by Chris Friend
Even though it’s more ghost than vampire. I’ve always found the Churchyard watcher t be one of the most fascination of Undead characters. In many parts of Great Britain (especially Ireland, of course) it was thought that the spirit of the last person buried in a graveyard would be obligated to hold vigil over the cemetery as a Churchyard watcher.
These ghostly sentinels were said to watch over the graves until another living person would be summoned to the grave, relieving them. The idea was so widespread that fights were said to break out if two funeral processions happened to show up at the churchyard at the same time. These brawls would happen when family of friends fought to ensure their deceased loved ones would not end up holding the spectral vigil over the boneyard.
Some of these fights became quite ugly. Especially unsettling was time that the churchyard might be closed for good causing controversy for a family whose loved one was the last buried. I have heard in some districts that have the Churchyard watcher being appointed at Halloween (the original New Year among Celts), and other on the New Year on the more modern calendar. In Brittany, and other places in France the Churchyard watcher is Ankou, a death figure who cuts down individuals with his scythe.
In some tales he lives in an Underworld abode with thousands of candles, each representing a life.
When he blows out a candle, that life ends. When feeling especially wicked he blows many candles cutting short the lives of groups of individuals.
Oddly enough in Haitian voodoo, there is a variation on the Churchyard Watcher. The voodoo god Baton Samhedi is a deity connected to graveyards, death, and sexuality as well. In Haitian Voodoo these dairies ae known as the Loa (Loo-ah) and represent the forces of nature and time. Samhedi is connect to the crossroads, graveyards, and many magical supernatural places. He is also most connected to the zombie of Haitian folklore. Like the Churchyard watcher the cemetery is his prime domain. (Voodoo is an ancestor worship faith).
So, this New Year when the veil grows thin, and ghostly forces can slip through the cracks think if the Churchyard Watcher standing sentinel in the old cold graveyard waiting for next year’s relief.