Instances to show that the Excommunicated do not rot, and that they appear to the Living

 [This is taken from Augustine Calmet's Phantom World, originally published in 1850, revised and edited by D. J. McAdam, 2010.  Copyright as such.]

Laleham

The Greeks relate that under the Patriarch of Constantinople Manuel, or Maximus, who lived in the fifteenth century, the Turkish Emperor of Constantinople wished to know the truth of what the Greeks asserted concerning the uncorrupted state of those who died under sentence of excommunication. The patriarch caused the tomb of a woman to be opened; she had had a criminal connection with an archbishop of Constantinople; her body was whole, black, and much swollen. The Turks shut it up in a coffin, sealed with the emperor's seal; the patriarch said his prayer, gave absolution to the dead woman, and at the end of three days the coffin or box being opened they found the body fallen to dust.

I see no miracle in this: everybody knows that bodies which are sometimes found quite whole in their tombs fall to dust as soon as they are exposed to the air. I except those which have been well embalmed, as the mummies of Egypt, and bodies which are buried in extremely dry spots, or in an earth replete with niter and salt, which dissipate in a short time all the moisture there may be in the dead bodies, either of men or animals; but I do not understand that the Archbishop of Constantinople could validly absolve after death a person who died in deadly sin and bound by excommunication. They believe also that the bodies of these excommunicated persons often appear to the living, whether by day or by night, speaking to them, calling them, and molesting them. Leon Allatius enters into long details on this subject; he says that in the Isle of Chio the inhabitants do not answer to the first voice that calls them, for fear that it should be a spirit or ghost; but if they are called twice, it is not a vroucolaca, which is the name they give those specters. If any one answers to them at the first sound, the specter disappears; but he who has spoken to it infallibly dies.

There is no other way of guarding against these bad genii than by taking up the corpse of the person who has appeared, and burning it after certain prayers have been recited over it; then the body is reduced to ashes, and appears no more. They have then no doubt that these are the bodies of criminal and malevolent men, which come out of their graves and cause the death of those who see and reply to them; or that it is the demon, who makes use of their bodies to frighten mortals, and cause their death.

They know of no means more certain to deliver themselves from being infested by these dangerous apparitions than to burn and hack to pieces these bodies, which served as instruments of malice, or to tear out their hearts, or to let them putrefy before they are buried, or to cut off their heads, or to pierce their temples with a large nail.

 



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