The impermeable border the modern world sees existing between that of the living and the dead was not visible to our ancestors. The dead could–and did–cross back and forth at will. The pagan mind had no fear of death, but some of the dead were definitely to be dreaded: those who failed to go peacefully into the afterlife and remained on this side in order to right a wrong that had befallen them personally or to ensure that the moral code promoted by their ancestors was being respected. These dead individuals were a far cry from the amorphous ectoplasm that is featured in modern ghost stories.
CLAUDE LECOUTEUX is a former professor of medieval literature and civilization at the Sorbonne. He is the author of numerous books on medieval and pagan afterlife beliefs, including Witches, Werewolves, and Fairies.