‘Come in!’ said Zopa, before my fist had even struck the door to announce our arrival. Myself, John and Vincent had responded to our friend’s invitation to share some wine and smoke our pipes as he revealed to us another of his shamanic encounters with the spirit world.
As we settled into the well-worn green leather armchairs and clinked glasses and decanter merrily, Zopa was uncommonly quiet. He struck a match and drew the flame gently into the huge old Peterson briar he had carefully filled before our arrival.
As he enjoyed the first few puffs he seemed to settle, a sign he was about to begin his tale. I felt that gentle sinking feeling only an old chair can produce, but sat up with a jolt as Zopa shouted : ‘No! This is not a tale of harmony and bliss, but of violence and terror – one of the worst challenges I have ever faced!’. At that we all leaned forwards, keen to hear what had caused him such unusual agitation.
‘Let me tell it from the beginning. It will help me to make sense of it myself, as I come to you straight from the final moments, earlier today.’ He sighed, and settled a little, half-emptied his large glass of Burgundy in a single gulp and began his revelation:
A few weeks ago, I ran into an old friend. We decided to go for coffee, and I could tell there was something troubling her. After a few pleasantries, she explained:
‘Well, it’s like this. My husband, as you know, isn’t a great believer in things spiritual, but he is really concerned about a colleague, who has finally revealed that recent inattentiveness at work was due to what he called a ‘poltergeist’ in their home.’
‘Neither man believed in the supernatural, but as often happens, the hidden, the ‘occult’, makes itself known in ways we cannot easily ignore. My husband came home and, knowing that I had a friend experienced in these matters, wanted through me to ask your advice. I’m so relieved to have bumped into you, as I wasn’t quite sure how to broach the subject.’
I thought it best to meet with the man, Brian, and hear the story at first hand. The next day, Brian came to my rooms and, as is my usual practice, I asked him to relate everything he could remember about the events. Not to prolong this tale with too much detail, here is what he revealed to me:
Brian and his wife Jane moved into a delightful old cottage in a Somerset hamlet, the archetypal roses-round-the door thatched detached ideal cottage many dream of. For a few months all was well. Jane had just given birth to a baby boy, and their three-year-old daughter Emily was settling in nicely with new friends and loving the country life.
One evening, after putting Emily and the baby to bed, and sitting down to dinner, a strange silence fell – the sort of silence brought by dense fog or thick snow, yet it was a clear summer evening. The heaviness was slashed by a scream like that of a woman in labour, but this was torn from Emily’s throat, then was silenced, by fear, they later realised. Both of them ran upstairs to find Emily curled on the bed, too terrified to even sob. As they looked around, they could see no great problem – but then realised all Emily’s toys were piled in one corner, as if hurled there. Thinking Emily had been having a nightmare and thrown her toys there, no more was thought about it.
Well, there then followed a series of incidents you will all be familiar with from my previous tales – kitchen objects, keys, even the furniture moved when nobody was looking. For a while, it became quite amusing to the family, as no harm was ever done.
Not so very different, you may say, from many ‘poltergeist’ stories – ask the ghost to go, maybe get in the local priest to bless the house, and all will be well. This is exactly what the couple did, the local vicar obliging with the sprinkling of holy water and blessings. To be honest, he’d never done it before and it was more an act of kindness to troubled parishioners than an attempt to engage with the dark energy involved.
I wasn’t at all surprised at the next part of the couple’s story. The house became ‘uneasy’ if I may use that word. It was as if the house was suffering with a form of ‘depression’ which made everyone in it miserable. Ah, I forgot to mention the dog – mainly because he appeared completely unaffected. A little Jack Russell terrier it was, and like most of that breed, unimaginatively named ‘Jack’. Well, Jack couldn’t have cared less.
So, why was this agitated and frightened man sitting in front of me? What was the turning point? At this point Brian’s lip began to quiver and I realised he really was at the end of his tether. ‘Razor blades’ he said, ‘It has thrown razor blades at my babies’. He broke down completely, but resumed a few minutes later. ‘After the vicar left, you could feel the mood change. We started arguing, which we never do, and were always on edge. Of course, this was noticed at work – I’m exhausted, none of us is sleeping, and the ‘thing’ feels like it is hovering over us, full of hate and ready to explode. What can I do, how can I get rid of it before my family suffers some dreadful fate? ‘
I decided on the spot to help and agreed to visit them three days later. The delay was to give me time to do some research and prepare myself. The family were under strict orders from me to move out should any more harm befall them.
