Ghost Month, a pe­riod for of­fer­ings and en­ter­tain­ment

The China Post - - FEATURE - BY MARGE C. EN­RIQUEZ

The world has never been the same af­ter Sept. 11, 2001 — the day when a se­ries of syn­chro­nized ter­ror­ist at­tacks aimed at Amer­ica’s fa­mous land­marks claimed the lives of 2,966 peo­ple.

Then again, on Aug. 23, 2010, the world wit­nessed the siege on a hi­jacked bus in Manila, filled with Hong Kong tourists who were taken hostage by a for­mer po­lice­man.

Three years ago, on Aug. 18, the air­craft car­ry­ing Philipp­pine In­te­rior Sec­re­tary Jesse Ro­bredo crashed in the sea of Mas­bate in South­ern Luzon.

These tragedies, although ex­treme cases, co­in­cided with Ghost Month, says feng shui ex­pert John­son Michael Chua. Ghost Month is be­lieved to be an un­fa­vor­able time in the Chi­nese lu­nar cal­en­dar. Ghosts — souls who are rest­less be­cause they can’t find a body for their re­birth — are said to emerge from the un­der­world. Their ag­i­ta­tion pro­duces bad omens for peo­ple who en­counter them.

To ap­pease these spir­its, peo­ple must of­fer food and en­ter­tain­ment.

Ghost Month is the sev­enth month of the lu­nar cal­en­dar, based on the moon’s cy­cles. A move­able date, it runs this year from Aug. 14 to Sept. 12.

A high­light is Ghost Day, which falls on the 15th day of the sev­enth month — Aug. 28 this year.

Its ori­gins draw ref­er­ences from the Bud­dhist scrip­ture, Ul­lam­bana Su­tra, based on the teach­ings of Gau­tama Buddha to the monk Maudgalyayana.

Buddha told his fol­lower that his mother could be lib­er­ated from her pun­ish­ment of be­ing sent to the realm of the hun­gry ghosts.

Buddha in­structed him to of­fer his mother’s ghost with food blessed with Buddha’s mantras. The of­fered food would sat­isfy her hunger.

Re­birth

Maudgalyayana was also ad­vised to of­fer food to the re­li­gious com­mu­nity on the 15th day of the sev­enth month. The prac­tice would fi­nally al­low his mother’s spirit to ex­pe­ri­ence re­birth to a noble fam­ily.

Hence, Taoists and Bud­dhists carry out such rites on this day to free the dead from their an­guish.

Busi­ness trans­ac­tions, mar­riages, mov­ing house and other im­por­tant events are taboo this month. It is be­lieved that the ghosts would cre­ate ob­sta­cles.

“Dur­ing a con­tract sign­ing, the ghosts might hover and can in­ter­fere. It doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily trans­late to 100 per­cent bad luck though,” says Chua.

He cites in­stances when busi­nesses and re­la­tion­ships didn’t work at this time.

Once, a new milk tea shop opened in Bi­nondo, an old town in Manila, on Ghost Day.

“We thought the owner was brave. The busi­ness was do­ing well in the first three months, but for some rea­son, it closed shop in less than a year,” Chua notes.

A client moved house on Aug. 8, 2008, be­lieved to be lucky since it fell on the eighth day of the eighth month in the Western cal­en­dar. Friends sur­mised that the eights in the date meant good luck.

On the con­trary, when he moved dur­ing Ghost Month, he lost his job and his fi­ancee dumped him.

De­spite skep­ti­cal part­ners, a busi­ness­man opened a real es­tate bro­ker­age firm in Ghost Month.

The peo­ple in the of­fice re­ported an eerie pres­ence and other mys­te­ri­ous oc­cur­rences, such as a sud­den gust of cold air in a to­tally en­closed area. The busi­ness­men and his part­ners even­tu­ally had a fall­ing out.

In­quirer Lifestyle asked Filipino- Chi­nese friends in the fash­ion in­dus­try if they be­lieved in Ghost Month.

An­thony Nocom, SM menswear de­signer of his epony­mous la­bel, has an al­tar in his home ded­i­cated to the gods. It has been a fam­ily tra­di­tion to of­fer food and fruits and burn joss sticks on the first day of Ghost Month in the Chi­nese cal­en­dar.

“I grew up honor­ing the tra­di­tion, remembering the dos and don’ts dur­ing this pe­riod. One has to take cau­tion at this time,” says Nocom.

