Sunday, September 6, 2009

High Maintenance Ghosts

It is the Taoist Hungry Ghost festival again, a month when the gates of the netherworld open to release upon us all sorts of spirits. Loud street performances please the ghosts, and food is offered and prayers, money and other things are burned all over the place to appease them, like so:Incense sticks are supposed to ward off evil spirits, and also bring prosperity. So it's silly not to burn them! All building entrances look like this.I find, that the more I learn about this festival, the less I understand. For example, how do you differentiate between food to feed the hungry neglected ghosts versus the money directed at your own ancestors?
Why is this place offering baby bottles to the ghosts, and what do the numbers mean?
The hungriest ghosts are those whose families have forgotten to pay posthumous tribute to them. This results in them having long thin necks because they have not been fed (a common symptom of post-mortem famine). Thus, another mystery is why these dry puff cakes are left for the dead to try to get down said long throats. The living, even the stray dogs, don't like these.
If you swim, ghosts might drown you, and if you step into the ashes, you get possessed. This is unfortunate, as I melted part of my flip flop in these ashes. Thus, my future posts may become interesting.
If you think any of this is strange, please remember that a lot of you kill a pine tree annually to hang plastic bits on it and sing about a baby, hoping for a man to get in your chimney. Glad to help with your perspective.