A Beginner’s Guide To Ghosts

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While not definitive by any means, I hope this glossary of ghosts may help as a basic guide for the perplexed.

Part One: The Taxonomy of Ghosts

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A ghost is both a catch-all term for and a distinct entity. Spirits, shades and geists are all ghosts, but a ghost can be a “ghost” without being any of the three above. So, while a “ghost” is the genus of al the entities described below, it is possible to be merely a “ghost” without subscribing to any of the categories specified below.

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A ghost (specific) is an entity beyond our understanding and realms, and is not necessarily a post-death human. In fact, it would be a misnomer to refer to ghosts as post death- they’re merely unbound to the concepts of life and death, and, furthermore, unbound in general. They are unbound from tangibility and even our full understanding. This gives ghosts freedom, knowledge, and power, but often without the will (or rather, need) to apply or share it. Ghosts, however, tend to have a general fondness for those who seek them, and are often found to be polite and kind.

A spirit is a ghost propelled by a definitive yet unbound purpose. While an unbound ghost (ie, a plain ol’ ghost) may flicker in and out, a spirit is bound to an (often) positive goal. If you’re being guided, for example, to reconnect with your long-lost sister, that might be the work of a spirit.

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A geist is a subset of spirit, and one specifically bound to a protective purpose. For example, while a sacred temple may be haunted by spirits, it would be guarded by geists. Hence, of course, the Geist Guard, a small elite force devoted to general good.

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A shade or wraith is a subset of spirit, and one more often held to a darker purpose.  The two are used interchangeably, but I prefer to use shade. Shades have a higher strength threshold than many geists, but they sacrifice a level of autonomy, as shades have their powers bound within their own arcane, amoral code. Because of this, shades are often affiliated with ghouls, more so than any other ghost or spirit.

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A Specter is an elite, darker spirit similar to Shade or Wraith but specifically bound to an (often dark) pursuant purpose. A specter is thus a counter to the generally positive and protective geist, and vice-versa. Don’t worry, though: you are deeply unlikely to encounter specters unless you find yourself bound up in ghastly intrigue. If involved with a specter, the good news is you likely have strength and significance beyond your awareness. The bad news is a specter is a being of immense power and devotion, and it’s pursuance of you will end in either victory or defeat. 

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A banshee is a contested being. Some consider it a regional subset of Shade, Specter, or wraith. Contemporary scholars are split in their research. While some insist that a banshee merely a regional understanding of a Shade, still others maintain that a Banshee is distinct spirit.

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A ghoul is as physical as the spirit realm gets, and is often the only ghost granted a (temporary) physical form. As such, ghouls- and Ghoul Gang at large- is dedicated often to a pursuit of bruisers and tangible results. Ghosts and ghouls have a historic rivalry, but have often put aside their differences in the face of shared goals. While not precisely friendly, it would be a misnomer to describe ghouls and ghosts as enemies, and some would brand ghoul as belonging to a fully separate taxonomy. Ghouls are led by Ehm’Rahk, the King Of Ghouls.

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A poltergeist is an slur bred from ignorance and a misnomer. It is a term started by the foolish and repeated by the ignorant. Any form of ghost is capable of causing mischief, but, crucially, any human is capable of misinterpreting the benign and friendly gestures of spookiness as some sort of terrible curse.

Part Two: A Practical Guide To Hauntings.

First: ask yourself if this haunting is sustained and active. If not, don’t even bother. It’s just a flickering of a ghost, not a sustained haunting. Be calm, upbeat, and go about your life.

Second: if something spooky is happening in a sustained manner, it’s probably a ghost making a specific effort to communicate. Be aware, but calm. With acknowledgement, things will calm down, and you may even make a ghost pal.

Third: In the unlikely event of something spooky and scary going on in a sustained manner, reevaluate if you’ve done anything sinister or upset any sacred balance. If so, rectify it with an apology and acknowledgement. It’s likely just a protective spirit or geist.

Fourth: In the extremely unlikely case of a sustained spooky scary haunt without due cause, pursue diplomacy first and foremost. Shades, for all their difficulties, respond much better to diplomacy than rash decisions.

Fifth and Finally: if something spooky and scary is going on for a sustained period, and neither acknowledgement or diplomacy have had any sustained effect, call in an expert.

Part Three: A Glossary Of Related Ghastly Terms

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A Casper is a derogatory slang term for a ghost overly concerned with serving the human world. To that end, remember even the friendliest of ghosts have their own spooky business to attend. They are not servants of the living to be summoned or inquired of.

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A GhostBuster is a derogatory term for a narc or anyone trying to disperse of ghosts without clear and proper cause. 

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Runes and Amulets held a stronger influence with ghosts in the past than they do today. Consider the tombs of Pharaoh’s, which held the most powerful runes and amulets had some of the strongest sway with ghosts in mortal history, even allowing reanimation of their mummified bodies (this is where mummies come from, by the way.) While runes and amulets do indeed hold real influence with ghosts, much of their power has been lost over time, and more still are fully counterfeited for the gullible. For this reason, one can no longer rely on amulets or runes- ones of verified origin are as scarce as they are worthwhile.

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Haunting is when a ghost is bound to a specific region or purpose. The vast majority of ghosts just go about ghostin’, but haunting ghosts get the most press for the simple reason of their relevance. Still, haunting retains a certain outlier status, and shouldn’t be ascribed any nefarious connotations. Hauntings happen anywhere, to anyone, and tend to hover around a neutral status.

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Spookiness is a prime way to attune oneself to the vibrations of ghosts. If you are on a porch at night as wind whips during a bright full moon, the trees howling whispers in the dark, embracing that spookiness is a great opportunity to present oneself to ghosts. You might, for example, get into pajamas and prepare a cup of tea to sip on that same spooky porch. Congratulations! You have embraced the spooky. You’re well on your way to ghostly affiliation.

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Scary, though is distinct from spooky. While the spooky is an opportunity to be embraced, scary, however, is often a warning for the overwhelmed, a line in the sand to delineate our worlds. Scary is a reminder to pay homage and retreat, and is most often a gentle reprimand.

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Ghost Guild is a mysterious (but not secret) society focused on the polite, spooky, and intriguing possibilities of the non-ghost world. Little is known about the Ghost Guild, but membership is considered porous and accessible, with members floating in like ghosts themselves. In fact, merely by reading this, you have become affiliated with the guild and all their arcane swagger.

Congratulations. TC mark

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