Here in Asia, the 7th month of the Lunar calendar is known as the Hungry Ghost Month. This year it starts early, on 8 August, and will end on 6 September 2021, with Hungry Ghost Day or Hungry Ghost Festival (the day of the full moon) falling on 22 August this year. This is the 15th day of the 7th month, one of the most important days for prayers and offerings.
Usually, Hungry Ghost month is one of the things you can’t ignore when you live in Asia, as it is one of the most important festivals associated with Buddhist and Taoist beliefs. 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. It is a very important time to honour your deceased ancestors because, when ignored, the ghosts might get angry and bring various misfortunes.
Such spirits might cause you harm if your own energy level is low or exhausted and the Chinese therefore believe that you must be extra careful during Hungry Ghost month, especially during the night hours. It is a time when the yin forces are very strong and mysterious things can happen.
To appease the ghosts and spirits, incense and food are left outside for the hungry souls and dead relatives to enjoy. Here in Singapore, big metal drums are set up everywhere, where residents can burn paper offerings for their ancestors in a safe way. These offerings can take on many forms! Mostly they are paper money, paper houses, paper cars, or whatever you wish for your deceased ancestors to have.
At the time of writing, I don’t know if any festivities will take place in Singapore this year because of the current Covid restrictions, but usually tents will be set up in public spaces such as parks or car parks for public performances to enjoy together with the spirits. These are often Chinese operas or dancing performances called “Getai”, but they can also take on a more modern celebration with LED lighting and DJ performances. In any case, if you do happen to see any of these performances and would like to watch – remember NOT to sit in the first row of seats, as this row is reserved for the ghosts!
There are plenty of do’s and don’ts to observe during this time
I thought I’d share the main taboos as a little reminder:
1. Try to be home before dark. 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 turn your head if somebody calls your name.
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. Do not leave your laundry outside over night to dry as the ghosts might settle in them. For the same reason, do not leave any open umbrellas outside to dry during the night either.
8. Do not kill any insects at home during Hungry Ghost Month, as they might be your ancestors in their re-incarnated form coming back to visit you!
9. Protect the main entrance of your home with the 28 Hum Protection Wheel or the White Umbrella Goddess. Both are excellent protectors against ghosts and evil spirits.
Light up your home during this dark time and set up your own incense station. Sweet smelling incense such as Kemenyen or Sandalwood will appease the ghosts and spirits tremendously. You can also use a scented candle if that is what you prefer.
If you are travelling during Hungry Ghost month, carrying protective amulets is even more important. You could carry a small Peacock Feathers Mirror Fan with you, wear a protective scarf, or take a Peacock Key Ring for Safe Travels along with you.
Be careful and stay safe during Hungry Ghost month, and if you do see any food offerings, incense, or burnt items on the roadside, under trees or in other public places, please treat them with respect and spare some thoughts for the intended recipients.