:: Little Vision Tricksters ::

:: a history and future of deep consciousness spooks ::

Every human culture in the world has its own unique set of ‘fairy folk’ beliefs, from leprechaun to menehune, that have persisted over millennia in the imaginations and experiences of many generations of people. Where did these animistic beliefs originate and how have the managed to survive for so many years of more organised monotheistic religion?

:: introduction ::

There’s been a lot of talk in the last few decades about aliens. These extra-terrestrials are alleged to be regularly visiting Earth, travelling across vast distances of space in craft of unknown providence and of mysterious propulsion, to indulge in explorations, abductions and communications with various inhabitants of this planet.

Around one in twenty Americans now claim to have had some form of ‘contact’ with these space beings, whether it be a sighting of an unidentified craft or a full-blown abduction experience, and some 30% of the same nation state that they believe that these aliens are in regular contact with Earth. Belief is less widespread across Europe , but the rise in crop circle incidents and the connection of these events with aliens in the minds of many people has helped to drum up significant interest.


Programmes such as ‘X-Files’ regularly dominated the TV networks across the world throughout the 1990s, and films such as ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’ and ‘Independence Day’ were box office smashes. The ubiquitous ‘alien-face’ symbol, originally a relatively ‘fringe’ symbol in our culture, can now be found on everything from best-selling books to food brands. There are some who say this mixture of aliens, TV and marketing is a uniquely American invention, although its long history in alleged ‘alien hot spots’ such as Wiltshire, England, northwest France and parts of western Japan does suggest a more universal appeal and origin.

What can be happening here? Are aliens really visiting our planet on a regular basis? Or are vast numbers of humans merely getting caught up in some kind of hysteria? These are the questions a vast number of popular documentaries, books and films have sought to answer, but explanations of evidence has tended to be somewhat subjective – in many cases the ‘aliens’ explanation is only one of many equally valid explanations of a given event. Short of an alien craft making a very public landing outside an international monument such as the White House (a la ‘Mars Attacks’), the question is not likely to be answered definitely in the affirmative or negative in the near future. At present, it is a question of belief.

the lucky people

But if we are to take the position that alien visitations and the elaborate mythology that surrounds them are not literally ‘true’, can we find an alternative model that may help to explain why so many people are believers and why a more select few of those believers claim to have actually been abducted?

It is therefore the purpose of this essay to explore a suggested non-literal model for these experiences which was suggested in part by the author’s realisation that a large number of alien abduction experiences seemed to bear a close resemblance to other human visionary experiences – including those of the religious and psychedelic kinds. Many of these visionary experiences recorded in literature both anthropological and sacred take the form of the appearance of what might be termed ‘spooks’ that indulge in some form of mischief or communicate a message and then make their exit, leaving the viewer with very little doubt that the experience occurred ‘out there’ and that they ‘existed’.

I use the word ‘spook’ as a technical term, meaning a generic type of visionary character who is usually in part mischievous and part wise, and who can be instantly recognised by his or her small stature, wide child-like eyes and facial features and general shyness or reluctance to come into what might be called ‘common society’ (or, indeed, ‘consensus reality’). Most importantly, it does not generally form any major or central theme of the dominant (or ‘high-status’) religious or sacred culture of a society, but exists in the folk mind. Thus a spook can often be found beyond the edge of humanity, in deep forests. Leprechauns are often held to inhabit secluded valleys or streams in Ireland, elves in dark woods and silent forests of Scandinavia , Taotao Mona in the southern mountains of Guam.

wandjina drawing

They are often understood to be guarding something, which may be literal riches such as gold, or more ethereal ones such as the gate to another world, or more simply, wisdom. There does not seem to be a single human culture in the anthropological or historical literature that lacks a spook belief system of one form or another, and when belief in one set of spooks dies, it is quickly replaced by another, more up-to-date (or more glamorous) system. And as we shall see, they seem to have been with us since the moment we looked out with conscious, intelligent eyes and became fully human.

:: ebu gogo - the hobbit of flores island ::

It has been known for about fifty years now that a large-boned, upright-walking and tool-using hominid known as Homo erectus was the most likely candidate to be one of mankind’s immediate predecessors on this planet. This species of man left Africa around two million years ago and slowly spread across the whole globe – evolving into new forms of erectus as it did so – before being replaced by our immediate ancestors in a second wave from Africa . What has also been known for some time is that on some of the islands of Indonesia, isolated populations of erectus had survived the constant onslaught of modern man’s arrival and settlement until as late as 20,000 years ago – comparatively late in evolutionary terms.

But the announcement that came in 2004 from palaeoanthropologists working on the island of Flores, Indonesia, truly sent shock waves around the academic world. A small, three foot tall hominid skeleton had been found which bore all the hallmarks of being an erectus child. However, on examining the pelvis of the creature and finding it to have been female, scientists also noted that it appeared to be full grown. That is, the little three foot child actually seemed to be an adult.

Homo floresiensis

As if to compound this conclusion, more skeletons began turning up in a cave towards the centre of the island, including those of children. Clearly this was a new, miniaturised species of man, and one that had evolved from Homo erectus, and taxonomists gave it the Latin name Homo floresiensis – ‘Man of Flores’. More was yet to come. When fragments of bone were sent to laboratories for radio-carbon dating, the results astonished even the most radical of evolutionary theorists: the skeletons were found to be barely more than eleven or twelve thousand years old. In fact, by investigating the general geology of Flores Island and the archaeology of the cave, scientists were able to suggest that what had actually finished these little hobbit-men off was a major volcanic eruption on the island sometime in the region of eleven thousand years ago.

So much for evolutionary history – what was all the more surprising for scientists and journalists covering the story was that the islanders all began reporting that they had expected these skeletons to be found eventually, and simply confirmed what they had always believed: that the island had once been home to a group of little mischievous folk who were barely three feet tall, and that they had all died out comparatively recently. Could this have been a long-preserved folk memory of the little hominids?

The Flores islanders regularly tell their stories of the Ebu Gogo (“Ancestors Who Eat Everything”), reporting that they were covered in hair, ears that stuck out and pronounced pot-bellies. They lived in caves inland from the coast, walked somewhat awkwardly and could often be heard ‘murmuring’ in their own language. Additionally, the Ebu Gogo had the ability to repeat what was said to them in a kind of ‘parrot-like’ fashion but effective communication between humans and these folk never occurred. Remarkably, the islanders additionally said that until a few years ago, there were actually people alive who could remember the Ebu Gogo, and that they were certainly alive at the time when the Dutch visited the island in the 1600s. In modern day villages all over Flores , it is generally agreed that the last Ebu Gogo died out some 150 years ago. It is said that a group of villagers from the south came and burned the last few survivors out of their caves, believing that the Ebu Gogo had stolen and eaten one of their babies.

What can this all mean? On the surface it appears that we can effectively identify the Ebu Gogo with Homo floresiensis and state confidently that the scientists have yet to uncover later skeleton finds that would prove the islanders’ story (*1). We could say that there is no way that the islanders could have known about these skeletons before they were uncovered in 2004 and thus there is likely to be more than just a mere grain of truth in the Ebu Gogo tales.

Ebu Gogo

On the other hand, it is decidedly questionable whether the folk memory of a single people – no matter how conservative they may be – can record any clear or accurate details for a period of time on the order of 11,000 years, especially since the archaeology of the region suggests that modern man may have only arrived on Flores some ten thousand years ago. The Ebu Gogo may simply therefore represent the folk memory of a much more recent supplanted or ancestral population of modern humans who once lived on Flores, and the resemblance between them and the subsequently discovered Homo floresiensis is mere coincidence.

