Even More Ghosts of Cambridge
by Prudence Jones
You are interested in ghosts, aren't you? This year's walk, on 12th September, will visit the ghosts of the river meadows. To judge by the number of people who sign up for my ghost tours, by contrast with the purely historical tours, I would guess you are. Strange how fascinating these half-present beings seem to be. The disembodied head of Oliver Cromwell manifests in his old college, Sidney Sussex, there are opium-smoking bargemen and mysterious nuns and ladies in the town, strange demonic beings in the fens and other, named ghosts with tragic tales making themselves known throughout the streets and buildings of this bustling city, as we saw on last year's ghost walk.
To be sure, we've all met Christians, Muslims and Jews who do not attack astrology (sometimes even meeting them at astrology conferences), but they tend not to be taking the "official line" of their religions. The Catholic church specifically condemns "all forms of divination" including "consulting horoscopes" and "astrology" in its Catechism from 1992, and most evangelical Christians would concur, Billy Graham describing astrology as "offensive to God". Contemporary Islamic scholars condemn astrology as "sorcery and fortune-telling", views echoed by Jonathan Sacks, who was until recently the Chief Rabbi in the UK.
Ghosts make total sense for astrologers. We deal with time, putting flesh on the abstract bones of geometrical planetary movements, speculating as to how this framework has manifested in the past and will manifest in the future. Ghosts are simply a living embodiment of such time-travel. Ghosts, like visions of the future, defy our confinement in the present. How do they slip through the net of time? We don't know, but we are fascinated and unsettled by their presence. Can we predict hauntings by astrology? Can we analyse hauntings by astrology? Or do ghosts float through our spherical geometry as easily as they float through walls?
Friends of mine bring back tales from Polar regions where they live with indigenous peoples surrounded by ghosts and spirits all the time. They learn to take experiences of ghosts for granted. Before the Reformation, so did we, and it is from these times that many of the Cambridge ghosts emerge. But there are modern ghosts as well. The Cambridge river meadows with their fairs and monasteries are a borderland, between land and river, town and country, the quantifiable world of commerce and the mists of the Otherworld.Here were the Leper Chapel and the Plague House, the drovers' road and the village of ill repute. And here too were ghosts.
So join me on September 12th to visit some of the less tangible inhabitants of Cambridge. Ghostly encounters are not guaranteed, but spooky locations and their stories most certainly are. You will be thankful to return to the well-ordered modernity of Wyboston Lakes.