Posted on March 23, 2005

Hit the Road, Ghosts

Tasnim Langry, Independent Online (Cape Town), Mar. 23

In an effort to curb the sightings of other-worldly spirits from appearing on Durban’s roads, an international organisation hosted a purification prayer on Tuesday.

More than 100 people from various religious denominations arrived outside the Durban City Hall to pray for the “purification” of Durban’s roads on Tuesday.

The purification related to prayer by means of cleansing the roads of earthbound spirits lingering after tragic accidents and suicides.

Cleansing the roads of earthbound spirits

The prayer was arranged by an international religious organisation based in Frere Road, Glenwood, called Sukyo Mahikari, which was founded by Kotama Okada in Japan 46 years ago.

They are working in conjunction with the KwaZulu-Natal department of transport. Director for Sukyo Mahikari in South Africa, Glen Nettle, said the organisation existed in more than 100 countries.

“We are devoted to improving the life and circumstances of human beings and all living things through the practice of the art of True Light and by living according to universal principles.”

Nettle explained that as much as 80 percent of the problems faced by people in their health and well-being was due to spiritual reasons.

“The practise of the art of True Light removes the accumulation of life-threatening impurities from the body, as well as relieving a person’s soul of spiritual impurities, which many have been born with, inherited from ancestors, or gathered in present lifetime.”

‘It will certainly help the community’

Yesterday’s prayer focused on violent deaths and earthbound spirits that seem to linger on Durban’s roads. Deputy Manager of Road Safety for the KZN Department of Transport, Bonga Mpofu, said his department decided to work with religious groups to promote road safety.

“We have realised that in order to keep our motorists safe we have to work with religious groups because they have clout in the community.”

Mpofu said he believed that these cleansing rituals would help rid Durban roads of lurking spirits.

“Prayer definitely helps and as a department we are hoping to pray for not only those who have died on our roads but those who continue to use it every day.”

Mpofu commended participation from members of the Sukyo organisation as they showed initiative to help Durban reduce road fatalities. Sukyo members said they realised there was a problem when reports of “Highway Sheila” and “Redcliffe Sheila” appeared in Post recently.

Okada, who died in 1971, wrote in his books that those who died in war, in battle, by suicide, in accidents and so on, usually become earthbound spirits and cannot leave their immediate vicinity.

“The spirits will remain within a 100m radius of the scene of his or her death until various rituals are conducted to purify their souls,” Okada had said.

He went on to say that the reason there were such things as cursed railway crossings and intersections because such spirits attached to people passing by and pulled them in, in order to increase their numbers.

The belief that spirits exist and that they may become bound to the side of the road or the place of their death is not new in folklore. Nettle said there were reports of a female spirit on the side of the road in the Western Cape, who, when questioned by passers-by wanted to find a relative’s home.

When she disappeared, concerned people reported the incident to the police and were informed that a girl with that description had in fact been killed in the same spot years ago while on her way to a relative’s home.

“Such stories are well known. What is not well known is how much the phenomenon of earthbound spirits influences the rate of road fatalities.

“Sometimes accidents occur time after time with frequent deaths in areas where there is no logical explanation,” said Nettle.

Teachings in the books of Okada state that whether spirits deliberately caused problems to the people they had been attached to or not, their presence alone gives a negative influence.

Disturbance by spirits gave problems ranging from minor inuries and negative moods, to serious injuries, diseases, accidents crime, suicide and other tragedies. Spirits with strong grudges may plot a person’s misfortune over many years and wreak their revenge on the person’s descendants as well.

Spiritual head of the Chinmaya Mission of South Africa, Brahmachari Peetambar, said many people believed at certain levels that tragic accidents caused souls to linger around the place of death. “Sometimes they can even cause harm.”

Peetambar said in the Hindu religion certain rituals would cleanse and purify these spirits.

Commenting on yesterday’s programme, he said: “I believe that any prayer observed faithfully and positively can help, regardless of what religion or faith the prayer is being observed in.”

He said if people were willing to do these purification prayers those who had lost loved ones along with those who had lost their lives would be pacified.

“It will certainly help the community.”

Father Albert Danker of St Anne’s Church in Randles Road, Sydenham, said in his 50 years as a priest he did hear of these incidents being reported which were inexplicable occurrences.

“There is no absolute proof that spirits would want to cause harm to anyone though. Although I don’t deny the existence of spirits, I do believe that Durban needs to be rid of those who abuse alcohol, drugs and other intoxicants before driving on our roads.”

He said he didn’t believe that spirits which were not worthy to enter heaven as yet and roaming the world would want to take revenge on anyone. “God would never do such a thing.”

Newlands West-based Moulana Fahim Khan said he didn’t believe spirits would cause accidents. “I believe that when someone dies their spirit goes to God, so how would it cause harm on earth?”

Durban-based palmist and psychic Faye le Roux said she agreed that spirits lurked in the earthly realm but did not want to cause harm to others. “If this purification programme works, then I’m all for it but I really disagree that spirits would cause harm.

“In society we have grown to believe that unearthly things are scary but in fact some spirits are not even aware that they are dead. As a society we need to move from automatically thinking the worst when seeing spirits.”

Le Roux added that accidents could be caused when motorists saw “ghosts” and were so shocked that an accident could happen.

“The intentions of spirits are really not to scare anyone,” she reiterated.