The problem with all these explanations is that the existence of such spooks as the Ebu Gogo is near universal in cultures throughtout mankind. Although they are not endowed with any form of magical powers and do not regularly visit Floresians in dreams or visions (and when they do, the phenomenon is treated with a fair amount of scepticism), their small stature and ‘wild man’ appearance does tend to put them in the same category as many of the other ‘little people’ found across the world. And unlike the Ebu Gogo, many of the world’s little people do possess magical powers, and they do regularly visit people in dreams. More alarmingly, they often are just as amalevolent and mischievous as they are wise or benevolent.

This is the key problem we are faced with, then, when studying many of the spook stories and beliefs in the literature. Do they represent something deep within the hyuman psyche relating to wisdom, mischief and the sense of the remote and the unknown, or are they more simply a half-remembered and much emebllished folk memory of a landscape’s previous inhabitants? To many people in the world today and in days gone by, they often represent both.

:: the people of the past - the taotao mona of guam ::

Guam is the metropolis of the Western Pacific Ocean . Situated at about the same latitude as Bangkok , Thailand , but about six hours’ plane flight east, it lies in the northwest quadrant of the group of archipelagos, islands and atolls known as Micronesia . With a population of 110,000, Guam is easily the most populous region for miles around, and a sizeable majority of this population is made up of the native Chamorro people. Even today, in the modern urbanised sprawl of towns such as Yona and Hagatna, the Chamorro still hold a healthy respect for spirits believed to live in the wild and remote places in the southern half of the island.

Taotao Mona

These are the Taotao Mona, the people before recorded time. With the Spanish invasion of the island in 1672 and subsequent war which wiped out the vast majority of the Chamorro population, the previous religious and cultural systems collapsed. Memories persist of a time before the war when great ancestral spirits called aniti who were worshipped and remembered by all residents of particular villages. But with the Chamorro culture all but destroyed and the Catholic faith gaining ground rapidly, beliefs in a generalised group of ancestral spirits began, and so the Taotao Mona began.

The Taotao Mona can appear as a large or strong person, but just as often they can seem as a ‘white lady’ surrounded by scents and lemon flowers. The most common form, however, is called in the Chamorro language a duende – a childlike figure that causes mischief and makes trespassers ill. If a person happens to go into the jungle, to gather plants, or to visit an ancient burial site, he or she must always ask the permission of the resident Taotao Mona to pass through. Just as common is the belief that a person must whistle when passing through these areas so as to alert the Taotao Mona to his or her presence and so not startle them unnecessarily. If they should be startled or disturbed, they may pinch skin and also have the power to make a trespasser ill, and the only cure is to ask for forgiveness from these beings.

During a visit to Guam some years ago, I met numerous Chamorros (*2) who had a very firm respect and awareness of these spooks, and during a tour of the island that I was given, there were some places that were definitely ‘off limits’ on account of the Taotao Mona living there. To a certain extent, one can see these beings as a kind of ‘territorial guardians’ detailing the areas which were unavailable for human habitation and use, as well as defining the boundaries of human society.


This type of ‘spook function’ – that is to say, a sociological, psychological or spiritual function to which the belief in the ‘spook’ is put by a given society – is very common across the world and seems to speak of a deeply ingrained human sense that some places in the environment, particularly very remote or extremely fertile places, are places of raw power, where a mere human cannot voyage unprotected or at all. This type of thinking would make sound evolutionary sense in societies before the advent of ‘protective’ societies such as the city state, since it would be easy to get lost or die of exposure in such remote places.

However, we also note a distinctly magical aspect to the Taotao Mona which was not found in the Ebu Gogo of Flores. A purely territorial guardian spook might be expected to take the form of a huge, man-devouring monster, rather than small, childlike magical being. Additionally, in Chamorro beliefs, the connection between the current Taotao Mona, the historical aniti and the inhabitants of Guam who lived before the Spanish Conquest is made explicit.

We have, then, exactly the type of multiple-functioned example that was discussed earlier: the spook as magical being, as ancestor and (in this case) as guardian of the boundaries. Exactly the same multiple functions are common and, as we see in the next case, can be found on the other side of the world, in Europe .

:: little tricksters - leprechauns and elves ::

If the Taotao Mona, by inhabiting the remote places of Guam , represent in some way previous inhabitants of the island, this connection is made even more explicit in Ireland with the leprechauns. Popularly understood to be small, bearded and playful men (as well as bearded women) found living either alone or in communities near streams and forests, they have their origins as one of the many classes of ‘faerie-folk’ associated in Irish mythology with the Tuatha Dé Danánn, a quasi-historical people who are said to have brought numerous civilising arts and trades to Ireland, and who now reside in the Land of the Ever-Living.


Leprechauns themselves are most famously associated with ‘faerie forts’ and ‘faerie rings’, by which is meant ancient Celtic and pre-Celtic megalithic stone circles and earthworks, such as Newgrange, near the River Boyne north of Dublin. Some beliefs from previous centuries held that the leprechauns actually built these structures, which are found in great numbers in every county in Ireland .

The name of the beings itself, the Irish Gaelic words leith-prachán, meaning ‘half-bodied’, makes it clear that these are magical beings, being only partly existent in the physical. Their connection with the Tuatha Dé Danánn in the Land of the Ever-Living also lends them a powerfully magical air, as the Danánn were once believed to be able to accomplish anything they desired, and regularly picked human beings off to carry them to their paradise to offer them wisdom (*3) There are still large numbers of people, particularly in the West of Ireland, who believe in the reality of leprechauns, and numerous protected hillocks in the region (as well as closer to Dublin) remain unfarmed and unploughed to protect the leprechaun communities supposedly living there(*4). In modern times, the image of the leprechaun is quite a friendly one, but this was not necessarily so in days gone by. The Irish were subject to many of the same boundary taboos that were imposed on the Chamorros – avoidance of earthworks and stone circles as well as glades and streams. Leprechauns could also steal away babies if angered or cause illness. Once again we see the magical, boundary guardians at work.

But there is a moral dimension here as well. Many of the stone circles, streams and isolated glades were, in pre-Christian Ireland , sites of great religious ceremonies or of profoundly sanctified presences. It is possible that the incoming Christian Church in Ireland recruited the native beliefs in the power of the ‘faerie-folk’ to ensure that good Catholics stayed close to the community and did not stray to those sites of former significance. A similar moralistic dimension existed among the Germanic peoples with their beliefs in Elves, but not to further the interests of Christianity. These spooks were recruited for such a purpose in pagan times.

Generally with a reputation much more malevolent than the cheery leprechauns, elves were inhabitants of the dark forests and wellsprings across much of Germany and Scandinavia . Considered to be of a very slight build and of great beauty, they not only had a considerable magical ability, but also a kind of ‘glamour’ which could blind humans as to the true nature of their actions. They brought bad dreams to sleepers (by sitting heavily on the dreamer’s chest), blighted cattle, sheep, crops and people with fatal diseases, and often were implicated in stealing away babies and replacing them with ‘changelings’, malevolent humans with an elfin spirit.

Elfin Lady

In Norse and pagan times, they were often identified with the Gods themselves – the phrase ‘the Gods and the elves’ appears constantly throughout the Norse Poetic Edda and is presumed to mean ‘all the Gods of the sky and the land’. Thus, elves may well have originally been animistic sacred essences, the presences of the heavenly Gods on Earth. It is here that their moralistic dimension came in, since if they represented the Gods on Earth, they too must be obeyed as if they were Gods.

Thus, given elfish malevolence, life for a conscientiously religious Norseman might well have sometimes been fraught with danger. Like the Irish, the Germanic peoples believed that elves lived in communities and as such they acted as boundary guardians. Most importantly, however, is a new function for these spooks: the Poetic Edda makes it clear that elves are sacred representatives of the Gods on earth, and may well also signify pre-Norse gods or animistic spirits.

