The term Goryo first emerged in the eighth century CE to refer to the dangerous, angry ghosts of nobles who had died in political intrigues. Because the person’s life ended amid public humiliation, their ghostly anger and vengeance manifested against the mass public. Goryo were associated with epidemics, wars, and disasters, as opposed to the standard angry, vengeful ghost who may target one single victim or family.
Goryo could be accessed through divination and shamanic or necromantic rituals. By communicating with them, they can be appeased and propitiated. Goryo could be transformed from malevolent forces into benevolent spirit guardians, which may have been the original intent of their rampages. By calling public attention to themselves and their power, they could receive the honors denied to them while alive. Often the unjust circumstances of their deaths were exposed.
Over time, however, the term Goryo was loosened and expanded to refer to any hostile, unfriendly ghost. Anyone, even the most mundane person, can transform into a Goryo by sheer will or by the intensity of rage experienced at time of death. Goryo now generally refers to the ghosts of those who died sudden, unexpected, and/or violent deaths.
An example of a traditional Goryo situation may be witnessed in the 2001 Japanese movie, Onmyoji.
Go is a prefix honorific; ryo refers to souls. It is a respectful euphemism. Shinto tradition suggests that those who died violent, unexpected deaths or in a state of extreme anger or resentment must be buried with extra-special reverence and care. Many are enshrined so that they can be honored on a regular basis. Special religious services are held for them. Otherwise, if not propitiated, they can cause disaster of one sort or another.
Encyclopedia of Spirits: The Ultimate Guide to the Magic of Fairies, Genies, Demons, Ghosts, Gods & Goddesses– Written by :Judika Illes Copyright © 2009 by Judika Illes.