Fear the Returning Dead

When did people start fearing the dead coming back? (such as ghosts)

People started fearing ghosts and spirits before there was written history. References to ghosts appear as far back as early Mesopotamian cultures. In early cultures, surviving relatives often made offerings to the dead to make their afterlife more comfortable, with a fear that if they did not do these things, the spirit could get angry and could come back and cause harm to the living.

My WAG is that humans have always believed in ghosts because humans have always dreamed. It isn’t hard to believe that the dead are still around when they come visit you in your head while you are sleeping.

Oh I thought this was about zombies! I never even considered zombies til the recent explosions of t.v. and movies about them. Now I dream of them! Ugh!

Yeah, it’s pretty clear that the roots of this belief lie in pre-history, which means there is no factual answer to the OP. It’s unlikely the answer is even knowable without time travel.

Also, they may have experienced epidemic diseases, and falsely concluded that the angry spirit of the first victim was somehow responsible for causing the following deaths.

But didn’t the Egyptians believe in the Ka? That’s why they created mummies so that the spirit would have some place to come back to.
And what about the day of the dead? People hope their dead relatives come to visit once a year.

So when did people begin fearing spirit visits, instead of* welcoming* them, is what you’re asking? I think the answer has been given already – in a variety of ancient cultures, people did both. If we assume in prehistory, people had happy dreams and nightmares like we do, then it likely begins back then. People have seen signs that dogs, for example, have dreams, so its likely the dual nature of dreams/spirits streches back to proto-humans.

One group. On the entire planet. Spent part of their time using circumstances of natural resources/environment. To embalm some of their kings. And you spread that across all human cultures?

Then maybe the question should be: why don’t the Egyptian and Hispanic cultures fear the dead?

Try reading this. Ancient Egyptians certainly did fear the dead. Returning ghosts were a sign that something went wrong and the departed spirit didn’t successfully make it to the afterlife, probably because the burial arrangements were not adequate. In such a case the ghost could afflict the living. My link quotes a letter written from an ancient Egyptian man to his dead wife complaining that he buried her respectfully and mourned properly, so why the hell was she haunting him?

I’ve got one – venomous snakes are a dangerous risk for all humans world wide. On the Indian peninsula, there’s a venomous snake, the cobra, whose aggression display is to rise up, widen its upper rib-cage into a hood. Hinduism developed a dogma of a cobra-headed being as a protector of Vishnu. Discuss.

Hindu gods represent so many different aspects that my WAG is they were an amalgamation of many different ancient gods.

“I told them not to turn her into a mummy, but did they listen?”

Paul Barber’s Vampire’s, Burial, and Death has an erudite take on this. He reads it as a natural association between those who have recently died and those who die later. The human mind seeks out causation, and this is an easy *post hoc, prompter hoc *relationship to assume. It helps that the changes often befalling dead bodies can be disturbing as hell.

That. Uh. Doesn’t answer what I asked. Cobras are arguably more real and dangerous than evil spirits. Yet they’re venerated in some sects of Hinduism. And why not? Hating them won’t solve the problem. Can’t kill them all – although we are diminishing their environment, so maybe we will someday except for zoo specimens. So why not admire their beauty, venerate them as an abstract concept of protection, and swat the ever lovin’ crap out of any one that gets too close to your child. Same deal with our dead spirits. I miss all my dead relatives, the things we used to do, the way they used to speak. I still don’t want any of them clawing out of the crypt and coming after me.

I mean really. Call first. I’d have something ready.