So far, then, in our survey of spooks, we have encountered stories and functions which are relatively modern in origin. These functions of ancestor worship or remembrance, boundary guardianship and moralistic sentinels were not the original functions of these spooks, but have evolved as humans and societies evolved the requirements for such ideas and to a certain extent, they eclipse the deeper meaning of spooks as a phenomenon. To understand this, we need to cast our glance further back, to the time when spooks were exclusively magical, exclusively sacred. And the most suitable place to enter this period of time is Japan, where the Shinto religion is still at the heart of the culture.

:: sacred essences - the kami of japan ::

Despite the appearance of an almost futuristic, high-technological society, in many ways, the Japanese are a traditional, conservative people with a great fondness for ancient things. This attitude has long persisted in Japan , and as such, has allowed them to hold their heads against many of the transformations and fundamental changes that have occurred in their history. It has also enabled them to conserve in an almost pristine form one of the oldest religious symbols that mankind has ever recruited in his attempts to understand the world – the sacred essence or kami (Kami). Kami is often translated – incorrectly in my opinion (*5) – as ‘god’ since it refers to apparently God-like entities such as Ama-Terasu, the Sun ‘goddess’ and Izanagi, one of the Creators. However, these beings are not ‘gods’ in the Western Christian or Greco-Roman sense of the word. More properly they are sacred essences who are able to take on a pseudo-human form, but largely remain as an essence of the phenomenon they are held to represent.

Izanagi and Izanami

However, these ‘supreme deities’ were not the only things addressed as kami. Ancestors, aspects of the weather, prominent landscape features, aristocrats and members of the Imperial Family, and even famous swords were at one time or another addressed as such. The kami then were prominent natural and sociological forces worthy of being thought of as ‘greater’ than merely themselves, larger than life and more ‘real’ than other beings. Additionally, kami were held to live in huge numbers in remote mountains and forests, but it is this concept of sacred essence, divine natural force or of emphasised reality that is the deeper sense of the kami. Traditionally, these beings possessed two souls, a gentle and benevolent one and a malevolent and aggressive one. The behaviour of the kami (and thus the outcome of any entreaty or worship) was dependent on which soul was in control of the essence at any given time.

Many of these beliefs – particularly those relating to sacred essences and emphasised realities – are still current in Japan today. Before any major business or educational undertaking, such as the signing of a contract or the taking of an exam, a trip to a shrine to pray for good fortune, or to offer up a service to the enshrined kami is an essential part of the preparation. (*6) Thus, the kami was not only the essence of a phenomenon, but had the power to bring prosperity or cause calamity.

Kami Masks

As animistic and antiquated (some might say primitive) as these Japanese ideas might seem, an even more ancient substrate of belief existed among the Japanese’s northern neighbours, a predominantly hunting and gathering people called the Ainu. It is even likely that the Japanese may have borrowed the whole principle of the kami from the more archaic Ainu, since the Ainu word for precisely the same concept is kamui. These sacred essences were the subject of many myths among the Ainu, told in the form of long epic poems which were at one and the same time, retellings of stories and prayers of praise to the kamui essences. Like the Japanese, the Ainu believed that the kamui had two souls, but unlike the Japanese, they believed that the choice of which soul should be in overall control of the kamui at any given time could be more directly controlled.

This was an evidently shamanic phenomenon, and shamans were regularly employed to gather the spirits to them and speak on their behalf, or to actively seek to ‘swap’ the soul of a malevolently-behaving kamui. But this level of control was not the exclusive territory of the shamans. For it was predominantly by prayer, praise songs and offerings that the Ainu sought to control the kamui and ensure the benevolent soul remained in control of the essence. However, the Ainu believed that the relationship between themselves and the kamui was not one of servant and master, but of two interconnected – and equal – beings, who both had needs and desires: mankind, for food and shelter, the kamui for prayers and ceremonies. A bargain was thus struck between Ainu and kamui – in exchange for food and shelter, the Ainu would provide prayer and ceremony.

Ainu Shaman

Therefore if a kamui persisted in being malevolent, by scaring away prey animals or causing a child to become ill, an Ainu would react by asking a shaman which kamui had caused the calamity and then publicly and openly dismantling that kamui’s shrine to the sound of loud, berating songs which mocked and admonished the spirit for failing to keep to its side of the bargain. (*7)

In the spirits and spooks common among both the Japanese and the Ainu, we have seen the glimpse of something much older than mere ancestor spirits. Granted, ancestor worship was in both cases included in the kami religions, but the deeper underlying sense of these phenomena was of sacred essences. Among the Ainu, these essences could be directly appealed to and even modified, and as we go further into the past, we begin to see these spooks truly come alive.

:: shamanic allies - hekura spirits of the yanomami ::

Under the dark canopy of the tropical Amazonian forest of Brazilian-Venezuelan border country live the Yanomami, a people renowned in the anthropological literature for their fierceness, their generosity and their unique culture. Living in round, communal villages called shabonos, these people live cheek by jowl with each other in one of the most biodiverse regions of the planet. In the Yanomami jungle, there are said to be more species of trees in one quarter mile area than can be found in the whole of Western Europe .

But, in the minds of the people who live there, the forest is not merely filled with plant and animal life. The trees are also teeming with what might be termed spiritual life. Every single plant, vine, tree, and every single animal from mouse to jaguar has a vital living soul. But most important of all are the shamanic spirits, the hekura. These tiny glowing lights which live in the wilds of the mountains and distant uninhabited jungle can only be contacted by the use of the hallucinogenic snuff called ebene. Prepared from the bark of the virola tree, this snuff is used by shamans of the tribe, as well as a large percentage of the ‘layman’ Yanomami population.

Hekura Meeting

On most afternoons, when the day’s work of hunting, gathering or tending to the fruit gardens is done, they gather in their shabono to socialise, using a combination of songs, dances and ebene to entice the hekura down from their distant homes to enter their bodies. Once they have entered, they begin to ‘shamanise’ the person in whom they are dwelling, which causes them to sing the healing or harming songs of the spirits within them. A shaman can furthermore be initiated so that the hekura start to live permanently inside his body. Using very large amounts of ebene and extremely strong strains of wild tobacco, the spirits are contacted and eventually housed inside him, from where an almost permanent shamanic communication can begin. The Yanomami envisage entire communities of hekura inside the shaman, living in symbolic houses, villages, mountains and rivers within his body.

Keeping the hekura satisfied inside them is a priority for most shamans of this tribe – this is maintained by the regular use of tobacco, ebene and ceremonies – and by using on the power of the spirits within him, and understanding the quality of that power, the shaman can heal an ally or harm an enemy at will. It appears from much of the literature about these people that the hekura, and the use of ebene to contact them, forms the vast majority of Yanomami religious practice. It might be said that the Yanomami are a profoundly internal people who prefer to communicate with aspects of the ‘inner’ world rather than entities such as ‘gods’ or ‘deities’.

We might thus consider that the Yanomami have made these living, powerful spooks the centre of their spiritual lives. It is clear that they value the magical aspect most strongly, and as shamanic allies, they determine the course of major political events such as inter-village warfare, in which the hekura-derived shamanic power is recruited to harm enemies, and trade, which is often concluded with a generous measure of ebene to cement the new relationship. Furthermore, the Yanomami believe that the souls of the dead eventually become hekura, as do the souls of animals that the Yanomami have killed to provide themselves with food. At funerals and great feasts, ceremonies are often performed – again with the shamans and their hekura power presiding – to ensure that this transition – from living, to dead, to hekura – takes place in the natural order of things. These shamanic allies, then, not only have a magical power, they also function as a kind of ancestor remembrance, and by allowing them into their bodies, the Yanomami recycle and remember the wisdom of the past, gathered by all that have died before them. More than this though, the hekura are overtly political in a way that the kami of Japan or the Taotao Mona of Guam could not be.

sparks in salviaspace

By taking up residence within a shaman’s body, they become agents for the furtherance of that particular shaman’s aims – whether he is a sorcerer who desires to control large populations across a wide territory or a weapon of war who wishes to protect his village from attacks from shamanic enemies. In fact, inter-village warfare is often begun out of a desire for revenge for some (imagined or real) shamanic attack on a tribal member.

