Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

5 Groups Who Claim to Talk to the Dead

        Science | Afterlife

1
Various Cultures
Dogon tribespeople dressed for a funeral. Two people (back row, third from right and all the way on the right) appear to be wearing sirige masks. © Juan Echeverria/Corbis
Dogon tribespeople dressed for a funeral. Two people (back row, third from right and all the way on the right) appear to be wearing sirige masks. © Juan Echeverria/Corbis

People have been trying to communicate with the dead as long as the dead have been around. About four years ago, Neal Spencer from the British Museum, was excavating a house in the Nile Valley when he came upon an 11-inch (29-centimeter) bust of a male figure. The figurine had a short wig and bits of ancient Egyptian blue and red paint, which suggested the little guy was wearing a collar of beads and pendants. Spencer said such busts allowed the living to talk to the dead and ask them for help here on Earth [source: Spencer].

Cultures that worship their ancestors believe strongly that they can talk to the dead. The Dogon people of southern Mali still communicate with their ancestors, through a special dance. It's a masquerade, in which dancers wear sirige masks carved from a single tree. These masks link the Dogon's life on Earth with those of their ancestors.

Many Native Americans have believed for centuries that they could communicate with the dead. In their view, when a person died, he or she passed into the spirit world and became part of the supernatural forces that influenced their lives. The Apache and Navajo feared ghosts who didn't like the living [source: Encyclopedias of Death and Dying].


More to Explore