Nicola Kirk: Author and Collector of Paranormal Stories and Other Strange Encounters

Posts tagged ‘Breton’

No Rest For The Wicked – Graveyard Guardians

Many people are frightened of graveyards, it’s only natural, but is it the sight of all those headstones and tombs that makes you uneasy or… is there something else watching you?

It might take a bit of time but if you can hunt down the first grave in a cemetery you might just get to meet the Graveyard Guardian.  The legend is that the spirit of the first person laid to rest in a graveyard  remains on the earthly plane to keep an eye on comings and goings and keep the other graveyard residents safe.

Unfortunately, in times of old, some villagers were a little too impatient to wait for someone to die of natural causes and fill the role.  According to an article by Marq English in issue 45 of Paranormal Magazine (p74), ‘it is believed that the early inhabitants of Cheam (in Surrey) butchered the village simpleton by cutting his throat and allowing the blood to spill into the graveyard so his spirit would be its first Guardian’.  So if we learn nothing else today, don’t visit Cheam when they’re opening a new graveyard.

According to there is a legend that people used to be buried alive in new graveyards to create a guardian.  These guardians were known as ankou.

The ankou is also mentioned by Frenchman Anatole Le Braz, who was a collector and translator of Breton (Brittany) folklore in the 19th Century.  In his best-seller, “The Legend of Death”, Anatole writes:

The Ankou is the henchman of the Death (oberour ar maro). The last dead of the year, in each parish, becomes the Ankou of this parish for all the following year. When it has been, in a year, more death than usual, one says about the Ankou:

War ma fé, heman zo eun Anko drouk.

“On my faith, this one is a nasty Ankou.”

The Black Shuck, a strange creature whom I have written about previously, occasionally also takes on the role of graveyard guardian, although whether the shuck is the spirit of the first graveyard resident or a completely different paranormal being in its own right is unclear:

One notable story from Australia perhaps provides evidence of the persistence of the black dog legend beyond its native Europe. In Picton, NSW, there is a wonderful historical graveyard attached to the beautiful church of St Mark. Within the churchyard, the ghostly form of an enormous dog has been seen – even on one occasion chasing people out of the graveyard.”

So if you do decide to visit a graveyard, you’d better behave yourself.  You don’t know who, or what, might be watching.


©Nicola Kirk and 2010

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