The hekura are spooks par excellence. Taking centre stage in the spiritual and political life of the people, they are the most complex of the spooks we have seen so far. But of these it also appears that they are the most ancient. The Yanomami speak a language which, according to most linguists, is related to no other currently spoken tongue. They are often considered to be an isolate people in the northwest Amazon, who remained in their mountains as many of their sister cultures were supplanted by incoming Carib and Arawak peoples from the north (*8). Thus it is likely that the Yanomami have been living in their present lands for several thousands of years. And in turn, it is likely that the mandala of culture relating to the hekura is just as ancient.

The Yanomami represent what Joseph Campbell refers to as a primitive planting culture, that is to say one that has turned to some extent towards the planting of crops for sustenance, but still maintains a healthy respect for hunting traditions, including shamanism. While in Japan , we see an almost aesthetic tradition typical of a civilised people, here in the Amazon we seem to be witness to an older substrate of spook, one that still maintains a profound magical power strong enough to inspire shamans and coordinate political and tribal events.

And as we turn to a place further back in time again, to a people who never knew the cultural innovations of planting crops but remained as hunters, we see the spooks returning even more to their central places – as the very Creators of the Dreaming Universe itself.

:: transforming spooks - aboriginal dreamtime beings ::

“When he’s bright, we have rain. He is happy, we keep renewing him, smiling all the time” So says David Mowaljarlai, an elder of the Wunambal people of Donkey Creek in the Kimberley Range in northwest Australia, in commenting upon a rock painting of Gunduran, the Rain Dreaming spirit of his tribe’s religious thinking. “When they are dull, they are unhappy and we have droughts because people don’t come to paint them.”

These words typify perfectly the mode of Aboriginal thinking about the world, and, in particular, of the wandjina spirits so central to Wunambal religious life. Wandjina don’t just act as mankind’s allies or even merely their ancestors.


Two boys saw Dumby the Owl one time, and caught him. They plucked his feathers and tossed him into the air, shouting with glee ‘See how you can fly!’ This enraged Wojin, a powerful wandjina, who brought on a flood that drowned all the people except the two boys, who hid in a kangaroo’s pouch and survived.

In another story, Dumby himself had gone to the Council of Wandjina to complain of his mistreatment. ‘You growl the two boys’ he had asked of them and they had gone to various places to growl, where it rained and there was a great flood, killing many. And wherever they went to growl, they left their tracks, which became tracks which the people use today. And when finally they came to the munmurra clan of the Wunambal people, they gave them the Title to those tracks. These were the people who later came to paint the wandjina – including the Rain Wandjina – at the site of Donkey Creek.

They represent the history, the beginning, the journey and the reason of the track. We must pick up everything from this track: animal, history, painting, images. All this – land ownership, history, painting, and everything we do – was brought here together at Donkey Creek.

'Yorro Yorro’

When one comes to a place like Donkey Creek in the Kimberley Range , one realises that the place is the latest manifestation of some sixty thousand years of continuous Aboriginal tradition and transmission of information. Arrayed on numerous rock faces and overhangs are paintings of wandjina – large eyed Dreamtime spirits who are the agents of creation. By this is not meant that one single act of creation occurred at the beginning of time, but that the wandjina were and are recurrently engaged in permanent acts of continuous creation. And so, these paintings, which at one time are depictions of wandjinas and the very wandjinas themselves that they are supposed to represent, are continuously renewed by the munmurra clan of the Wunambal people.

Wandjina Images

We see the Rain wandjina, the Cloud wandjina, a row of Track wandjinas, the Cuckoo People, and ever more arrayed throughout the region of Donkey Creek. They are the original spooks.

As with all Aboriginal Dreamtime beings, they can effectively be regarded as a kind of Creator-Protector, setting the world into a particular order then preserving it and ensuring its well being through further acts of creation throughout time. This function is greatly aided by the regularly repainting and renewing (read: ‘re-creating’) of the wandjina images, an act of magic which ensures the continued preservation and existence of the world and those essential things – such as rain – which allow mankind to prosper. But these spirit-spooks are much, much more than this.

Since they are the ‘property’ of a particular clan of the Wunambal, they also signify land ownership. Actually, this is not strictly true – it might be more properly said that the presence of these wandjina as owners of the land allow the munmurra clan to be the land’s (and thus the wandjinas’) custodians. The clan’s history, genealogy and centre of spiritual life are thus recorded at Donkey Creek, with the wandjina as magical creator-custodians of every tradition that the people possess. Repainting these images is an act of magic, of thanksgiving, of creation, of history, of ownership, and of genealogy.

This is the most profound mandala of understanding that surrounds beliefs in spooks that we have seen so far. In Aboriginal culture, the spirit-spook is apotheosised into the Master of All, ever-present in magical creation, both the story of the land and the land itself, both the thing represented and the truth of the thing itself, the magic and the history, the creator and the created. Here, in the most ancient of hunting cultures, do we find what possibly may turn out to be an image of some of the earliest renderings of human beliefs in spooks. The traditions of the Aborigines are thought to stretch backwards in a relatively unbroken yet continuously developing tradition to the time when mankind first set foot in Australia sixty millennia ago. Thus, the histories recorded at places such as Donkey Creek may well be truly ancient. And what form, at the base, does this rendering of belief take? The landscape itself as the essence.


Aboriginal myths are so deeply rooted in the landscape that to retell a story without passing through the very environment where the events are held to take place is almost meaningless. The general form is that a Dreamtime Being wanders around the unblemished landscape performing a few tasks and then transforms – into a rock, a river, or a symbol of land ownership. Very often the reason for the transformation of the Being is little more than it was the right time. The river needed to come into being, the rock needed to manifest, or the land itself needed to take on ownership.

This is exactly what happens with the myth of Dumby given above – the owl’s tortures have very little direct bearing on the result of the story, but merely set in motion a series of events which lead to Donkey Creek being transformed from a pristine land to a place that is owned. And it is by the presence of the wandjina spooks that this occurs continuously up to the present day.

Aboriginal myths do not appear to seek to explain why the natural world is the way that it is – why a rock is situated in a particular place or why a river takes a particular course – but instead seem to observe that the world is that way, and then draw up ritual charters which seat the people perfectly within their natural and sacred environment. And the wandjina spooks are central to this function.

:: spook functions ::

Throughout our survey from Ireland to Australia, we’ve examined a number of different types of spooks which fulfil a wide range of functions in human society. Here is a broad summary of these main functions:

1. Memories of Former People – On Guam, we saw that the Taotao Mona were essentially cultural memories of the pre-Christian inhabitants of the island, while on Flores, the Ebu Gogo may have been memories of the island’s previous inhabitants, the little hominids Homo floresiensis. Similarly, in Ireland the leprechauns were residual memories of such peoples as the Tuatha Dé Danánn who lived long before the Celts. Thus the spooks fulfil an important function of setting mankind in an environment with a history, of maintaining, no matter how frivolously or anecdotally, a connection with the past and with the former custodians of the land that is now inhabited.

2. Memories of Old Deities – Similarly in Ireland , the Tuatha Dé Danánn themselves were considered Gods by the Celts and as such, spooks can also represent folk memories of the former deities that were worshipped before the native religion changed. We find this also in the stories of the elves in Germanic countries where memories of the Norse Aesir continue. To a certain extent, the Taotao Mona of Guam also fulfil this function. Again, this function maintains a connection with the past, not merely with the people but with the old gods. It is as if the gods formerly believed to be inhabitant in the environment cannot be washed away entirely lest they become angry and cause calamity. They thus provide a method of residual belief which maintains a local sense of the sacred, especially in regions where a religion centred on a very distant environment (such as Christianity, centred on Jerusalem or Rome , or Islam, centred on Mecca ) currently holds sway in the minds of the people.