We all jumped, as Zopa rapped his pipe to empty it, rubbed the flake tobacco in his palm and refilled it, also recharging his glass, as did we all. This was to be a long evening, but we knew the heart of the darkness was yet to be revealed.
I thought it best to check back into the history of the cottage and the hamlet in which it nestled. What I found was scarcely credible. The cottage backed on to an ancient graveyard, latterly the property of the Church built close by, but seemingly with much more ancient origins. Oh yes, I know what you’re all thinking but this was rather special – the graveyard had been bulldozed to make way for some modern housing, which incidentally was never built. This alone would explain the anger of the sprits of the dead.
Yet there was more. Ancient Wiltshire and Somerset have the greatest concentration of ‘ley lines’ in the country, having Stonehenge, Avebury and many other sites through which these lines of energy pass. Yes, my friends, you are ahead of me – the cottage sat on such a line, as did the graveyard, a line also passing through the Stanton Drew circle. I knew the energy which such a combination could manifest would be immensely powerful.
I decided to seek advice from a fellow Shaman, a Tibetan monk whose identity I cannot reveal, as shamanic practice is frowned upon by his superiors. Nevertheless, his many years with his nomadic family in Tibet, prior to ordination as a monk, gave him abilities and rituals which I knew would make him a powerful ally. I can tell you, I was mightily relieved when he said: ‘I must go too!’.
Lama Yeshe and I discussed the options for removal of the harmful spirit, which must be guided by our compassion for the spirit as well as the family.
And so, one evening in late August, Lama Yeshe and I headed to the stricken family’s home. The day was clear, yet a heavy pall of fog surrounded and isolated the hamlet.
Emily and the baby had been sent to spend the night with friends, so only Brian, Jane and Jack, the dog, remained.
On arrival we began our work with a brief prayer and blessing. As Yeshe gathered materials from the family, I arranged the tools we were like to need. Jane had gathered fruit, biscuits and other tasty food, but this was not for us.
In our preliminaries, we made offerings of that food and of fire to our Guardians and Protectors, requesting their help. We also made offerings to the 8 Classes of spirits, and the local deities, to ensure they would not interfere with our rituals.
And so it began. We chanted the Heart Sutra slowly and deliberately – it is known to be effective in removing spirits as it reminds them of their state and the need to move on. No sooner had we ended, than a shriek of unearthly laughter rang out from upstairs, followed by a sickening thud…………then more laughter.
I’ve never sprinted so fast up stairs, but I was seemingly too late. I opened Emily’s door to find the blood-spattered corpse of an animal still clinging to the wall, where it had been dashed, as if a child had thrown it there in a wild tantrum. I approached the mangled remains and as it began to dawn on me that it was Jack, and the disgust began to well up inside me, I suddenly knew that I too was in mortal danger. I had fallen into a trap and could feel the malice oozing through the very fabric of the cottage.
The walls of the room itself began to billow and gyrate, one wall becoming a contorted face, grinning yet snarling defiance and cruelty. I had failed and must now pay the price. Arms extended from the wall and closed around my throat, and I began to sink into unconsciousness. As my darkness deepened and I slipped into unconsciousness, the secret last line of the A’Sham’ah ritual was whispered in the room.
I knew I had only seconds to live and escape or must surely die, as the last line of the A’Sham’ah ritual is only ever heard in the final seconds of life. This would have been no ordinary death, but one which would drag me into the hell of the flesh-tearing demons, from whence this monster had arisen.
It seemed as if time stood still. I could see the dust slowly falling around me like heavy snowflakes, glittering rainbow spheres filling the room, and yet the room and its walls were no longer solid, no longer imprisoning me. Realising my Guardian had acted and I was suddenly free, I staggered as best I could across the morass, once solid floor, and made my escape.
My stupidity had cost us time, time used by the sprit to draw from the energies of those present, especially the terror and distress of Brian and Jane. Lama Yeshe and I were protected, but the protection given to the couple was not enough, and we rushed them out of the house. It seemed that the very doorway was sucking them back as the spirit fed on their very life-force.
Given the power of the malevolent spirit, we decided that Lama Yeshe would perform a banishing ritual, known only to a handful of Tibetans and for use only in the most extreme cases. I was to keep the area spiritually ‘clear’ for him. Now, for those of you not familiar with Himalayan shamanism, I should explain that both of us transformed ourselves into deities of great power and each performed our tasks as those deities.
