Do water related tragedies like those which have snuffed out and blighted so many lives in India during the recent rains and unprecedented floods distress spirits who reside in water, or have they become impervious to tragedies? That was a question in the last column which still needs to be answered, partly because the answers provide very interesting perspectives of the unseen world but primarily because the answers have important, profound implications. Writing in Metaphysics & Mysticism, Lucia Ortiz Monasterio says that all civilisations with large bodies of water, or even any region with a pond or a well, will be bewitched by the liquid and will organise its life around it. Because of repeated paranormal activity in the form of incidents it soon becomes known that a particular water body is haunted.

For example in Assam, the India locals know which water bodies are frequented by the baak in its malevolent form. It is also known that 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 shape. 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. People sometimes mistake a baak for pretas—ghosts of men or women who died by violence and whose corpses were disposed off without getting the death rituals done for them by their family or the family was unaware of the death and so they did not perform the rituals at all or only partially.

When we were in Assam for sightings of the Jatinga mystery and the “mani-nag”,  our Assamese guide would sometimes point at a misty form near a pond and urge us to move away quickly as it was a baak. Curiously, when we pushed on regardless, the misty form would not disappear but keep retreating till a point where we were reluctant to follow it into thick foliage. However, a baak cannot stay in this misty form forever and needs to renew its ability to survive by drawing on the power it gains from a dead body.

Evicting a baak from a corpse which it has occupied is as difficult as preventing it from killing another human to enter a new body. But it is even more difficult to liberate a baak, especially a malevolent baak and give it moksha. That is because generally, the “consciousness levels” of baaks  have over an inestimatable period of time in which they have remained trapped, become debased and they are intent simply on “possessing” a dead form for survival. It is this debasement of the “consciousness levels “of many other malevolent water spirits as well which prevents them from feeling any distress when they see water related deaths and/or devastation .

In Bihar, there are somewhat similar water spirits called pandubbas—the ghosts of people who drowned in ponds, lakes, wells, rivers, etc, but their needs and modus operandi is different. In Jaunsar Bawar in the western Himalayas, there are the Kunwas or Kuan pishachas who live in wells and emerge to draw power from people who have drowned. The mythologies of different countries along with documented paranormal incidents provide innumerable malevolent water spirits stories. In Scandinavian folklore there is a mythological horse called Bäckahästen . In foggy weather, she would appear near rivers and whoever decided to ride on her back was unable to get off again. The horse would than jump into the river, drowning the rider.

In fact, water related deaths and devastation have multiple effects on water spirits. They provide malevolent water spirits with golden opportunities to renew their energies easily because such calamities ensure free, unhindered, unopposed access to corpses. Besides, initially they welcome the new additions to their numbers in the form of the spirits of people who have just died in the tragedy. The new spirits are too dazed by their sudden deaths and in any case, being freshly released from their bodies they do not immediately need seminal sources of energy. Therefore, at this point, they do not pose any threat, either territorial or in terms of power sources to old time water spirits, who, in ghoulish terms, are enjoying a golden run—undiscovered, unclaimed corpses in plenty with no opposition at all.

But surely not all water spirits are malevolent and there must be benign water spirits as well who, instead of exploiting death are sensitive to suffering and try to help? Yes, there are, and curiously, for benign water spirits too contact with humans is a must. In normal times, this usually takes the form of playing tricks on humans by assuming different forms. At times of tragedy, they extend unseen help in various impressive, crucial ways, but that’s a fascinating subject for a future column.

During tragic times it is malevolent water spirits who pose a threat. Paradoxically, it is when relief and rehabilitation efforts pick up pace that fights for supremacy begin to break out amongst old time water spirits. With corpses no longer so freely available to prey upon as power “banks”, old time water spirits resent intrusion of other spirits into the areas they have “traditionally” occupied. They also now begin to feel threatened by the spirits of the newly dead, even though the new spirits are passive at this juncture.

All this adds up to making old time water spirits more aggressive and angry, more prone in their anger to killing or maiming or making a living person mentally unsound in just a few seconds, more resistant to measures to contain them such as prayers.  Yet the immense power of prayer and positive thoughts need to be intensively harnessed and used at such times in conjunction with other common sense measures to ward off undesirable spirit influences and activities. Incidentally, mythologically, Charon was an old ferryman who ferried the dead into the Underworld, crossing the river Acheron or river of woe. He only took the souls of those buried properly. Obviously, performing the necessary rituals for those who have died and consigning their bodies to the flames, the earth or whatever other way is preferred always has been and continues to be very important both in the larger context of shaanti for the soul and to prevent malevolent water spirits and other such evil spirits from taking possession of an unclaimed or undiscovered body.

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