Ancestor Mask

3. Ancestor Spirits – Virtually all the spooks encountered in our survey have fulfilled this function to a certain extent. However, it was most overtly expressed in Guam , and with one aspect of the kami of Japan . Again, it provides a connection with the past, but this particular function provides the most intimate connection. Gods may well be gods, and former people may well have been people, but these spooks are my ancestors, who lived in this land.

4. Guardians of the Boundaries – The Taotao Mona of Guam , the leprechauns in Ireland and to a certain extent, the hekura of the Yanomami fulfilled this function in that to wander alone in the forest for long periods of time might well invite the intentions of a malicious sorcerer with his hekura-inspired power. This sociological, moral or psychological function binds people to the culture or village that they live in, and warns them not to stray from the mainstream of life. This is most especially pronounced in Guam , where the Catholic Church actively encouraged the beliefs in the Taotao Mona so as to keep the Chamorro people away from their formerly sacred burial and ritual sites.

5. Sacred Essences – The kami of Japan , the wandjina of Australia and the hekura of the Yanomami all to some extent stand for the absolute concept of sacredness and sacred power. This provided the people with an easily understandable sense of the energies of the world and the sense of the numinous.

6. Makers of Prosperity – Leprechauns, kami (and kamui), hekura and wandjina are all capable of being bringers of riches and prosperity. As the sacred custodians of the land, they can bring rain or cause crops to grow so as to make the people become healthy and fertile. This notion allows mankind to bargain with the spooks of the land, and as most overtly seen among the Ainu, actively encourage by prayer, worship or even threats, to bring the prosperity desired.

7. Makers of Mischief – Equally the spooks are capable of causing calamity. In Guam, Germany, Japan, and Ireland, the spooks generally cause havoc of their own free will, doing so out of mere spite, mischief, in anger at the lack of ceremonies, because they were disturbed without prior warning, or as with the Ainu, out of their own incompetence or childish refusal to keep up their side of the bargain. However, among the Yanomami and Wunambal, this mischievous or evil side can be controlled, either by conscious acts of creation (in the Australian case) or by harnessing the spook power to commit acts of havoc and sorcery (as in the Amazonian case). Either way, the mischief spooks remind mankind of the uncertainties of life and provide explanations for this. On a deeper level, attempts to avoid disaster through prayer and ceremonies is similarly an attempt to neurolinguistically program the mind to seek success.

8. Creator Spirits – The wandjina of the Wunambal people are the creator spirits par excellence. Not merely engaged in a single act of Creation, they continuously create the landscape, aided by mankind who honours them by restoring their images. Also falling into this function are the kami of Japan who created the world, and brought about mankind’s existence.

9. Makers of Magic – Creators, magicians, bringers of prosperity and mischief, all have at their root the concept of the making of magic. It is interesting to note which of the peoples in our survey believe that such magic can be harnessed and which believe that they are at its mercy. Generally, more ‘primitive’ peoples are of the former type, and more ‘civilised’ peoples of the latter. This may therefore have been a historical development.

10. Shamanic Allies – This function is best illustrated among the Yanomami. It is interesting to note a resonance, however, between the two faces of the Yanomami shaman – healer and sorcerer – and the two souls of the Japanese kami.

11. Symbols of Land Ownership – The final function seen in our survey was the very image of the wandjina stating that the landscape is owned by given custodians. Indeed the very act of making or restoring the images is a statement of custodianship and effectively transforms the land into such a place that is owned.

These are useful classifications, but they do not seem to particularly approach the 'reality' - if we may use such a term - of what have throughout this essay been called spooks. We have taken so far a fairly anthropological, or sociological, approach to the beliefs surrounding them. Is it now not possible to take a more spiritual approach and begin to engage with these spooks on their own terms and gain a deeper meaning?

Can we not look at spooks as the very essences of our changing humanity, arising not merely as we begin to comprehend our landscape, but during the very process of us becoming human, and whose deepest function has been to allow mankind to gain increased knowledge of his own evolving brain and nervous system? Can we not view their forms as remnants of that process which is still occurring in our own modern societies?

Whether this kind of evolution occurs in fits-and-starts, or as a continuous, gentle flowing process, the constant presence of spooks throughout the anthropological literature, and their increasingly central function the further 'back' in time we seem to go, appears to lend us an avenue to an understanding not only of our ancient past, but how humanity changed and evolved, and how our evolution 'flipped' so that we lost the main functions of the spooks from our spiritual lives.

:: spooks through the ages ::

If we are to map spooks as agents - either internal to human psychology and neurology or external - of evolved human change and as models to aid humans in understanding those evolved changes, we need to provide some kind of framework for this map. It seems to me that the best framework for this is the history of human evolution, both anthropological and cultural.

We can envisage a group of Homo erectus individuals living on the African plains some two million years ago - tall, strong and with flat foreheads. They may well have used some form - presumably fairly simple - of spoken language, but they certainly used fire and tools. Evidence of this can be found over numerous sites where they regularly visited or inhabited, and consists mainly of what appear to be old hearths and handaxes. The handaxes in particular fit firmly with even weight in the hands of a modern human, but there are also a small number of handaxes which appear to be too large for practical use. Were they ritual items?


It may be at this time, as mankind began to transform from a scavenging to a hunting and gathering animal, that he first became dimly aware of spooks. As his nervous system began to transform into that of a symbolically-thinking modern human, he may have begun the first steps on the road to animistic thinking. He may have become aware of creator spooks within his environment, responsible for the various aspects of the world. That is to say, early man may well have become aware of his own nervous system within the world and its own creative power in being able to shape and form that world and that this manifested itself as the earliest creator-animist spooks.

Soon, within this incipient spiritual framework may well have grown a respect for the natural environment in which he lived. Having externalised his own creative power, mankind now began to culture a reverence for this power, endowed as it was with apparent magic. This notion is expressed most strongly in the function of the magic spook, and all that remained for man to do was engage relationally with this magic power in one of several ways, and by doing so, actively engage in the creative and transforming power that he himself held and still holds (*9).

The first way, and possibly the earliest, was the method demonstrated by the Wunambal people: to hold spooks as simultaneously creators and representers of the landscape itself (creator spooks again, but also spooks of land custodianship). The wandjina were inherent within the landscape and were not merely metaphors for it. Thus, the magic of art depiction could begin, and by drawing the likeness of a spook on a surface, the artist was depicting mirrored aspects of both his environment and his own nature. The magic power was thus concentrated within the depiction and thus contained, so that it could be directed. Mankind thus became the custodian of his environment.


The second way was the one taken by the Yanomami: to see spooks not as the manifestation of the landscape, but of shamanic power, thus becoming shamanic allies. Mankind's understanding of his own nature thus expanded as his creative and destructive power expanded. In particular, the evolution of agriculture and the requirement for the newly planted fields to be protected gave rise to a need for protection, and, ultimately warfare.

The third way was the one taken by the Japanese: to be at the mercy of the whims and desires of the spooks themselves. This concentrated mankind's understanding of himself, not in terms of his own power, but in terms of the (far greater) power of the natural world. Thus, a deep reverence and awe evolved for the natural world and its sacred power - the spooks became sacred essences. Even today the Japanese have a powerful connection to their natural environment, as well as the kami which continually inspire them. And it is here, at the point when mankind still had a fairly firm grip on the magical and creative processes of nature, that things began to flip. It is as if, with the advent of agriculture and the beginnings of the group-oriented cultures, the self-sufficient power of the hunter-gatherer society declined, and with it went the original spooks of creative power.

