The annual Hungry Ghost Festival (19 August 2020 — 16 September 2020) is upon us. For an entire month, it is said that the hell gates would open and spirits would roam the land of the living to seek entertainment and food. Creepy as it may sound and sombre as it may be, the festival, which has roots in traditional Buddhist and Taoism, is often lively with plenty of performances in the heartlands.
In the pre-Covid 19 era, ceremonial rituals, such as stage shows (called “Getai”) and the burning of joss papers (and other paper effigies), are common. The festival, in that sense, is way different from the Halloween experience of the West. But this year, with stricter regulations against the on-going pandemic, entertaining stage shows are now online. Even so, there are still plenty of superstitions revolving around the festival.
Prohibitions and rules exist and are practiced out of respect to appease the spirits. In case you are unsure about the dos and don’ts, we have compiled some for you.
Do Avoid Water-related Activities
This is a popular superstition. It is said that spirits who have drowned may seek out other victims to join them and be reincarnated. If you believe so, it is best you steer clear from swimming pools or beaches.
Do Carry Around A Talisman
If you happen to have a talisman that you used to carry around, you might want to consider carrying it out with you. If you don’t, you could perhaps seek one from a temple or shrine. A blessed talisman is said to ward off negative energy and bad entities. Some feng shui masters or meta-physicists would also add that a paper talisman should never be placed below the waist too.
Or Carry A Protective Gemstone
In cases when you cannot get a blessed talisman, you might want to consider getting a protective gemstone to help you instead. Black crystals, such as a obsidian or onyx, are said to not only help ground you in troubling times, they can also also manifest some protection of sorts against negative energies.
Do Walk To A Crowded Area If You Find Yourself Working Overtime
Whether you walk along a road by the mall or through a hawker centre, some meta-physicists believe that doing so would wean off the “Ying” energy. Apparently, spirits and entities detest crowded places that are brimming with “Yang” energy.
Don’t Stay Out Late
When I was younger, my mother would warn of the supernatural dangers of staying out late during the lunar seventh month. She would tell tales of vengeful or mischievous spirits that roam the night, emphasising the need to hurry home and be safe during the Hungry Ghost Festival. No matter what my beliefs in the supernatural are, my mum probably warned me out of concern and love.
Don’t Wear Red & Black Excessively
Red and black are known to be inauspicious colours during the Hungry Ghost Festival. Avoid wearing red or black in your day to day commute, lest you attract unwanted attention from our invisible friends. Then again, this is just one of many superstitions, you can choose to take this with a pinch of salt.
Don’t Disturb Roadside Offerings
This comes as a no-brainer. Throughout the Hungry Ghost Festival, you will notice offerings placed by the road side. These, according to some Chinese or Taoism traditions, are meant for the deceased to feast on. It is considered bad luck if you step on or kick on these food offering. You’d want to have a little respect here.
Don’t Answer If You Hear Your Name Called Out On A Deserted Street At Night
It has been rumoured that mischievous spirits would call out people’s names to grab their attention. Apparently, there is a Chinese belief that states that humans carry three lights (or flames) on their bodies: one on the head and one on each sides of their shoulders. These flames are said to ward off against evil and bad luck. Those who turn their heads behind may accidentally extinguish those lights, leaving them susceptible to bad luck and “possession”.
Don’t Kill At “Wandering” Insects In Your Home
It is said that your ancestors take the form of moth or other creepy crawlies during the lunar seventh month. And they would often make a special visit to your household. You can get rid of them, but do so gently!
Don’t Host A Marriage Ceremony Or Move House
It is advised that marriage ceremonies or the act of moving a home would invite unwanted guests. The Chinese are superstitious this way. Plus, you don’t want unwanted guest to “gate-crash” on these auspicious events, do you?