|The Revenant, Andrew Wyeth, 1949|
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Wiki says: "A Revenant is a visible ghost or animated corpse that was believed to return from the grave to terrorize the living. The word "revenant" is derived from the Latin word, revenans, "returning", from the verb "revenire"; in French, "revenant" means "coming back", from the verb "revenir", meaning "to come back".
"Belief in revenants lies beneath the universal rituals for propitiating the dead, to keep them in their place. Vivid stories of revenants arose in Western Europe (especially Great Britain, and were later carried by Anglo-Norman invaders to Ireland) during the High Middle Ages. Though later legend and folklore depicts revenants as returning for a specific purpose (e.g., revenge against the deceased's killer), in most Medieval accounts they return to harass their surviving families and neighbours. Revenants share a number of characteristics with folkloric vampires. Many stories were documented by English historians in the Middle Ages. William of Newburgh wrote in the 1190s, "one would not easily believe that corpses come out of their graves and wander around, animated by some evil spirit, to terrorize or harm the living, unless there were many cases in our times, supported by ample testimony".
"Stories of revenants were very personal, always about a specific individual who had recently died (unlike the anonymous zombie depicted in modern popular culture), and had a number of common features.
Medieval stories of revenants have common features. Those who return from the dead are wrongdoers in their lifetime, often described as wicked, vain or unbelievers. Often the revenants are associated with the spreading of disease among the living. The appropriate response is usually exhumation, followed by some form of decapitation, and burning or removal of the heart.
"Several stories imply that sucking of blood has occurred. Because of this, revenants have sometimes been described as "vampires" by a number of authors of popular books about vampire legends, starting with Montague Summers. Medievalists are, however, largely skeptical towards this interpretation, possibly because vampire legends are believed to have originated in Eastern European folklore and became known to the Western public only later through reports coming from the East in the 18th century. Vampires do not appear in Western fiction (with modifications) until the late 18th century and early 19th century, starting with authors such as Robert Southey, Lord Byron and John William Polidori. However, anthropologists and folklorists tend to blur distinctions between the various forms of "walking dead", for which counterparts exist in the myths and legends of nearly every civilization dating back to earliest history."
It is just like you
to think you can wear all white
as if from the dead,
coming back to tell
me what's what on the other
side of the divide.
You sneaking around
setting chairs to their rocking,
squeaking in corners,
all that ghost stuff plumb
wears me out and then you show
right in front of me
and the whispers rise
around us as if there are
crowds of you nearby.
I'm fit to be tied.
Written September 11, 2011 10:54 AM