“What stays inside you all your life, but leaves only when you’re dead?”
‘What is this? A riddle?’ I ask the elderly gentleman sitting before me whose empty glass urgently needs a refill. ‘Bacteria?’
He smiles, very wryly, at the corners of his lips.
‘The soul! Of course, the soul,’ I say. The smile is still there. ‘Is this a—um, trick question?’
“In a way,” he says. “Normally the soul leaves the body after death, but it may not leave this Earth. Hell, it may not even leave the house; or, sometimes it finds a new body to take possession of.”
Gústi, as we shall call him (he says he prefers to remain anonymous: “There are a lot of narrow-minded people out there”) has been a soul-cleanser for near thirty years. Now he’s retired, although he still occasionally takes a serious case when no one else is up to the deed. Those in the know say he’s the best equipped to deal with spirits of the dead in all of Iceland. Looking at him, you’d assume that he’s a retired auto-mechanic who lives down the road and gingerly tends his roses in his garden between cups of tea and afternoon naps.
Far from it. Aside from the soul-cleaning, he’s also a hell of a spiritual healer, and maintains, along with numerous people affiliated with the Icelandic Parapsychological Society, that he has cured cancer on umpteen occasions.
He tells me the story of a teacher. “Well this guy left a message with the Society that he had terminal leukaemia. He hadn’t told his wife and kids, and by the look of things, unless he could find some miracle soon, telltale signs would be showing up any day. Every Monday afternoon I dropped into the Society’s offices and picked up the weekly five names. I had this guy’s dossier under my arm on the way home, ate dinner with my wife, and then, set about healing the guy.
“Now this kind of healing doesn’t usually happen overnight, and many times I have to do two or three sessions if it’s something very severe. But one thing I can assure you, it absolutely works. The key with all things spiritual is…” [here we go again] “…energy: volume is important, but more so, its purity. Now I can’t tell you the philosophical ins-and-outs of how it works, and to tell you the truth, I’ve never really asked. I just act as the funnel for Them to do their work.”
“Spirits if you like—beings from another realm; the dearly departed. Anyway, this teacher goes on an outing to the countryside with his class some few days after I’ve done the first session. Apparently, he wasn’t feeling well, so he stayed in his hotel room while the class was out. He felt the ground was collapsing beneath him, and he saw all these shimmering lights before his eyes. He felt faint and lay down to have a rest. By the evening he was better, and he joined everyone for dinner. When he next went to the doctor, the doctor found that there wasn’t a trace of the cancer in his system.”
I’m stumped. I’m scribbling this stuff down like nobody’s business. No wonder this guy wants to keep a low profile.
‘So, Gústi,’ I ask him. ‘What about the…soul-cleansing? Did that start after the healing?’
“Yes. Healing is really what I trained for—I worked with a number of mediums to hone in on my skills; the soul-cleaning, or exorcism, if you will, came later. It all started when a woman contacted the Society asking for help. There was something in her house: paintings were constantly falling off walls, glasses moving by themselves and crashing to the floor. She and her husband could hardly sleep at night. They called in the local vicar, had him do what he called “a blessing.” I mean, don’t get me wrong, blessing a home can only be a positive thing, give the house a good vibe— positive energy from the onset, you know. But in the here and now, when a spirit has decided to stay put for whatever reason, and believe me there are many, a blessing is not going to get him—or her—to leave.’
-So what made you feel you could deal with this?
“I don’t rightly know. It was like the old adage: ‘Your ears are ringing because someone is talking or thinking about you.’ Well, my ears were ringing something terrible. I told them I would give it a go. And so, I approached it in much the same manner as I approached the healing. I meditated upon it, did my prayers quietly at home—you know I never enter the buildings I should cleanse. Wouldn’t recognise the house owners if I saw them on the street. Anyway, this time, another set of beings came to me, not the same group as with the healings. These were, for lack of a better word, light beings. They are really quite transcendental, full of compassion and love. I have never asked, but you can tell they come straight from the heart of God.”
-And so, you say these haunting spirits—poltergeists, are actually the, er,
‘Un-departed;’ souls who have not joined with, what? The collective?
“There are two main types,” he says with complete conviction: “Either way they all have something unresolved: there are those who are still waiting for some kind of promise to be fulfilled; or, quite common is that the people who lived in the house before created a bad energy in the house, and have attracted the dark spirits. This creates a kind of magnetism which draws the darkness or evil to it, just like a fly to marmalade.”
-And these light spirits? What exactly do they do?
“Simple,” he says. “The light spirits just grab the offending soul under his arms, explain the situation, and escort him off. It looks a little like they are rising away in a kind of light-elevator.”
-An elevator into the heavens?
“Precisely,” he says smiling.
-And what of human possession, The Exorcist-style? Have you experienced that?
“Yes. Once. A father had died, and in that instant he took over his son’s body. It was quite mortifying for the mother.”
I’m bloody sure it was.