Macabre Grimoire Chapter 16 Mine Ghosts and Spirits
Hosts Ari Show, Robert Mehling, and Travis Nye
Produced by Robert Mehling and TheSiouxEmpire.com
Voice Over by Dave Holly
Opening Theme Enhance Your Starry Night by Mouthful of Bees
The Knocker, Knacker, Bwca (Welsh), Bucca (Cornish) or Tommyknocker (US) is a mythical creature in Welsh, Cornish and Devon folklore. They are the equivalent of Irish leprechauns and English and Scottish brownies. The Cornish described these creatures as little people who were two feet tall, had big heads, long arms, wrinkled faces, and white whiskers. They wear tiny versions of standard miner’s garb and commit random mischief, such as stealing miners’ unattended tools and food.
In the 1820s, immigrant Welsh miners brought tales of the knockers and their theft of unwatched items and warning knocks to western Pennsylvania, when they gravitated there to work in the mines. Cornish miners, much sought after in the years following the gold and silver rushes, brought them to Colorado, Nevada, and California. When asked if they had relatives who would come to work the mines, the Cornish miners always said something along the lines of “Well, me cousin Jack over in Cornwall wouldst come, could ye pay ’is boat ride”, and so came to be called Cousin Jacks. The Cousin Jacks, as notorious for losing tools as they were for diving out of shafts just before they collapsed, attributed this to their diminutive friends and refused to enter new mines until assured by the management that the knockers were already on duty. Even non-Cornish miners, who worked deep in the earth where the noisy support timbers creaked and groaned, came to believe in the Tommyknockers. The American interpretation of knockers seemed to be more ghostly than elvish.
Belief in the knockers in America remained well into the 20th century. When one large mine closed in 1956 and the owners sealed the entrance, fourth, fifth, and sixth generation Cousin Jacks circulated a petition calling on the mine owners to set the knockers free so that they could move on to other mines. The owners complied. Belief in Nevada persisted amongst its miners as late as the 1930s.
If you visit the former mining town of Deadwood South Dakota and specifically the famous Boot Hill, one of the things I have always found striking is the number of mass chinese mine worker graves.
So far from home and family to venerate the ancestors, I have always wondered about mines and towns being haunted by those hungry spirits that would be left behind.
Hungry ghost is a concept in Chinese Buddhism and Chinese traditional religion representing beings who are driven by intense emotional needs in an animalistic way. The term 餓鬼 èguǐ, literally “hungry ghost”, is the Chinese translation of the term preta in Buddhism. “Hungry ghosts” play a role in Chinese Buddhism and Taoism as well as in Chinese folk religion. The term is not to be confused with the generic term for “ghost“, 鬼 guǐ (i.e. the spirit of a deceased ancestor). The understanding is that all people become such a regular ghost when they die, and would then slowly weaken and eventually die a second time. Hungry ghosts, by contrast, are a much more exceptional case, and would only occur in very unfortunate circumstances, such as if a whole family were killed or when a family no longer venerated their ancestors.
We should definitely do our own episode just about the ghost festival that communities in China celebrate to feed these lost souls and then return them to hell.
But for now let’s look at some of the manifestations they take.
So the tapestries that depict these things are the most metal thing I’ve seen in quite some time.
There are many folk beliefs and taboos surrounding the Hungry Ghost Festival. Spirits are thought to be dangerous, and can take many forms, including snakes, moths, birds, foxes, wolves, and tigers. Some can even use the guise of a beautiful man or woman to seduce and possess. One story refers to a ghost which takes the form of a pretty girl and seduces a young man until a priest intervenes and sends the spirit back to hell. It is believed that possession can cause illness and/or mental disorders.
Shubin is the mythological spirit of the mines. The legend of Shubin is distributed mainly in the mining towns of Donbass, a disputed region claimed by Ukraine. In the north, one can hear several legends about the spirit of the mines. The spirit is usually good but can be wicked. There is no single point of view about the etymology of the word. Explanations include: (1) the nickname of a miner, whose soul, according to legend, walks in a fur coat at the bottom of the mine with a torch in his hand and burns the gas (firedamp); (2) the name of the cruel mining master Shubin, who slew workers underground; (3) the sound from methane (Shu-Shu), which often accumulates in the mines.
Bila Koroleva (White Queen). In the beliefs of some miners, the Shubin spirit appears as a female. Once, a miner from the Sverdlovsk region went missing. After a long search, he was finally found in the mine naked. He went mad and was taken to a mental hospital. Then some other miners went mad. All of them told about the “white queen”, a beautiful woman who tried to cheat them, but the miners could not bear her towering beauty and completely lost their reason. People have long mocked these stories and passed by the mental hospital where the miners were treated and said that it was the home of the white kings. Since the white queen has disappeared from the mine but no one can tell exactly when she would come again.
Mining was dangerous and still is.
Miners are superstitious.
Food and Mental Illness seem to be common threads in the legends across culture.