It’s Hungry Ghost Month!

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I don’t go out much these days, so I completely missed all the signs. I haven’t noticed any food plates set up on the sides of the road and I haven’t seen or smelt any incense sticks either.

But we are one week into the Hungry Ghost month already!

This year, Hungry Ghost month started on 19th August and will end on 16th September 2020. It always falls into the 7th month of the Lunar Calendar and the culmination is Hungry Ghost Day (the day of the full moon), which is on 2nd September this year.

Hungry Ghost Month

Usually, Hungry Ghost month is one of the things you can’t ignore when you live in Asia. According to Chinese mythology, during Hungry Ghost month the gates of the underworld are opened up to allow the souls of the dead to return to earth to visit their living relatives. At the same time, wandering ghosts and spirits obviously also have the opportunity to escape and will roam about the streets. Most of these spirits are good-natured, but some of them are stuck in the “Bardo”, a restless in-between state, where they still try to find a new body to be re-born into. Such spirits might cause you harm if your own energy level is low or exhausted and the Chinese therefore believe that it is important to be extra careful during Hungry Ghost month, especially during night time. It is a time when the yin forces are very strong. People try to be home before it gets dark. Swimming in the Sea is avoided for fear of drowning. Mysterious things can happen.

It is wise to observe some common do’s and don’ts during this time:

    1. Avoid staying out late at night; especially children, young adults and pregnant women are advised to stay indoors after dark as they are particularly susceptible to spirit possession.
    2. Do not wait alone under a tree or a bus stop in the dark, as the spirits love hanging out in such places.
    3. Do not go jungle trekking or camping as these are places the ghosts love too! There is increased risk of injuries, spirit possession and even death by accidents.
    4. Do not go swimming in the Sea or in a lake as it is believed that evil spirits who previously drowned might try to pull you down and drown you in order for their re-birth.
    5. Avoid moving house or starting a new business during Hungry Ghost month as it is considered an inauspicious time for such activities.
    6. Avoid getting married, as weddings are the most obvious place for jealous female spirits to attack! They may curse and cast spells on the wedding couple – please be aware!
    7. Drive carefully to avoid accidents and don’t speed. Wandering spirits who died in car accidents will be on the hunt for new victims they can use for their re-incarnation.
    8. Protect the main entrance of your home with Chung Kwei or the White Umbrella Goddess. Both are revered as protectors against ghosts and evil spirits.

Luckily in a way we don’t do many of the above anyway these days as we are all so careful about Covid19. By going out less, we also reduce the risk of having an encounter with the ghosts. But our homes still need protection, as they may now seem even more attractive to the wandering spirits.

Light up your home during this dark time and set up your own incense station. You can also use a scented candle if that is what you prefer. Wear protective amulets and brightly coloured clothing and play music in your house! This is proof that there is life in your house, which will help keep the ghosts at bay, as they prefer darker places.

Hungry Ghost month is also a time when usually tens of thousands of people visit their local temples to offer prayers and other worldly goods made out of paper to their ancestors. But not this year. Due to Covid19, the numbers of devotees will be strictly limited here in Singapore (and other countries too, I’m sure) and many celebrations for the community will be streamed on-line.

Stay safe during Hungry Ghost month, and if you do go out and see any food offerings, incense, or burnt items on the roadside, under a tree, or in other public places, please treat them with respect and spare some thoughts for the intended recipients.

26 August 2020

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