When we think of Denmark and ghosts, we think of “Hamlet”.
Certainly the idea that ghosts can kill, or at least frighten a person to death, isn’t new. Shakespeare’s plays have had more than a few actors putting on the white makeup and shroud to play a pivotal role in his plays.
Ghosts serve to make those guilty feel just simply horrible. (“MacBeth”)
Also in “Hamlet” a whole lot of problems happen because Hamlet’s father just couldn’t be happy with being dead. He had to have a whole lot of other people be dead also before he could rest in peace.
modern ghost not always scary!
Modern ghosts tend to talk funny when recorded and rarely call for vengeance. Ghosts in movies can cause a lot of deaths, though it’s often just old man Simmons in a sheet.
However at one time in Denmark, there were a lot of unexplained deaths of young rulers. Well unexplained to modern readers, at the time “death by ghost” made perfect sense. I share yet another Facebook post by Jeremy Tolley about a time when a ghost killed a king.
My friend Claus Larsen first shoes a bit of the history of Denmark, which death at a young age happened rather frequently.
Sven Tveskæg died probably of a stroke, possibly having Brugada’s syndrome: One theory is that, since 14 of our kings have died suddenly at a relatively young age, without being killed, they may all have suffered from this.
We also have a Oluf 1. Hunger, Erik 3. The Gentle, Knud 4. the 6., Erik Plough-pfennig, Erik 5. Klipping (stabbed to death in a barn, still unsolved), Valdemar 4. What-a-Day/The Evil, and, of course, Margrethe 2., our present regent, whose number is fake: The first Margrethe was never crowned queen, but “Denmark’s husband”.
If nothing else, the royals provide everlasting entertainment!
However, there have been recent cases where ghosts were blamed for many deaths. While I lived in Wisconsin I did volunteer work with the newly arrived Hmong families from Cambodia. My own personal doctor was a favorite, as he refused to order an autopsy in a death unless absoletely necessary. I will probably get some of this wrong, but my doctor explained that in the Hmong culture an autopsy was a terrible thing, as it released the ghost of the person that died. That person would then look for another person to kill. That’s far too simplified, basically, if an autopsy was performed frequently another person died soon after.
There was a rash of young men dying, and the fight between modern medicine trying to find out the cause, such as a heart problem like Brugada’s Syndrome, and the culture that believed the autopsies were causing the deaths, was tense. My own doctor picked to not autopsy because otherwise the Hmong simply did not go to the doctor when ill. Other doctors were angry at him, because they felt there had to a physical cause that could be found and fixed. There seemed to be no right answer.
Hmong life before immigration to the US
This quote from the book “Hmong Refugees” by Bliatrout explains the Hmong resistance to autopsy.
“This is considered one of the most horrible things that can happen to a Hmong person, as it is believed the person will be born mutilated in the next life. Also the souls of the person may become unhappy and come back to cause illness to the remaining family members and their descendants.”
Hmong dangerous journey out of Cambodia
The epidemic of young male deaths was never fully explained, with over 80 otherwise healthy young men dying of heart failure while sleeping. Stress and perhaps exposure to chemicals before immigration have been suggested as contributing factors, but the definitive cause has never been found. The deaths were all young males, and to the Hmong there was no question why these deaths occurred.
Death by ghost, seems reasonable in many cultures even today. Can our ancestors rest well, if their deaths were unavenged or their bodies desecrated? Death isn’t always seen as the end of influence in the land of the living. From psychics with vague messages of “He wants you to know he’s proud of you.” to cultures that stress the importance of remembering the dead and honoring them, the dead are still with many of the living. If only in their own minds, the influence of the ghosts of the dead is strong.
The balance of respect for a culture and heritage, and the need for sound medical care, will only increase with the growth of refugees in Western culture. Hopefully, the need to make everyone feel welcome at a health facility, while also not pandering to beliefs that can cause death and danger, can be overcome with time. All cultures and beliefs are not equally deserving of respect. There are food and clothing cultural aspects, and then dangerous health practices and subjection of women and children. Some need to change. Culture does not excuse harming a human being. One of my favorite speeches is by President Obama when addressing the nation of Kenya:
3 February 1014 – death of Sweyn Forkbeard
Sweyn was quite a character. Born around the year 960, he was the son of Harald Bluetooth and Gyrid Olafsdottir. He became King of Denmark by revolting and driving Bluetooth into exile.
Sweyn also ruled most of Norway, and, after repeated invasion attempts, booted Æthelred out of England, and had himself crowned King of England on Christmas Day in 1013. He didn’t live long to enjoy his throne, being killed, as the drawing shows, by the ghost of the martyred King Edmund just over a month later.
Sweyn’s attitude to religion was interesting as well. Apparently baptised as a Christian, his main interest in the Church seems to have been in using English ecclesiastics to help maintain his independence from the influence of his very holy neighbour, Otto II of the Holy Roman Empire.
Still, I would have to say, don’t piss off King Edmund. Just play it safe. You never know!
A Japanese correspondent who was visiting the UK said he would not be frightened of seeing ghosts in the Tower of London as they had feet (Japanese ghosts don’t) and he wouldn’t understand the older forms of English they would have spoken.