The Aboriginal spooks of custodianship began to evolve into spirits that marked tribal totems and tribal boundaries. As the need arose to demarcate the land into portions owned by particular groups of people, boundary spooks began to arise. These reflected no more than mankind's new and evolving need to have his own space where his gardens could grow and his culture could flourish, but it meant that he was hemmed in by invisible borders over which he may not have been able to cross. He became subject to, at first, laws of trespass, and later, laws of transgression. Similarly from the shamanic allies evolved the makers of mischief. Mankind's belief in his own individual intrinsic power declined to be replaced by a creative power that was community based. Thus the former shamanic spooks now became causers of havoc, as if the power of sorcery formerly rooted in man had been cut free and was let loose in the world to do its own will.


And sacred essences turned into makers of prosperity who could be entreated from the great awe of nature into bringing riches and fertility to mankind's increasingly humble lot. Throughout all this transformation, some vestige of the old, fantastic power of the original spooks was remembered in terms of the ancestor spirits. This was now a belief that essentially said that although mankind was not in himself all-powerful and creative, he would inherit something of that power after he died, by becoming an ancestor spirit. Thus, the former individual creativity of the hunter-gatherer was subsumed into the pool of long-dead ancestors.

As this occurred, mankind also experienced what might be termed as the Rise of the Gods, in which former spooks rose to some kind of majesty entirely divorced from their previous, human-power-linked existence. They became at one and the same time, makers of mischief, makers of prosperity, makers of magic, ancestors, creators and allies. But mankind no longer resided at the centre of his power, and their discreteness from the natural environment and from human existence began to block further understanding to human experiences. Boundary spooks became moral guardians, makers of prosperity became goddesses of fertility, and mischief makers became sky gods and earth devils. Civilised and city state life caused our psyches to flip, so that we were no longer centrally focussed on ourselves. We looked completely outward for power and the deep nervous system connections between humanity and the natural world as a map of human existence were beginning to erode.

But there was more to come. With the rise of the Gods, the spooks began to decline. City states and townships spread across the globe, and with them people migrated. Memories of old ways of life, of former inhabitants, and former spooks now haunted the wild places of the natural environment. Not only did we no longer possess the magical power to control our own destinies, but the lands that were formerly our home were often teeming with malevolent spooks with whom we had little or no connection. In our modern world, even the Gods now seem threatened by the onslaught of technology, such that it seems the spooks will disappear entirely. But this is not the case.

Mankind's racial memory is extremely long, and in cultures such as the West where the reign of the Gods has risen, and in turn has begun to fall, the rise of new spooks has been observed. These new spooks have begun to link up with cultures such as the Japanese where the centrality of spooks never ceased, and the interaction of these two cultural elements is beginning to produce a revolution in human spiritual thinking. It is at once, a leap forward into the future, and a step back into the past. For the twentieth century saw, if nothing else, the rise of the aliens.

:: technospooks - aliens of the west ::

'This specific abduction occurred when I was seventeen years old...I was driving home and noticed a glowing object [in the sky]. I got out of my car to view it... it dropped down to land... I got scared and ran back to my car and for some reason it would not start... I saw four or five figures emerge out of the woods. I was shocked and frightened... They came closer and took me in their ship, and examined me. They put a drill in my nose and checked my eyes with some sort of metallic device.

'I asked [them] "Who are you?"... and they responded telepathically "We are from the future. We travel back in time to get organs from humans before we evolved because our planet is dying"...I asked "What happened at Roswell?" Another voice told me telepathically that the government did recover a spaceship there... and that [they are] trying to manipulate [the aliens] into helping them. Since then I haven't been able to sleep well and I suffer from paranoia.'


This story, taken from a random sample of typical alien and UFO stories from the Internet (click here to read the original story), is one of the darker and more chilling examples from the ever increasing corpus of UFO lore. Whether it is true in the literal sense or not, it contains numerous important elements from what might be termed modern alien mythology: a glowing ship which flies, aliens emerging onto the road, telepathic communication, medical examinations, Roswell and an alleged secret government programme to recover alien craft.

The body of extraterrestrial tales is growing among mankind, and like any growing mythology, it stretches across continents, into the future and the past. We read numerous stories of UFO abductions from Europe in the north to Brazil in the south, Japan in the east to Canada in the west, and even more reports of sightings from across the world. Here, for example, is a sighting from Essex, England:

'I saw four objects, moving extremely fast and always together. When they arrived, I felt a weird and strange feeling, like a sort of electricity wave flowing through my body - it made my spine shiver. As they moved, I did hear some quiet humming sounds, very low pitched. In under a minute they were gone.'

If we are to assume that aliens are not literally visiting our planet, either from the future or from space (*10), we are faced with two options - to disbelieve the vast number of people who apparently believe in their own stories, or to cast around for another theory. There are some quite famous stories of people reporting abduction experiences while their families or friends reported that at the same time the alleged abductees were doing nothing more exotic than falling asleep in an armchair, and these sceptical reports are often used by scientists and UFO investigators to 'prove' that UFOs cannot possibly be anything more than mere dreams or hallucinations.

This, however, appears to miss the point. Numerous abductees and witnesses report visionary experiences which consistently bear a strong resemblance not only to the notion of spooks here discussed, but also to a wide range of other human visionary experiences. Most notable in the two examples here are the feeling of electric waves passing through the body of a witness to a sighting - an experience so typical of visions and shamanising influences - and the report of telepathy between an abductee and the apparent alien.

UFO Lights

Immediately brought to mind are the experiences of the Yanomami shamans in inviting the hekura spirits into their bodies to shamanise. Many shamans report it was through the medium of telepathic communication that the hekura preferred to contact them, singing their magic songs so that only the trained ear of the healer or sorceror could hear them. We also note that some stories contain references to the removal of organs, to medical examinations or to some kind of purification. Again our minds travel to Amazonia, where the shamans again report that the hekura had to perform a thorough cleansing and purification of their bodies before they could take up permanent residence, and that this very often involved the removal of some aspects of their being, such as organs, blood or bile. We can see that the classic 'alien' face - large black eyes, small mouth, large head with a lightly-built body - seems a typical image of what numerous tribal people report their spooks to look like. Indeed often have alien appearances been described as 'elfin', and one only needs to glance as an Aboriginal painting of a wandjina to spot the resemblance.

Alien-Schwa       Wandjina

Finally, aliens are considered as the bringers of sickness; in particular, the symptoms of radiation sickness seem to be rather prevalent among abductees. In this regard, we might think of the Taotao Mona of Guam or the malevolent souls of the Japanese kami. Indeed, the two-souled kami are a perfect image of these alien beings, since a potential 'abductee' can never know what particular mood the aliens might be in, and indeed this seems to exactly correlate to the mindsets of the abductees themselves: a positive, world-embracing person appears to be more likely to have a wisdom-filled life-affirming abduction experience than one who worries a great deal and has a basically paranoid mode of living. You get the spook that you ask for...

It is therefore the author's contention that aliens represent not the harbingers of doom or bringers of wisdom from an extraterrestrial species who visit our planet, but a revival of the ancient human belief in spooks beginning to rise again in the absence of dominating religions and belief systems which seek to silence such fringe mythologies. What is more intriguing is that the alien spooks appear to be a revival, not of the most recent substrate of spook beliefs, but of one more ancient, of the original level of magicians, custodians (of either wisdom or the human race) and shamanic sacred essences. There is also something of the malevolence of the mischief-maker or the benevolence of the prosperity-maker, depending on your point of view.

Thus, these are the Technospooks of the new boundary: no longer found in the ancient wild places of days gone by, they now come from the edge of the Universe and descend from outer space to bring us their boons and havoc. Mankind's boundaries in the last five hundred years have expanded beyond such places as the mountains and forests - Everest has been conquered, Amazonia has been explored - and so it is fitting that space is now their location. Surrounded not by ancient rocks (since mankind has increasingly less regard for what has gone before) but by futuristic technology beyond our wildest dreams (since mankind is increasingly reaching out towards the future he knows must be in space).

