Death isn’t always the End
We’ve all heard of ghosts. They scare the bejeezus out of us, haunt our houses, watch us in the bathroom at night, and judge our internet histories. Some ghosts are special though, some are more than your bog standard moaning spirits. Like poltergeists, gjenganger (glad I don’t gotta say that) do more than just the above creepiness. They are corporeal, not just shades but truly able to interact with the world.
Scandinavian revenants, gjenganger were walking ghosts. The name comes from the words ‘against’, ‘toward’, and ‘walking’; basically combining into ‘walking after death’. The risen dead roamed the Earth, pinching their victims into serious illness or even death. Dødningeknip is a rather adorable word that translates to ‘Dead man’s pinch’, the gjenganger’s typical method of execution. Usually done while the victim slept, the skin would rot around the area of contact. Becoming diseased, discolored (blue), and shrunken, the pinch would often lead to illness and death.
In the oldest tales the gjenganger was a malevolent entity, coming back the dead to torture family and friends. Some came back simply because of unfinished business, often business they need help with from a kind friend, one who doesn’t want the pinch of death. And victims of violent death or murder. Suicide too, which is a bit unfair if you think about it.
Despite it’s horror origins in later years the gjenganger has separated from it’s more scary attributes, those going to the gast, and the gjenganger becoming a rather harmless spirit.
Mostly Normal (Description)
No overt features, so I guess just watch the obit pages and if anyone looks familiar…
They’re more like a vampire than a traditional ghost. One sign of the deceased being soon to rise is supposed to be the position of the body when found. If sitting up, they might soon rise.
Toss a stick on it (Defense)
So, a varp is a memorial pile of twigs or stones. Add to the pile to curry favor, draugr’s your uncle, the gjenganger doesn’t pinch you to death. Another defense is the ubiquitous cross over the door, preferably in tar. Also a slew of odd burial rituals, crossed shovels, rotting sleds, and ring around the church all included. Also certain runes, or the most effective method of dispatch—a sharp, sharp sword. Yep, being corporeal you can just hack one up.
Good luck and try not to get pinched!
(Also if you like ghosts of any type, please check out my short Dead Habits here. Thanks for reading.)