I have been reading Josephine McCarthy’s excellent book Magical Knowledge 1: Foundations slowly and deliberately over the past weeks. I am finding the book to be an excellent primer on visionary magic and, as always happens when I read some new text on magic, I think of you, my readers. Here is a quote from the book, where the author is discussing the process of enlivening a statue with the consciousness of a deity:
Therefore, an ancient statue of say, Sekhmet, is very likely to retain echoes of her power. If a magician, who is adept at inner communication, visits a museum, he is very likely to pick up on the calls and demands of this deities as they try to communicate through the images. It is important to note that the power is within the original statue that was ritually enlivened, not the generic image. So, a copy of the image will be just an image and nothing more.
Now, oddly enough, I can attest to this experience with this goddess personally. Many moons ago, when I lived in the Phoenix, Arizona, area, I had occasion to go to an exhibit of ancient Egyptian artifacts with some magically inclined friends. We wandered through some preliminary display rooms before emerging finally into the main hall of the museum. The centerpiece of the display was a fourteen foot high statue of Sekhmet.
The power of the goddess swept over me as soon as I entered the room and it was all I could do to keep my feet. I literally had the desire to prostrate myself before this statue and it was only with difficulty that I kept my attention in the present moment. Even as I did so, I was aware of a substrate of my mind approaching a temple of the goddess, the temple walkway lined with hundreds of smaller versions of the statue before me. I could almost feel the hot desert breeze wafting over me in the air conditioned comfort of that museum hall and I wondered how it was that everyone around me seemed to be so . . . collected.
I wandered from case to case with my friends, continuously aware of the powerful presence of the Lady and doing my best to give her honor even as I pretended to study the artifacts on display. It seemed a very long time before my friends were prepared to move out of that room and, even once I had a wall between me and the statue, the intensity of the experience dimmed but did not go away entirely.
After this experience, I have often wondered why it is that we do not hear more reports of museum hauntings. While the manifestation of the consciousness of a goddess might be rare, museums are loaded with items that could serve as storehouses of psychic energy – for example, items that were worn at the time of the traumatic death of the wearer – that could generate some interesting “imprint” style hauntings under the right circumstances.
In addition, items of ritual and magical significance from varying cultures are often on display in museums. I am thinking particularly of museums I visited in Arizona and Washington DC that were loaded with Native American artifacts of all kinds, including items used in ritual practice. I have said before and I will say again that indigenous medicine people bear powerful magic. For those with senses attuned to such things, that magic and the spirits that work with it are evident in exhibits. I am sure that the same could be said of exhibits from a variety of other cultures, both ancient and modern.
Our habit of cavalierly digging up and displaying the grave goods of ancient peoples could also serve as a source of hauntings and worse. Many ancient people buried their dead with specific intent based on their concept of the afterlife and disturbance of those remains could very well serve to unleash the unpleasantness associated with disturbing their dead. The Egyptians, of course come to mind in this regard, but we can look to the Norse as well. Disturbance of one of the ancient burial mounds of these people produced draugr, a real live, capable of ripping you apart, sort of zombie in the sagas. While I don’t take the stories literally, I suspect that the old Norse guarded their tombs with pretty fierce guardians and that disturbance of those tombs, even after all these years, would be liable to unleash those guardians. I imagine that the only thing that saves archeologists and museum staff from a lot of psychic unpleasantness is that these guardians have likely weakened over the centuries since they were not being tended in the traditional manner.
Nevertheless, given the perfect storm of “imprints”, ritual objects and grave goods, one would think that museums would be pretty haunted places. While one does occasionally hear such a story, it still seems that haunted houses get all the attention. Why might this be?
In magical circles, non-magical people are sometimes derisively referred to as mundanes. Oddly enough, I think that this is what saves most people from having haunted experiences in museums. I had my Sekhmet experience with a group of magical folks and none of them had the same experience, although some did note the strong energy coming from the statue. I admittedly had the most mediumistic ability in the group so it is logical that I would have the strongest experience.
Most ‘mundanes’ have had any psychic ability (and I think almost everyone has some ability) beaten out of them by the Western educational system that teaches them that, if they can not touch it, it is not real. So many people do not have the sensitivity to perceive what is going on in the inner realms around them and, when they go to museums it is for “educational” purposes i.e. enforcing the paradigm. Add to this that museum staff tend to be scientific folks who are very invested in the sensory paradigm and you have an additional layer of protection. Finally, there is the ridicule factor that prevents many people from reporting their paranormal experiences and, viola’, you have perfect storm of investment in the sensory paradigm to counteract the potential for haunting in a museum.