Aliens, then, are the newest spooks, a modern mythology in the making whose evolution has yet to complete. Our fascination with them has brought about the most wide-ranging revival in spook beliefs and functions since the beginning of the Christian era. And as the aliens blaze their trails back into the most ancient levels of our being, the pave the way for other, more homely spooks.

:: animal guides and spirit helpers ::

Some years ago, I took a course and trained to become a Reiki practitioner. As part of this training, the group was to invite individual spirit helpers (or 'spook' if you will) to come and act as our 'Reiki Guides' or 'Guardian Angels'. This was done as part of an hour-long guided visualising meditation.

'I closed my eyes and began to follow the meditation. If I was honest, I was unsure about the whole spirit guide aspect of Reiki, but nonetheless I made the invitation. I became suddenly and firmly aware of a tigress entering the room and staring straight at me. She stopped in the doorway, as if making her entrance somewhat dramatic. Once she seemed sure that I had registered her presence, she continued walking towards me until she sat down to my left, all the time acting as if she owned the place, as if sitting in my Reiki Master's living room was a perfectly normal thing for a large female tiger to do. It surprised me. I really hadn't expected a tiger.

'Then she turned her head and glanced back at the door, whereupon two tiger cubs playfully bundled into the room and scampered across to her. She again looked at me. I began to realise what her intentions were - she herself was not to become my Reiki Guide, but one of her cubs was to fulfil that role. In fact it was the second cub to enter: the young male. In my meditation I saw this cub - who in the end was named simply Tiger (*11) - leave his mother and clamber clumsily onto my lap and look up at me with the same firm and insistent stare as his mother. The mother stayed for a while, but a few days later, in another meditation, I saw her leave for good. But the male cub stayed.'

From Author's Reiki training notes


Again, this is a fairly typical experience and one that can be found throughout the numerous personal reminiscences on the Internet. It had a fairly profound effect on me, not least because my initial scepticism caused me to expect to invite a Guide of a form that I might have seen previously, such as one derived from my art work, or one based on what I might think I would want as a Guide. Instead, in came the tiger. (*12)

But what, aside from the personal, is the significance of this type of experience? Can it really be said that a tiger spirit visited me on that day and became a guide, or is this more evidence which lends weight to the argument that spook-based belief systems are returning to our culture? A glance through the Mind-Body-Spirit section of any good bookshop suggests that it may well be. Here, we see a wide range of literature on Guardian Angels, animal medicine helpers, the development of psychic abilities through the use of spirit guides and even shamanic manuals, an integral part of which is the acquisition of spook allies. Now none of these things need be true in the literal sense, however their presence in mainstream bookshops does make a strong case for a resurgence in their beliefs. Here is another personal, Reiki-related memory:

'My Reiki Master was holding a public workshop in Bristol city centre and I came along to help her out, and add to the energy. Providing the music that day was a woman who, in her words, "channelled the music of the angels and gave it voice". I took some time out to watch her. She stood at the edge of the room, holding a small bell which she occasionally rang at the end of what seemed to me like a musical phrase, with her eyes closed in prayer. Her voice was soft and gentle; high pitched but firm: "hay-la-la, shay-na". I never learned her name, and never saw her again.'

angel schematic

Here, then, is the phenomenon of channelling - the creation of spirit words or music taken from either the world of the spooks or somewhere deep within. The truth of this is again highly subjective, but it is clear that channelled information has reached the mainstream with Neale Donald Walsch's 'Conversations With God' series of books and tapes. Are such channelled works the spooks talking again? We have seen how the Yanomami invited the hekura into their bodies so that they could shamanise, and we have seen how the Ainu had a very straightforward relationship with their kamui. It seems now as if the two of these spook aspects are being combined in modern Western culture to produce a whole range of new spook-based experiences which do not depend greatly on shamanic initiation or spiritual protection. Instead, a simple guided meditation can lead one to a personal spirit-spook, a guardian angel or channelled information.

This is a softer, more homely way of experience the world of spooks than we have possibly seen before in human history. Humans are taking back control of their world-experiences, and entering a spirit world which is warm and welcoming, combining elements of the shamanic with the positive, the healing with wisdom and ushering in what is aptly called the New Age of Spiritual Philosophy. Spooks, like our individualistic culture, have become individuals, tailor-made to each questing nervous system that seeks them. But beyond this warmth, beyond the steady new cultural realities that are being born out of the decline of the old religions, lies something much older, yet at the same time something that speaks of the future. In the Hyperspaces of DMT trips and Salvia besagements are spooks located where shamanism, aliens and spirit guides meet, and transform into something beyond reality.

:: beyond reality - dmt hyperspace and salvia beings ::

'I became aware of... presences... beside me... [They] resolved into three rippling presences, shimmering with reality waves. Three strangers, undulating into view, half obscured by my own eyes... half obscured by the... reality patterns. They come to see, it feels like they’ve come, not to make contact, but just to show themselves for a flicker of a moment, to see and be seen, then pass away again into the... whirling and strange enfoldments of space.'

Personal Salvia Divinorum experience

Among the Mazatec Indians of Mexico has long grown a plant of the sage family which possesses strong hallucinogenic power. The shamans of these people regularly drink a brew prepared from the leaves of the plant, which contain an entheogenic opioid called Salvinorin-A, and thus engage in healing ceremonies and shamanising for the benefit of the lay people. On account of this power, Salvia Divinorum, or ska maria pastora as the Mazatecs call it, has in recent years left the Mexican landscape and become somewhat popular among certain (generally Western) enthusiasts who use it for a wide range of purposes.

three strangers

Similarly, in the Amazon, the widely used hallucinogenic brew ayahuasca (of which ebene, the virola snuff mentioned earlier, is an analog) is now gaining wider appeal, particularly on account of its active ingredient, dimethyltryptamine (DMT), which takes the user on a whirlwind tour through the human visionary psyche into landscapes and experiences far beyond those understood by normal, 'consensus' realities. It is through such historic shamanic tools, and in combination with the idealism of the New Age and the individualism of Western culture, that increasing numbers of people are making direct contact with exactly the kinds of spooks studied here and gaining something of an insight into what is seen as the sacred spook of the future.

In the years 1990 to 1995, the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, USA, sponsored full clinical investigations into the psychological and neurological effects of DMT, the powerful hallucinogenic ingredient of ayahuasca and which is also found is measurable quantities within the human brain and spinal fluid. These investigations were performed by Dr Rick Strassman and documented in his book 'DMT - The Spirit Molecule'. Volunteers were given injections of a measured dose of DMT and asked to report - when they were able - on what they saw and experienced. These included perceptions of spirit-like beings, lizard creatures, insect creatures who seemed to personify a powerful sexual intent, as well as other many spook creatures.

What is remarkable about these experiences is the dichotomy between the fact that the volunteers felt as though they were experiencing undeniably real spooks appearing before them in contexts utterly divorced from their actual surroundings (the University Hospital) and the notion that the volunteers were absolutely aware of the fact that they were tripping. Nonetheless, the DMT hyperspace reality provided the volunteers with numerous insights - both positive and negative - into the nature of reality and the healing power available within their own lives.

Most notable is the report that many of the hyperspace beings not only had the classic spook appearance - large eyes, thin bodies - but also that they sought to examine the volunteers and at times, place implants into their bodies or otherwise modify them so that they could better experience the strangeness of DMT reality. The parallels between these experiences and those of alien abductees is striking. Furthermore, Strassman points out that elevated levels of naturally occurring (endogenous) DMT in the brain are responsible not only for dreams but also for some types human visionary experiences. Thus, dreams could in a sense be classified as a type of hallucination experience.

However, such experiences as DMT and Salvia Divinorum can provide do go beyond the realms of consensus reality - and beyond even dreaming reality - into unknown and apparently uncharted areas of the human psyche. Individual consciousness moves beyond everyday senses into invisible realms, most of which are inhabited. The reactions of the volunteers was often one of inspired creativity, but just as often mystified curiosity or fear, and numerous theories abound as to what these spooks might mean in an evolutionary sense.