De­signer Peter Lim and his fam­ily avoid vis­it­ing hos­pi­tals, at­tend­ing fu­ner­als, mov­ing homes and un­der­tak­ing ma­jor busi­ness trans­ac­tions.

“The gates of hell are open so that the souls of the other world are free to roam in ours,” says Lim.

“Our daily rit­u­als dur­ing the Hun­gry Ghost Month in­clude of­fer­ing sac­ri­fices so that the hun­gry ghosts won’t harm us. We of­fer rice, meat and fruit. Some fam­i­lies eat veg­e­tar­ian meals and set ex­tra place set­tings for each de­ceased fam­ily mem­ber. Red can­dles, in­cense and pa­per money are burned on Aug. 28, when it is be­lieved the hun­gry ghosts re­turn to hell.

“Minia­ture pa­per items like cars, houses and clothes are also burned as the liv­ing want to en­sure the de­ceased have all the ma­te­rial goods they need for the com­ing year.”

Although knitwear de­signer Lulu Tan Gan isn’t as su­per­sti­tious, she still takes pre­cau­tions. “I avoid con­struc­tion and ren­o­va­tion dur­ing this pe­riod. It’s like you’ve been warned, but you chal­lenge it.”

Re­treat

To neu­tral­ize the neg­a­tive ef­fects of Ghost Month, the Chi­nese also put up en­ter­tain­ment for ghost au­di­ences, aside from food of­fer­ings.

“There are places where a per­for­mance is go­ing on, but the chairs are empty. Ghosts are be­lieved to be seated,” says Chua. “The more we en­ter­tain and sat­isfy these spir­its, the hap­pier they be­come. If they are happy, good for­tune will come. Once peo­ple make of­fer­ings, busi­ness will im­prove.”

A pop­u­lar re­source per­son in media, Chua was ex­posed to feng shui by his fa­ther. He honed his craft by study­ing un­der such grand­mas­ters as Lil­lian Too of Malaysia and Ray­mond Lo of Hong Kong. Chua holds con­sul­ta­tions, life read­ings and date se­lec­tions of aus­pi­cious days for spe­cial events, checks floor plans and as­sesses lots for good chi or energy.

Dur­ing Ghost Month, he ad­vises preven­tion such as car­ry­ing an amulet of Chung Kwei, the Taoist de­ity who is said to trounce bad omens. Black tour­ma­line, ob­sid­ian, tek­tite and jet stones sup­pos­edly fil­ter neg­a­tive energy. “Ghost Month is noth­ing to be afraid of. My last word is that neg­a­tive thoughts or ill will in­voke these vi­bra­tions,” says Chua.

“These will go away when our en­er­gies are pos­i­tive.”

Mean­while, as­trologers such as Ge­orgina Solina don’t be­lieve in a Ghost Month. “We go by the tran­sits or move­ment of the plan­ets and how their en­er­gies af­fect us and the so­lar re­turn ( birth­day horo­scope for the year). If there is a bad transit, it is an in­di­vid­ual case,” she says.

Still, Ghost Month co­in­cides with Venus ret­ro­grade, which runs from July 25 to Sept. 6. A ret­ro­grade means that a planet is mov­ing back­wards on its axis around the sun. The counter clock­wise move­ment of the planet causes a weak­en­ing of the energy. This re­sults in sud­den up­sets and de­lays.

If it falls on Venus, the rul­ing planet for pro­fes­sional and per­sonal part­ner­ships and money, ex­pect ob­sta­cles, block­ages, fi­nan­cial chal­lenges and volatile in­ter­ac­tions.

“It has the same ef­fect as the Ghost Month,” says Solina. “It’s not a good time for mar­riage or start­ing any kind of re­la­tion­ship. How­ever, the ret­ro­grade has a sub­stan­tial mean­ing.”

She ex­plains: “The law of Venus is to pros­per in busi­ness and in other re­la­tion­ships. But the en­er­gies don’t seem to move be­cause some­thing needs to be ex­am­ined. It’s a time to re­treat and turn in­ward. We are be­ing called upon to look into our spir­i­tual val­ues and re­al­ize why cer­tain things hap­pened. De­vel­op­ments are be­ing blocked at this time. When Venus moves for­ward af­ter Sept. 6, doors will open.”

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