Friday, February 12, 2016

Grief Hallucinations or Visitations

Reports were released last week of taxi drivers in Japan telling of how they had picked up “ghost passengers” in areas heavily damaged by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami. A disaster in which more than 25,000 people died.

Drivers described stopping for fares who requested to be taken to the areas that were devastated by the tsunami; then enroute, the person simply vanished from the cab. One driver was telling his customer about losing a loved one in the tsunami when he realized no one was there. Cabbies reported that most of these “passengers” were young, and seemed not to know that they had died.

Is this phenomena real? Or is it what some would call a hallucination?

According to the Oxford Dictionary, a hallucination is “an experience involving the apparent perception of something not present: a delusion, illusion or figment of the imagination., describes a hallucination as “a profound distortion in a person's perception of reality, typically accompanied by a powerful sense of reality. An hallucination may be a sensory experience in which a person can see, hear, smell, taste, or feel something that is not there.”

So could these occurrences be considered “grief hallucinations?” Some psychiatrists believe that grief, or post-bereavement hallucinations are common for those who have lost a loved one. Some in the industry say that they are beneficial.

Although grief is a profoundly individual experience, the majority of us tend to have an “encounter” with a loved one soon after their death. These incidents can involve seeing, hearing, smelling and/or being touched by a loved one.

The academic term for this experience is known as “idionecrophany - a combination of the Greek words idios (private), nekros (dead), and phainestai (to appear). The word was coined in 1992 by American sociologist William L. Macdonald to explain a sensory experience of claimed contact with the dead.

Scientific American reported that 82% of subjects studied for grief hallucinations had admitted to at least one idionecrophanic experience, which occurred during the first month after the death of someone close; 71% told of an experience three months following the death, and 52% still experienced some sort of occurrence 12 months after the death.

These visits may occur through a dream, getting a whiff of a familiar perfume or pipe tobacco, hearing otherworldly music, or laughter. But no one reports of being afraid during these “visits.” In fact, most who experience them, welcome them and find them comforting. And those in the psychiatric field will quickly clarify that bereavement hallucinations do not indicate psychosis.

Of course, there are those who will claim that it's your mind’s way of keeping someone dear close to you because you’re not quite ready to let go. Possibly. But it’s also possible that we do make that contact across the void because of the real emotional connection we’ve had before death.

I have had several experiences with idionecrophany. I have been “visited” by my grandmother, my great-grandmother, my grandfather, a sister from another life, and the man who was like a father to me. All of them delivering variations of the same message, “I made it, I’ve found my loved ones, I’m happy.

Our pets also send a similar message if we are open to receiving it. Last week, we lost our Poodle to old age. Evie has been my constant companion for well into fifteen years. But saying good bye is never easy, and having to make that decision not to let her suffer was tough, simply because you don't want to say goodbye.

But last evening, as I sat working on family genealogy, I heard her snoring at my feet, as usual. It was only a beat later that I realized it couldn’t be her. I walked the room, checking her favorite pillows for ... something - an indentation, an appearance. Nothing, only the gentle snoring, which continued until I said her name. Then the sound stopped as if I had awakened her.

Was she there with me, spending another evening by the fire? Or did I hallucinate the sound of her snoring as my mind grappled with ancestors?

I prefer to believe that, yes, she dropped by for a visit and a rest, before heading out into that great unknown. And one night, she’ll visit me in a dream to let me know that she’s made it to the other side, and that she’s happy.

Isn't that we're all seeking? Reassurances that our loved ones are finally free from burdens, are happy, and ready to continue on in another realm? I believe so, and since they take the time to let us know, that just let's us know how much we mattered to them, too.

~ Joy

Friday, February 5, 2016

Ancient Egyptian Funerary Ship Discovered

An ancient funerary boat was discovered two years ago in Egypt, near Cairo, but the find was just announced Monday by Egypt’s Antiquities Minister.

In October 2013, an excavation team unearthed the ship and also discovered human remains at the Abusir site where fourteen pyramids are located.

Abusir Pyramids
Czech archaeologists were clearing a mastaba, or ancient tomb, at the Abusir South Cemetery, when they discovered human remains believed to be more than 4,500 years old. Officials believe the remains belonged to a distinguished resident since the Abusir site was where Egyptian kings of the Fifth Dynasty were interred.

Site of Barque
Archaeologists were continuing their excavation when they unearthed parts of a 59-foot barque-type boat- a highly unusual find due to the boat’s size. The ship was uncovered near the tomb’s southern wall and had been lying on rocks, covered by the desert sands for thousands of years. According to the antiquities ministry statement, the boat indicates the "extraordinary social position of the owner of the tomb.”

One Czech archaeologist said “boats of such a size and construction were reserved solely for top members of the society, who usually belonged to the royal family.

If not of the royal family, this person held an extraordinarily high social position, someone who had solid connections with the reigning pharaoh, archaeologists said.

Third Dynasty
According to the Egyptian Ministry, pottery discovered in the boat is much older than the Fifth Dynasty, possibly going back to the Third or Fourth Dynasty. It is believed that the boat is also of that era.

According to the Egyptian Ministry’s statement, "The wooden planks were joined by wooden pegs that are still visible in their original position. Extraordinarily, the desert sand has preserved the plant fiber battens which covered the planking seams."

Because the boat is still mostly intact, researchers expect to learn more about how Ancient Egyptians built their watercraft and how the ships were used in funerary services.

Egyptian Barque
Scholars believe that the funerary boats were barques; ships having three or more masts, used to transport the dead to the afterlife. Pharaohs and members of the royal families were entombed with barques built especially for their final journey. Ancient Egyptians believed that the deities traveled through the sky in barques. (The Milky Way was thought to be a waterway, like the Nile River.)

Khufu Ship
The last such Egyptian ship was discovered in 1954. One of the oldest and largest of the ancient boats was unearthed at the foot of the Great Pyramid of Giza.  The Khufu boat, so called because it was built for Khunum-Khufu, the second pharaoh of the Fourth Dynasty, was a 143 feet long funerary boat crafted from cedar. The ship is being reconstructed at the Giza Solar Boat Museum

Digging at the Abusir Pyramids began in 2009. The site is located south of the Pyramids of Giza. The excavation will continue until sometime in the spring.

~ Joy