6 Things to Avoid this Hungry Ghost Season
Let's welcome the hungry ghost season. It’s the 7th month of the lunar calendar and that means, between August 8th to 22nd 2021, the veil that separates the material world from the spirit world is more porous than any other time of the year. In Chinese folklore, the Hungry Ghost Month sees Hungry Ghost spirits wandering into the human realm to feed. It is said that Hungry Ghosts are deceased spirits trapped in their own special hell of constant hunger, as a karmic consequence of their greed while alive. If you see paper or food offerings lining the roadside this month, do not be alarmed, they are offerings made by devoted Buddhists and Taoists to help feed the hungry ghosts who are only allowed into the human realm this time of the year. However, it is still wise to be on alert. According to Taoist tradition, there are 6 main taboos to absolutely avoid in the hungry ghost month. Ignore them at your peril.
1. Don’t turn your head
If you hear your FULL NAME being called at night from behind your back with no one around, it is likely a hungry ghost seeking attention. It is extremely important during Hungry Ghost festival to not turn your head to look behind you unless you want an overly keen ghost following you home. Indeed, nothing excites a ghost more than knowing you can see it, and many hauntings started simply when the ghost realised it could be seen. Once acknowledged, the ghost then latches onto the person and follows them around. To be on the safe side, don’t respond to your full name being called this month.
2. Don’t pick up random stuff used for Hungry Ghost Ritual on the street
photo credit - AirAsia
During Hungry Ghost Festival, Taoist devotees celebrate this festival by giving offerings to ghosts to earn merit. You may see them perform a hungry ghost ritual where they burn clothes and paper money in the street as well as leave food out for the wandering, hungry spirits. If you see coins or clothes or random items that look like they don’t belong on the street, don't take it. It may have already been claimed by a hungry ghost and you stand to have that spirit follow you home! This is especially true for umbrellas as spirits love to hide in umbrellas. If you don’t quite fancy having a pet ghost at home, stay away from the burnt offering residue to avoid unnecessary trouble.
3. Swimming at night in Hungry Ghost Month
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The older generation believes that swimming in the sea during the Hungry Ghost Festival is taboo. Back in the day, drowning at sea was much more common than it is today as fewer people could swim nor were there rescue services. Given the traumatic nature of ocean drownings, beings likely ended up stuck in limbo, unable to reincarnate into more peaceful or human realms due to the trauma of their deaths. These ocean ghosts look for human companions in the Hungry Ghost period. Swimming in the ocean especially at night in the seventh month of the lunar calendar may result in a “ghost pulling leg” situation by a spirit hungry for companionship.
4. Whistling at night
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It is generally fortunate for us that ghosts and spirits tend to mind their own business until you do something to provoke them. Sometimes, something as innocent as whistling at night is enough provocation to elicit a reaction. In addition, nights are considered the darkest and most eerie time due to the strong Yin energy synonymous with sleep, death, the moon, and deep, hidden emotions. Beware or you may really cause trouble to yourself by attracting unwelcome beings of a darker Yin energetic imprint when you whistle at night.
5. Photo taking at night
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While the intrepid ghost hunters amongst you might want to take advantage of the increased spirit activity and try to catch them on camera, most of us probably would rather not see or hear them. During the Hungry Ghost month, avoid photo taking or video recording especially at night as you may find yourself capturing more than you bargained for. Sure, a photo of a ghost might be harmless enough if an orb or shadow but there is always a chance you capture a mangled, sunken face as well. Don’t say you weren’t warned.
6. Avoid going out at night
Photo credit - Bloody Disgusting
This seventh month of the lunar year is definitely not made for the party animals and night owls. It is taboo to be out past 8 pm as you very likely will encounter a spirit. Depending on how observant one is, the decline in night time activity during the hungry ghost month is palpable in areas where there is a larger Taoist or Chinese Buddhist presence. As well, people are advised to follow their instincts when stopping to help others on the roadside this month. It is always better to call the police if your gut tells you not to stop. You don’t want these spirits to follow you home or to latch onto you. On the upside, these hauntings tend to be temporary and only apply to the 15 days of Hungry Ghost month. However, people have reported being ill for the entire hungry ghost period as a result of being careless and accidentally inviting spirit hauntings.
There are many lores, taboos, and superstitions surrounding Hungry Ghost month. While it may have a creepy name, this month is the only time deceased spirits who experience an eternity of hunger get to feed. As far as we know, no great harm comes to anyone who has encountered a Hungry Ghost beyond fleeting illnesses and their own personal anxiety, fear and panic responses. If you are the court trouble type, feel free to try out all the above. Similar encounters by these people, watch their video here.
BONUS: If you have a pet dog, pay attention to their behaviour this month as their exceptional hearing and smell can easily sense the presence of spirits. If you find your dog looking directly at a wall or into empty space, growling or barking, then you can confirm that something is present and it is most likely a Hungry Ghost spirit. There is no need to panic though, the ghost will likely continue wandering if you ignore him. If you feel like it, feel free to leave a little offering and send the spirit away with good wishes. That way, you are unlikely to be bothered again.