Snapshots In My Time, Of My Time.....Hauntings.
Senior year of college-1983
That year there were 4 anthropology students that took an independent study class and we did very well. To celebrate our success and graduations our anthropology professor, Gary Brana-Shute invited us to his home for dinner. We had a feast with him and his wife, Rosemary. The best part of the night was at end when we all got a surprise from Gary. He had a gift for each of us. Not just any gift but an anthropological gift. A gift from his travels and studies down in Suriname. In this past post, Floating Down the Amazon in a Dugout Canoe, I mentioned some general detail about the indigenous people he studied.
The population he studied believed in animism,if I recall correctly . A little bit about is listed below. I do not recall what gift anyone else got but I could never forget mine.
Basic Beliefs of Animism
In anthropology, animism can be considered to be the original human religion, being defined simply as belief in the existence of spiritual beings. It dates back to the earliest humans and continues to exist today, making it the oldest form of religious belief on Earth. It is characteristic of aboriginal and native cultures, yet it can be practiced by anyone who believes in spirituality but does not proscribe to any specific organized religion. The basis for animism is acknowledgment that there is a spiritual realm which humans share the universe with. The concepts that humans possess souls and that souls have life apart from human bodies before and after death are central to animism, along with the ideas that animals, plants, and celestial bodies have spirits.
Animistic gods often are immortalized by mythology explaining the creation of fire, wind, water, man, animals, and other natural earthly things. Although specific beliefs of animism vary widely, similarities between the characteristics of gods and goddesses and rituals practiced by animistic societies exist. The presence of holy men or women, visions, trancing, dancing, sacred items, and sacred spaces for worship, and the connection felt to the spirits of ancestors are characteristic of animistic societies.
I got a hand carved gourd. Not just any gourd but a gourd that contained the soul of a dead fisherman. That night he told all of us the story of the gourd. This is what he said.
Gary had been living with a family in Suriname and became a member of the family chewing and spitting betel with the best of them. One of the family who was a fisherman died. Because of the animism, exorcisms were held whenever someone died to capture their soul.
On a side note, Gary brought in a tape of a possession into class for our Magic, Ritualism and Symbolism class a year earlier and played it. It was the most awful thing you would ever want to hear as it was real. Linda Blair does not even compare. He said that the shaman held a small bowl of water in his outstretched hand for as long as he could. All the time he was chanting and praying. The soul of the deceased family member would be captured when one drop of the water in the bowl spilled over the side. After 15 minutes of listening to demonic sounds there was a loud yell and silence. Gary told us that the drop of water had spilled over the side and the soul had been captured. He told us the soul was placed in a gourd for safe keeping in the home. That was a year before the dinner. Who knew or even remembered that? Not me. Until I was reminded that night.
Gary was on his way back to America when this family member died and since he had become like a brother to this man, the family presented the gourd to him for safekeeping since he was leaving and may not be back. He accepted his friends soul and kept that gourd for about 15 years. Now he was presenting it to me. I was speechless. After my "thing that was darker than dark" scare, I did not need the soul of a dead fisherman to stay with me forever.
He said that he could not ever get rid of the gourd unless he was able to present it to someone else who would understand the meaning and take care of it. I was honored and just a little leary. I accepted the soul. I still have the soul. I take good care of that soul. The gourd itself has been designed so that the top of the gourd acts as a lid attached with some sort of native twine. Throughout the years whenever I have had to move, the gourd was the first thing packed and traveled with me in the car. It has a permanent location of the highest bookshelf away from the cat. I have never even thought about throwing it away for fear of some strange thing happening with soul.
I have told others about this story and offered them the soul. Noone wants it. They are all fearful. My mother says I need to take it to our minister and let him say a few words over it and then quietly bury it in a cemetery. I do not know it that is the right thing to do either. Only one person has been interested in it and it was a former co-worker who was a wiccan. I had no idea she was a wiccan until I told that story. She said she needed that gourd. I refused to bring it to her. Who knows what would have happened to the soul or to me. Come on, noone needs a soul.
Thoughout the years strange things have happened with the gourd. As I said earlier, it has a permanent home on a shelf and is never touched. Sometimes when I come home the lid of the gourd is off. I put it back on. Some months later the lid will be off again. I put it back on. Finally, I took 2 very small pieces of scotch tape and taped each side closed. The lid has not been off since. During the years when the lid was coming off on its own I lived alone so there was no way anyone else could have removed the lid. It was very creepy! I live with the soul of a dead fisherman. I do not think I will be able to find anyone else to pass it on to.
In light of the last post and the passing of Gary Brana-Shute, I will be keeping my gift of the gourd. I will continue to keep the soul of the dead fisherman safe with me.
My prayers and best wishes go out to his family.