Magic and Ghosts: Stories of the Supernatural

Stories of the supernatural

The Pendle Witches in 1612
Spirited Away
Ghost hunting

Stories of the supernatural

Throughout history, folklore has often featured supernatural elements: phenomena which exist outside the rules of science and nature. Spirits and demons are one example of this, as well as magic, curses and spells.

In some cultures, supernatural entities are seen as benevolent protectors who can be called upon for help in times of need. For example, the Ancient Greeks believed in *eudaemon*, or protective spirits.

In other cultures, these supernatural forces may be viewed with fear or suspicion, with people seeking ways to protect themselves using rituals and spells. For example, in Early Modern Europe, many people believed in malign spirits called familiars, who would supposedly assist witches in their dastardly plots.

With the supernatural comes a mix of emotions: curiosity mixed with caution; wonderment combined with dread. It is this tension between fascination and fear that has kept these stories alive for centuries.

Ghosts and spirits

Ghosts and spirits are a common example of supernatural folklore. In many cultures, they are believed to be the souls of deceased people who have not yet passed on to the afterlife. They may appear as apparitions or take physical form, often with glowing eyes or other features that distinguish them from living humans.

In Chinese mythology, ghosts are often depicted as vengeful entities that haunt the living, seeking retribution for wrongs done to them in life or seeking revenge against those who have wronged their descendants. The Japanese yurei is another type of ghostly spirit; these specters may appear as an apparition with long black hair or a white-clad figure shrouded in mist.

Ghosts and spirits are not always malicious. The Japanese kami are divine spirits that inhabit natural objects such as mountains and rivers; they are believed to bring good luck and prosperity when respected and honored.

Demons and devils

Demons and devils are usually thought of as forces of chaos and evil. In some stories, they bring misfortune to those who cross their paths. Other tales depict them as tricksters or shape-shifters who use cunning and deception to get what they want.

In Christian mythology, demons are often fallen angels – evil spirits that seek to tempt humans away from God’s path. Islamic tradition tells of a devil named Iblis: an angel cast out of heaven by Allah for refusing to bow down before Adam.

Chinese mythology features figures such as Sun Wukong (the Monkey King) who battle against a range of powerful demons, including the Demon King of Confusion, who has been killing and enslaving Sun Wukong’s fellow monkeys.

Magic and spells

Magic and spellcasting can be found in folklore all around the world. In some tales, they are seen as powerful tools to be used with caution; in others, they are viewed as dangerous forces that can bring about great destruction.

In European mythology, witches and wizards often use their magical powers to help or harm people – from healing the sick to cursing enemies. Similarly, African folktales tell of powerful sorcerers who can transform into animals or summon rain with their spells – an important skill during periods of heat and drought.

In most traditional stories, spellcasting involves chanting incantations, using magical objects like wands or potions, or performing rituals with specific ingredients. Sometimes, spellcasters are born with magic; at other times, they are imbued with power by demons or gods.

An example: Yōkai

Yōkai are a type of supernatural creature found in traditional Japanese folklore. These creatures range from benevolent spirits to malevolent demons, and their stories have been passed down for centuries. Yōkai stories were traditionally shared orally from generation to generation, with each storyteller adding their own unique spin to the tale.

One popular example is the tengu, a long-nosed creature who lives in mountains and forests. It is said that tengu protect sacred places from evil spirits while also teaching martial arts to those brave enough to seek them out. There are also malicious yōkai such as kappa – water imps who enjoy the taste of cucumber, and sometimes lure unsuspecting victims into rivers. Kappas may serve as cautionary tales about being careful around bodies of water.

An example: Witches

In early modern Britain, stories of witches and witchcraft were rife. Witchcraft was believed to be a form of sorcery that involved summoning spirits and using magical objects such as charms, potions and talismans. It was thought that witches had the power to control nature, manipulate people’s minds, and even cause death with their dark arts.

The fear of witchcraft led to many witch trials, where those accused were put on trial for practicing black magic. The most famous example in Britain is that of the Pendle Witches in 1612, who were accused of murdering ten people using magic. The trial was one of the most notorious witch trials in British history and resulted in ten executions.

These stories demonstrate the darker side of folklore: how superstition can lead to hysteria and tear societies apart. Throughout the centuries, thousands of women (and a number of men as well) have been accused of witchcraft, and many of them killed.

Supernaturalism in modern media

The supernatural elements of traditional folklore have had a lasting influence on modern culture, inspiring works of art and literature that have captivated audiences around the world.

The Japanese animated film ‘Spirited Away’ is about a young girl who is transported to a magical world populated by Yōkai spirits and demons. Similarly, the Harry Potter books and films draw heavily from folktales about witchcraft and wizardry. In both stories, supernatural themes are combined with questions of good versus evil, and friendship in times of adversity.

These stories demonstrate how folklore continues to inspire new generations of storytellers today. We may no longer believe in witches or wizards but their legacy lives on through books, films, television shows and video games.

Do people still believe?


In modern society, there are many who reject the supernatural and embrace a more rational approach. This is often seen in scientific circles where belief in magic is viewed as outdated or irrational. We have debunked a number of traditional beliefs, and offered new explanations for strange phenomena which were previously linked to magic.

Despite this, some people still believe in magic and ghosts. In recent years there has been a resurgence of interest in paranormal activity, with ghost hunting becoming increasingly popular. While skeptics may dismiss these ghost hunters, believers argue that supernatural phenomena are out there. It is a controversial and divisive topic, and one which might never go away.

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