Ghost Month 101: A Survival Guide
We’re right in the thick of ghost month. You holding up okay?
If your relatives are anything like mine (read: deeply invested in feng shui and well-equipped with an arsenal of age-old superstitions), then chances are you’ve heard of ghost month. Actually, scratch that. Even without the grandmothers reminding you not to clean the house at certain hours of the day and the lingering fear instilled by your parents that you and your siblings might end up planning to wed in the same year, you’re likely to have heard of the bad reputation that tails this month.
In my experience, I’ve found that superstitions and traditional beliefs can either sound indirectly reasonable (why walk under a ladder instead of around it, when there’s the off chance that it might topple over?) or creative enough to sound like a concept an anime could be built around. I identify the belief in ghost month, which is the month wherein the Hungry Ghosts Festival falls, with the latter.
It is said that in the seventh month of the lunar calendar, the gates of hell will burst open and spirits are allowed to roam freely. During this month-long window, ghosts gain more energy and play tricks on the living, which leads to a heightened fear of accidents and bad luck. Just when we thought retrograde was over, right?
Ridiculous, maybe. Surreal, surely. Scary? Definitely.
While ghost month stems from Chinese folk legend, it isn’t just the Chinese who believe in it anymore. Whether you’re of Chinese descent or not, superstitious or otherwise––hey, you can never be too careful, can you?
The Dos and Don’ts
Let the light in
You know how they say misery loves company? Evil spirits with dark intentions gravitate towards the dark in the same way. Keep the negativity away from the home by ensuring your space is bright and well-lit.
Give a little more
To appease the hungry ghosts that lurk this month, some people leave offerings for the hell-hailing spirits. Put food offerings on a plate, but leave it outside. Wouldn’t want those spirits welcoming themselves into your home now, would you?
Rethink your lucky color
Any other time of year, red would be considered an auspicious color. Naturally, ghost month upends this belief completely. For the duration of this period, wearing red is like fixing a target on yourself. Ghosts are attracted to this color, so maybe pushing those red shirts and sweaters to the back of your wardrobe would be for the best in the meantime.
Keep the crawlers around
Fair warning for those with a fear of bugs: you might want to skip this one. It is believed that the insects you would normally crush with a slipper or hurriedly usher outside your home shouldn’t be bothered during the month of the hungry ghost festival. While the general idea is that those insects are spirits that have taken on a different form, some believe that they might be your relatives paying you a visit from the afterlife.
I have a trip planned this month, but only just learned that it would have probably been in the best interest of my fortune and safety to put it off. Ghost month is a bad time to travel, whether by air or sea, say the superstitious.
Put off the big occasions
Like travel, it is also suggested that big things like weddings, business deals, or the pursuit of new ventures be put off until the end of this dreaded period. Essentially anything that you start during the window that ghost month looms over us is bound to be swathed in a cloak of bad luck and misfortune.
On the Flipside
At this point, it might sound like people put an overwhelming amount of things on hold during ghost month. There is certainly truth in that––even advertisers, large companies and corporate bigwigs play it safe in August. But what does this mean for us?
To put it simply: ghost month may end up being good for the brave. Because everyone is treading carefully with regards to business, certain products and services end up cheaper than they would be on other months. Plane tickets to select destinations, event venues, wedding services––they’re all yours for the taking.
Good luck or a good deal? What’s it gonna be this month?
Art Alexandra Lara