost is to have a Grimm take it away.

Ghost translated to Afrikaans: Spook.

See this fae in action in my writing:

Unseen (Faery Tales #2)

Shrieks led them to where they should go. The closer they got to where the Veil had been torn, the more ghosts, wraiths and other harbingers of death ran about.

A large black dog ran past them, pursuing glimmering blue ghosts taking a carriage for a joy ride.

‘It seems the Grim has its paws full this night,’ the rabbit said from where it cowered behind Anja’s legs.

‘It usually does,’ she replied.

Unseen (Faery Tales #2) by Ronel Janse van Vuuren

Remember that you can request all of my books from your local library!

Where did you first encounter ghosts? What do you think of this haunting faery? Check out my Pinterest board dedicated to the subject.

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image credit https://pixabay.com/illustrations/ai-generated-fairy-wings-magic-8121013/

No-one writes about the fae like Ronel Janse van Vuuren.

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