And so we began. Lama Yeshe became the deity Avalokiteshvara, the embodiment of Compassion, chanting the ritual for clearance. As soon as he began, the room seemed to become peaceful and free from the oppressive ‘fog’. He was surrounded by a sphere of blue light, impenetrable protection from every direction.
I instantly transformed into Garuda, a wrathful deity of immense power, and chanted his mantras to call for assistance, for we not only become the deity but can also harness the various forms the deity takes, all of which may attend as legions of helpers, should the need arise.
As suddenly as it had ceased, the spirit became active – this time the very walls, ceiling and floor became alive, rippled, billowing and pulsating. It was as if we were witnessing the house become the beating heart of the entity, glowing like molten iron, seething and spitting with fury.
And still the monk chanted on, sounding the bell and the damaru drum. I realised that Lama Yeshe was now performing the ultimate sacrifice – Chöd, offering his body to the spirits, completely absorbed in his task, and protected by the compassion he embodied.
This calm and gentle sight made the entity furious. Time and again the spirit drove the very walls at the monk, but as it came closer to succeeding Garuda arose as a massive eagle whose beating wings could shake the very universe, cloaking himself over the evil mass. ‘Reveal yourself!’ Garuda shouted, ‘for I have the power of the Fires of Garuda and you shall not prevail!’
Silence. Not sight nor sound – all was suspended in the beginningless and endless dimensions of time and space. A low rumbling followed, and from a corner of the room a black smog of human proportions appeared. It seemed as if the very earth itself shook with loathing. Avalokiteshvara, rose, and I was aware of his presence at my side.
Together we faced the foul smog that reeked of the charnel grounds, demanding that the spirit reveal itself. Slowly emerging from the wall through the fog we were facing, the spirit appeared, angry and loathsome, but unable to reject what we demanded. Clearly visible were the grimace of fury, the fangs and diabolical fire typical of his type.
I wanted to banish the Gyalpo spirit, but Lama Yeshe decided that compassion meant liberating the spirit. Offerings were prepared and I led the spirit away from the house to the nearest crossroads for its release, this being the Tibetan tradition. Having done so, I turned to walk away, but felt uneasy. My feelings were borne out when with an almighty crack an oak branch snapped and fell just inches from my head.
Knowing that I had only seconds to act, as Garuda I knew I had to trap this entity and save myself. If we failed, the consequences for the family would be too dire to contemplate, as the spirit would hound them even unto death.
Swiftly I produced my ancient shamanic ‘melong’ mirror, a portal to other realms, empowered by over two thousand years of use by shamans past. Using a Mighty Garuda incantation of ancient times, ‘Khyung Khyung Bendza Hum PHAT!’ I bound the spirit and forced it to enter the melong.
The fog shifted and billowed as the entity struggled against the power of the portal. It was all I could do to hold it, but I knew as soon as I saw the tornado of golden light pouring from the melong that a greater power than my own was at work. The shrieking demon was drawn into the vortex of the portal, slowly at first, then as rapidly as its essence was pulled inexorably into the maelstrom until all that remained was the dark patina of past centuries on the surface of the mirror. The malicious evil was finally contained.
Carried away from the cottage and now trapped, the spirit began pleading, then demanding, but could not resist the overwhelming strength of Garuda. At a sacred place know only to those guided by spirit, the demon was released from the melong – banished forever to a realm where it could never again cause harm.
That night a vision confirmed what I already felt to be true – my work in this life is to obey the call from the spirits, to help others who suffer illness and harm, and to guide those who die to be reborn in eternal bliss, protecting all from the forces of those who seek to feast on the energy of terror they can wreak amongst the unwary.
And so Zopa concluded:
There will be others who will release this demonic force – that much I know from divination. I only hope there is a shaman at that time, who is able and willing to help, for without intervention this demonic force will grow and grow, feeding on anger and fear until it is powerful enough to enter a human soul and possess it. Given the power of this demon we may be sure of war and famine.
Be vigilant my friends, be vigilant. Be awake!
And with that, Zopa arose, and we three were released into the darkness, grateful for a friend who will always be there to protect and guide us, who will travel paths few humans ever see, and from which fewer still return.
Dedicated to William Hope Hodgson, the master of this genre.