And what do they mean? What can it mean for three strangers - salvia beings - simply to appear with no intent but to see or be seen? What purpose can an insect being dwelling in DMT Hyperspace have to appear and modify a volunteer's body so that the trip can be deepened? Perhaps, as Bill Hicks declared in his comedy acts, that such substances are indeed 'accelerator pads for our evolution' and that the trippers experiencing these new beings are beholding the spooks of the future, already enfolded within the human nervous system and ready to appear when society reaches such a stage as they are needed.

:: a future of spooks ::

What can the future hold? We have seen spooks develop from creators of magic into shamanic allies, mischief makers and even Gods in line with mankind's neurological, psychological and cultural development. As our nervous systems, information systems and cultural systems evolved, so new spooks sprang from within our psyches to personify that change and allow us to more deeply understand its implications. From hunter gatherer through primitive planter and city state citizen to industrialist, we have seen the spooks rise, reach their peak and decline in the face of the evolution of the gods, moral guardianism and literalist organised religion.

But now, as those structures begin to decline, we immediately observe that the ancient spooks are rising again, not in their ancient forms, but changed to fit our new post-industrial realities. They, like us, are individualist, immediately available, and most importantly, deeply within us. Their functions are transforming as mankind transforms, for it is true that we are on the threshold of something major in our evolution; the Internet, space migrations, artificial intelligence, higher neural circuit activation, feminism, maybe-logic - all are symptoms of the oncoming change.

And perhaps it is the spooks who in some sense point the way. The guardian angels, Reiki Guides, channelled songs and invocations seem to indicate in which way mankind's cultural flow of belief is heading, and the alien spooks are showing us something of our technological capabilities. Beyond that, in the far outposts of inner psyche reality, the Salvia beings and DMT hyperspace denizens seem to point out the ultimate destinations. The spooks are showing us what could be. They certainly are able to show us what was and what is now.

There is a saying among alien and UFO-enthusiasts that 'The Truth is out there' but as we survey our spooks of future and past, we find that they may not have been real after all. Spooks that became literally true to millions of believers became Gods, and therefore masters of religion, but the original spooks were never about that kind of idea. They were always about mythology, the primitive psychology and sense of history that expressed in simultaneously poetic and sacred form the spirits and energies that welled up from within mankind.

row of spooks

Spooks never made the world as the Gods sometimes claimed. They were the agents of our own creative power, which made and ordered the world in our own image, so that we could understand it in our own ever-changing way. That's why we always experienced spooks as something real, something external, but deep down we always remembered the truth of them, that they were us. This attitude survived up until the late Neolithic, and survives still among remote cultures (*13), but somewhere between modern Greece and modern Pakistan, some 5000 years ago, someone started smelting bronze, someone else started writing in clay and that's where we flipped out. That's where we forgot our own inherent, spooky creative power. Only now are we experiencing the potential to leap out of that kind of literalism and at one time both return to our past and leap into our futures. For when it comes to the spooks...

the Truth is not 'out there' at all...
it is very much...

Bruce Rimell, June 2005

:: notes ::

(*1) – And indeed, a group of scientists in 2005 planned to visit some of the remote caves where the islanders report the last of the Ebu Gogo lived to see if there are any remains to be found that date from later than 11,000 years ago.

(*2) – Most of these Chamorros were not elderly, as one might imagine when discussing apparently superstitious beliefs such as these. One of the guys I befriended was a DJ, another was a flight attendant, a third was a bartender. All were thoroughly Western in appearance and in the majority of their attitudes such that to say so seems almost offensive. It simply goes to show the persistence of these ‘spook beliefs’ with which this essay deals. We will see a similar phenomenon among the Japanese.

(*3) – including, in the most famous example in Irish mythology of this kind of abduction to paradise tale, the poet Oisin, who returned several hundred years later thinking that he had only been away for a few years. He thus now lived in the Christian Age, but died when he suddenly aged after stepping off his horse. Irish mythology is filled with this sense of the Passing of the Ages, and its elaborate and ancient mythical system lends itself well to anyone with a taste for the fabulous.

(*4) – This type of thinking in the Irish is often derided, particularly among the British and their cultural descendants. This is unfortunate and misses the point. Rather, I believe the Irish should be well congratulated for successfully preserving a multiple functioning pre-Christian mythical image into the modern age, and then marketing it across the world as a kind of national ‘brand’ along with the shamrock and St. Patrick to help draw in both tourists and earn the country a healthy measure of international business confidence.

(*5) – and as a fluent speaker of Japanese for over seven years, I believe I am able to hold an opinion on these conceptual and lexical boundaries of such words with a measure of experience and authority.

(*6) – Many of my students in Japan went to shrines to pray for good fortune in their exams. Their method of praying was enchanting as it clearly conserved a very ancient and primitive aspect – that of clapping before praying so as to bring the kami’s attention to the worshipper. This practice can probably be traced back to some of the earliest modes of religious thinking in mankind.

(*7) – Alas, as in many other parties of the world, a small native nation had become subject to a larger neighbour and as a result, the vast majority of Ainu have been Japanised, and this unique relationship to the sacred has disappeared. In no other anthropological literature have I read of such ‘berating’ songs as were once practiced among the Ainu to punish their ‘gods’.

(*8) – The terms ‘Carib’ and ‘Arawak’ are predominantly linguistic terms and refer to two groups of peoples who, like the ‘Indo-Europeans’ (another linguistic term), migrated out from an ancient homeland to cover vast areas of the world. By 1500AD Carib and Arawak peoples could be found as far afield as the island of Cuba in the north and Paraguay in the south and by and large they replaced the languages of the peoples with whom they came into contact with a dialect of their own. However, the Amazon also contains numerous tribes, who like the Basques in Europe , held their heads against this cultural onslaught and still speak what might be terms a pre-Carib/Arawak language. The Yanomami are one such people.

(*9) - For some reason, until very recently, mankind has almost universally done it this way - externalise his own creative, transformative and destructive powers and then entreat those powers as if they were in reality external to effect change within the world. It is as if mankind was afraid of his own power and sought to hide it with this ritual way of thinking. It is only with the rise of the technological age that mankind has sought a more direct transformative method.

(*10) - Of course it is by no means certain that this assumption can be made - it may be that the vast majority of reports are literally true and we are in actuality regularly visited. However, in this essay, aliens are modelled as a type of modern spook, an assumption which may be equally shaky.

(*11) - Sometimes, a good imagination is not my forté!

(*12) - This is not the only experience with spooks that I have had. Whilst in Japan there were numerous times when I felt the presence of kami within their shrines, and since that time I have detected them in forest glades as well as salvia space. One might equally conclude that I have a nervous system particularly sensitive to their presences (if one is to believe that they are external), or that I am particularly creative in manipulating my own belief systems and levels of experience so that spook-based neurologies can enter my senses (if one is to believe that they are internal).

(*13) - Actually it also survives in modern, technological Japan, untouched as that country is by dogmatic religions which have ravaged other cultures.

:: references ::

David Mowaljarlai & Jutta Malnic - 'Yorro Yorro: Aboriginal Creation and the Renewal of Nature' - 1993, Inner Traditions

William Fitzhugh & Chisato Dubreui - 'Ainu: Spirit of a Northern people' - 2001, University of Washington Press

Ben Blas - 'Bisita Guam' - 1998

Sokyo Ono - 'Shinto - The Kami Way' - 1995, Charles E. Tuttle

Napoleon Chagnon - 'Yanomamo: The Fierce People' - 1996, Thomson Learning

Rick Strassman - 'DMT: the Spirit Molecule: A Doctor's Revolutionary Research into the Biology of near-Death and Mystical Experiences' - 2001, Park Street Press


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