Folk beliefs in ghost existence dominated the ancient world, as well as belief in life after death and different supernatural beings. In the 21st century, cultural dynamism across the world has seen a drastic decline in the power and status of the belief in ghosts. The society is changing from a superstitious one to a rational and material one.
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Western Europe has gone through the enlightenment age, began to reason out on the need to believe in the dead and ghosts. Even though this century has witnessed a decline in religious and traditional practices, beliefs in telepathy, omens of death, haunting ghosts, and poltergeists remain deep-rooted in the majority of the population. Such beliefs entail the mysterious side of life, to which some people have fear, hostility, and denial.
Incidences like visitations, dreams, presence of the dead, and talking to the dead were common among the women in the Manchester study group. Even though others did not believe in spirits or ghosts, the majority consented that they could dream of visits by the dead standing in front of them. The book, Alas, Poor Ghost, provides the idea that beliefs and disbeliefs in supernatural traditions depend on the teachings of morality and ethics in a certain society.
Occurrences like a mother visiting her distressed son or daughter, an intruder creeping into the middle of a home, and sounds of mysterious footsteps in the attic are some of the evidence of visitations and ghosts. Incidences of people living in ‘bad’ houses full of ghosts and evil spirits cropped up to support the existence of a link between the dead and the living.
With religion, traditions, and science trying to bring out formidable reasons to explain certain life dynamics that drive the world, it is up to every person to decide which category to follow: mysticism and religious beliefs or psychical powers and divine providence respectively.
The interviews reveal the rational arguments among women in instances where the dead could visit the living with good or bad intentions. The dead can intervene in the lives of the living like in the case of Maura, a widow in her seventies who directed a friend to find the paying-in book at the bottom of a wardrobe. They interpreted the scenario as an intervention or communication from the dead woman.
Dilution in family factors leads to a decline in beliefs in supernatural traditions. For instance, a woman with a good family life develops a strong attachment with her family members, as there is mutual love. In case one of the family members passes away, this social factor by default makes the woman believe in continuous presence and influence of the dead in the lives of the living.
With different views on life after death, women with strong family bonds argued that life would be futile if there is no place to meet their beloved ones, where their souls would rise again, thus enabling them to have spiritual contacts with the dead.
With different opinions on meeting the dead, the entire society is revealed as believing in the spiritual existence of the dead through activities that they undertake during anniversaries, like taking flowers to the graveside and marking the day to show solidarity with the departed.
Although rationalism and materialism are coming into fore to delineate the issues that link the dead with the living, the social aspect of attachment that exists in human beings runs deep into the minds and cultures of people. This makes it difficult to rule out the attachments and actions that some people claim to exist or occur between them and the dead.
In assessing the review of Alas, Poor Ghost! By Elizabeth Wein, it is clear that material aspects try to diminish other people’s belief in supernatural traditions. Also, it is clear that Bennett explores the relationship that existed between the narratives of the Manchester women and their beliefs. Bennett remained subjective in the issue of traditional beliefs.
The two reviews touch on key aspects that the author intends to bring out for the in-depth comprehension, irrespective of religious affiliations, gender, and age.
In the conclusion part of the manuscript, Bennett relies on the collected data to assert that beliefs in supernatural traditions, such as a sense of presence, witness, contact with the dead, and bereavement, are still in existence in Western Europe, even with the evolution of materialism and rationalism.
From a sociological perspective, a person is what he/she believes in, and this goes on to affect his/her life. The members of the family, being a social unit, have connections and deep relations that may affect the lives of the living and their attitude to the dead.