Recently, the fury of the rains and flood waters brought death and devastation to many areas in India. One’s heart and mind reaches out, inadequately, to all those who have been so tragically affected. I also wonder: do such water related tragedies distress spirits who reside in water or have they become impervious to tragedies? Yes, there is a well defined, centuries old category of spirits who live in water. Usually, death in water occurs due to drowning, either accidental and unforeseen or forced or self chosen as in suicides. Bodies of those who were murdered are also sometimes thrown into water bodies.
In the majority of such cases, the soul is in distress and disoriented, which weakens the soul force necessary to ascend to the astral world. If it is a mass tragedy, spirit guides are often too few to make the shocked souls come to terms with their deaths and guide them to the higher realms. In the case of those who die in inland floods or are swept away by tsunamis and whose bodies are not found, the bigger tragedy is that their families too have been hit by calamity and are unable to perform the prescribed rituals which would make the soul’s journey easier. Consequently, many people who die a watery death or whose bodies are thrown into water become ghosts who inhabit water, generally at or near the spot they died. World-wide, there are thousands of legends and stories about haunted waterways, lagoons, swamps, wells, springs, lakes, rivers, canals, ponds, seas.
Some paranormal investigators believe water is a powerful draw for ghosts. In a quote to USA Today, Susan Bove, one of the founders of South Jersey Paranormal Research explained, “Like the living, ghosts are attracted to the water”. According to Boye and several other researchers, water is a fantastic energy conductor, and ghosts absorb their strength from wherever they can, so if they have the option to exist near large amounts of it in the form of rivers, lakes, or oceans, all the better.
Okiku’s Well at Himeji Castle in Japan is spookily famous because in it lives one of Japan’s most well known ghosts. It is haunted by a girl who was thrown into the well by a married samurai, Tessan Aoyama, after she refused to become his mistress despite threats. From beyond the grave, or rather well, she haunted the samurai’s nights until he went insane. Some say she jumped into the castle well and drowned. Her spirit is said to howl and lament pitiably to this day.
Along with other countries America too has innumerable , fascinating stories of haunted water bodies, the eerie story of the Lady of the Lake at White Rock Lake, Texas being perhaps the most popular. In Scandinavian mythology, Fosse Grim was a water spirit that played enchanted songs on the violin, luring women and children to drown in lakes and streams. In Japanese mythology, Kappas are monkey-like creatures with saucer-shaped heads, long noses, and a yellowish-green skin and are said to lure children to the water and pull them under, feeding on their blood. In Slavic mythology, Rusalka are female ghosts thought to be souls of young women who died in or near lakes and had usually been murdered.
Naiads are water nymphs, and inhabit fountains, wells, springs, brooks, rivers, marshes, ponds and lagoons. In some stories naiads are depicted as dangerous creatures, because they could take men underwater when fascinated by their beauty, and these men were never to be seen again. The essence of a naiad was bound to the water body she inhabited. If a spring dried, the naiad within it died. In Water Spirit Legends, edited by D. L. Ashliman, University of Pittsburgh, there is mention of Water Nixes in Poland and Germany. “The water-man, also called the nix, as well as his spouse the water-woman, lives in the rivers, lakes, and ponds of Lusatia. He tempts passers-by to go bathing, in order to drown them.
In India, in Bengal there are the Sheekol Buri or Jol-Pishach who, according to Wikipedia… dwell in the rivers, ponds, and lakes… Young women, who either committed suicide by drowning due to an unhappy marriage… or who were violently drowned against their will…come back as such beings…Her main purpose is, however, to lure young men and take them into the depths… where she would entangle their feet with her long hair and submerge them… Their general habitat is water bodies even though they roam around the land/wilderness around the water and are also often seen sitting over trees at the dead of night. However, most water spirits are powerless on land.
Stories of the baak are widespread in Assam. The baak usually frequents ponds and other “still” water bodies, even wells, when in its malevolent form. For its survival, a malevolent baak needs, from time to time, a dead body, usually of a human, which it can enter, occupy and resurrect. In its malevolent form, a baak can kill a person and take the killed person’s shapes. But it often looks for corpses, such as those dumped in or near a water body after a crime or who die due to drowning.
Some years ago, a taxi driver who had been missing along with his vehicle for over a year suddenly turned up at home in Dehra Dun. His parents were overjoyed but puzzled because he seemed to have changed so much, would hardly talk, was ill-tempered, etc. They checked with me, I recommended a “baba”, and after a terrible physical struggle in which the baba was protected by his mantras, the powerful preta that entered the taxi driver was “caught”, subdued and “buried”. Immediately, an unbearable stench arose from the taxi driver, who had been killed near a canal over a year ago for his vehicle and his body dumped near the canal. The decomposed body of the taxi driver was cremated under directions from the baba, and the taxi driver’s soul got peace. But the canal preta is still awaiting moksha.
In a forested area near the famous Qutub Minar in Delhi, there is an artificial treated sewage lake. A driver was murdered here and his body dumped in this lake and his soul became a jal pishacha. His family registered a missing person case but believed he would come back one day and therefore did not perform any “peace after death” rituals. Till we were able to give his soul release and fulfill his wishes about his family being taken care of, the driver’s angry jal pishacha form pulled down anybody who happened to touch the “lake” water.