According to Buddhist and Taoist belief, once a year, the spirits of those departed who died sad, unexpected and violent deaths, or those ancestors who have been forgotten or unattended by their families, walk the earth. The Hungry Ghost Month—this year beginning on the 14th day of the 7th lunar month (August) until the 12th of September—is when the gates of Hell open and the hungry ghosts are let loose to stalk the living, driven by an insatiable hunger.
The Chinese have traditionally considered this particular time of the year as the scariest or most unlucky period, and they believed that during the reign of the Hungry Ghosts, it is highly inauspicious to travel far or stay out late at night. It’s also unlucky start construction of any house or building, open a business or get married.
In many Southeast Asian cultures, it is typical to observe this period by make offerings to appease the Hungry Ghosts in the form of food, burning joss sticks and offering a kind of paper currency called “hell money” as bribes so that the wandering spirits do not try to wreak havoc or bring them bad luck. The Hungry Ghost Festival, held on the full moon, is a big celebration and elaborate Buddhist and Taoist rituals are performed to absolve the torment of these miserable and lonely ghosts.
Master Hanz Cua, renowned Feng Shui expert and advisor to many prominent businessmen and celebrities, says, “The hunger of the ghosts are driven by greed because they have been neglected by living relatives. Or they may hunger for vengeance if they have been victims of crimes. Or, they may be souls who were denied entry into heaven because they committed some wrongdoing when they were alive. They like to harass the living and may even bring bad luck or tragedy to those who anger them.”
Some traditions and beliefs abound concerning the Hungry Ghosts include:
- Staying out late at night during this time can be a dangerous time. If you’re out after dark don’t whistle while you walk or make a lot of commotion. The spirits are abroad and noise and boisterousness will easily attract their attention. A ghost may follow you home! Children and young people are particularly vulnerable since ghosts find them easier to possess or afflict.
- Swimming or travelling on water is said to be particularly hazardous during this period. According to ancient belief, ghosts who died from drowning are believed to be looking for new victims, as these new souls are needed to replace the old ones and allow them passage into heaven.
- Trees and walls are said to be the favorite haunt of ghosts. If you are passing near a tree or wall, it is best to be respectful and not throw garbage, spit or vandalize them in any way, or else you may anger the spirit resting there and earn its malice.
- For those celebrating their birthdays on a Ghost month, it is better if you celebrate during the daylight hours. At night the celebration activities will attract the wandering spirits and they may come in and wreak mischief at your party.
- If you happen to pass by any roadside altars with offerings of food and incense do not disturb it. Don’t throw trash near it or try to pick anything from the altar–especially money–and take it home. You will bring bad luck upon yourself and into your house!
- Avoid scheduling any major renovations, demolition or building projects. Loud noises and construction activities disturb and madden the hungry spirits and they may cause mishaps and injuries to occur.
- Don’t open a business or set your wedding date to fall within Hungry Ghost month, as your union may be jinxed by envious spirits.
- Avoid wearing black or red. The wandering ghosts are said to be attracted to yin colors and yin energy.
- Road accidents are said to be most likely to happen during this period. The late Princess Diana, it was noted, met her fatal car accident during a Hungry Ghost month.
- It is said that keeping a positive attitude is particular essential during this month. People prone to depression and negative thoughts attract the mischievous ghosts and incidents of “possession” by these spirits are high.
- As extra precaution, displaying a symbol of protection inside your home may be done to ward off the menace of wandering ghosts. With Chinese influenced cultures, the statue of Kuan Kung, god of prosperity and protection is a popular emblem, although in the Philippines his effigy may be hard to find. A pair of fu dogs (male and female) set at the entrance of your home may be used instead.
Master Hanz tells people, “Some of these practices may sound odd, even funny to us modern day Filipinos, and it is really up to the individual if they should choose to observe them or not. For instance, it is not practical for any of us to postpone all our travels and activities during Ghost month, and at lot of times our jobs require us to stay out late. My advice is simply to err on the side of caution. Take all necessary safety measures when travelling or staying out late at night—that is the most practical thing to do.”
For personal forecasts, Tarot card readings and Feng Shui consultation you can contact Master Hanz at Level 1 EDSA Shangri-La Plaza Mandaluyong City, Philippines; Phone: (+63)9228290382 Email: Hanz_cua2002@yahoo.com. Master Hanz Cua is an expert in Feng Shui Analysis and Rituals, Bazi or Chinese Astrology, and Zi Wei Dou Shu (Emperor Purple Star Astrology)