Sunday, August 22, 2010

A figment of my imagination?

Last night, or rather, early this morning, something really bizarre happened and I didn't like to think it as spooky.
I just kept trying to figure out whether it was my imagination run wild or just the creativity juice flowing through the mind.

Well, here goes,
I was sleeping really soundly last night as I finally laid to sleep close to 11; don't know why I took that long to fall asleep when I was clearly tired and sleepy
I was sleeping with the fan turned on; fan speed of 2 (mid-speed) as usual.

I stirred slowly, finding myself feeling really cold and chilled; and was surprised to find myself with my blanket covering me.
I was also sleeping on my left side; which was funny as I remembered myself sleeping straight on my back; facing the ceiling. I'd remember if I rolled to the other side.
(Maybe I was too sound asleep)

I turned myself back to my original position and to my surprise, I found the reason for myself feeling cold.
The A/C was turned on!

Funny, funny, funny, I remembered that I did not turn on the A/C before I went to sleep; it was only the fan.
I also told myself that I will not turn on the A/C that night; despite turning on the main power (just in case it gets stuffy)

I don't recall turning on the ON button on my A/C remote control which was lying beside me

It was funny; and I turned it off as I was really feeling very very cold.

I saw the time on the clock; 3.30a.m
I really hate waking up at this time; and I got up from the bed and went to the bathroom.

I just slid back into my covers and try not to dwell on the weird part of How-the-A/C-turned-on as I was telling myself, maybe I just accidentally pressed on it or I woke up feeling hot and turned it on and I just couldn't remember.

I prayed as well, so that I can get back to sleep.

Then I heard dogs barking really loudly; several dogs (neighbors had dogs) and then at some point or another, some even howled.

Now, I remember my grandma used to tell me that animals especially dogs and cats have this ability to see the unseen things and during the 7th month, they could see and they would try to inform the human beings by their sounds.

Barking is usually at human beings deemed suspicious, and howling are usually those 'things'.

Imagine my creative mind when I heard the howling.

I just prayed to God, please let me get back to sleep.

I heard rattle sounds near the curtain; the bottle of paper hearts seem to have rattled itself against the railing near the window and there was no wind.

I prayed and I think I fell asleep eventually.
I remembered telling myself not to be afraid for God will protect me; and I know God will cast a protective light to watch over me.
Besides, my Guardian Angel and Jesus would always be by my bedside, so I just told myself to stay calm and go to sleep.

It is really funny how our minds can play tricks on us; which is what I am deciphering this whole incident to be.
I probably felt hot at some point and woke up unconsciously and turned it on; or my head just accidentally hit that round button for ON.
Then I just slipped the blanket to cover me.
I just couldn't recall this incident maybe because I was too deep in sleep and I even rolled over on my left side.

Seems pretty logical right?
Furthermore, I was just probably too tired to remember it, sometimes we do forget our dreams as well right?

Yup, that was the explanation, no spooks.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Last Friday, Friday the 13th

Last Friday was Friday the 13th, a spooky combination and to add to it, it was also the Hungry Ghost month.
Anyway, superstitous people will definitely be freaked (or should I say spooked out) by the trio and take extra precautions.

I am not a skeptic but I try not to allow myself to dwell too much on the whole inauspicious date thingy.

However, something weird/bizarre happened to me last Friday which I would like to share.
Some may say it's spooky, or skeptics may relate it to the science, but hear my story

It happened during bedtime; I was already sleeping at that time, and I remembered that it was quite a restless sleep.
It has been like this recently, since I moved into this new place I am currently staying in.
I would be unable to sleep for a few nights, then after that, I would sleep soundly through the night, and then unable to sleep. It's like a pattern that is repeating itself.

Anyway, that night, I was sleeping well initially, and then it got a bit restless, and I remembered I woke up at about 3.30 a.m. (an hour I usually do not like; guess I have been spooked by the idea of it being the unholy hour following a horror movie I watched).

I usually do not like to look at the clock when I awaken in the middle of the night, but well, somehow I just looked and the clock was just directly opposite me anyway as I lay on the bed.

I think it was raining or something; quite heavily outside, and there were thunder and lightning. Thoughts were racing across my mind and I tried to brush them aside.
I wanted to get back to sleep, I always get annoyed when I can't sleep well.

I turned on one side; to the right and tried to sleep.
Then I think I slept, but only for a short while and I woke up again. I wanted to turn to the other side, but somehow, I was held back.
It was as if there was someone behind me or on the other side of the bed holding me back.
I tried to scream or pray, but I realized I could not do so either.
(I have been in this similar situation once in my home back in KL)

Then, like what everyone else would think of, I started praying.
Funny thing was, I found it really hard to focus, and I even forgot some of the lines of my prayers....which was totally weird since I have known those prayers since I was like, five!
I did not let that deter me, as I just started praying to God and Jesus, and just prayed really hard and at the same time, just struggling really hard to turn myself over.

I told myself, that I am strong and I have GOD with me, and I continued praying.
I think the situation lasted a good 5 or maybe 10 minutes and suddenly, I feel like I could breathe again and I was relieved that I could move my hands.
I prayed and muttered Thank You Father, and prayed silently again.

I know that most people would associate this with the scientific explanation about the sleep paralysis mode that we could sometimes go into; even I myself thought of that as well.
However, part of me also feel that there was something to do with spiritual as well, and the power of prayer.

Whatever it is, science or spiritual, I chose not to dwell onto it, and anyway, since it happened in the morning, technically, it's no longer Friday the 13th right?
But it is still the month of the Hungry Ghost still.

Call me imaginative, when I heard the rain and the thunder and lightning, I even thought of what my grandma used to say about lightning.
The Lightning and Thunder God always strike at places where there are evil, and all those wandering or lost spirits or those trying to harm others would always be detected by these deities and it is their jobs to vanquish them.
As a result, these spirits are usually really afraid of the thunder and lightning, lightning especially.

Perhaps the spirit was trying to escape from this and sought refuge?
Okay, not a good idea or picture, gives me the chills, and anyway, I had my crucifix on the table, holy water, and even my Bible and rosary.
I was even wearing a crucifix which was blessed around my neck, for goodness sake.

Well, whatever, I am not taking my chances, I am sleeping with my rosary in my hand and my Bible.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Hungry Ghost Festival stories: Dead man feasting

This is a true story, which happened to one of my aunts before she was married.
She had personally related her story to us when we were young and I remembered my mum telling it to me too.

My aunt (I won't reveal which aunt) had an ability to see ghosts; an ability that she did not appreciate as it did not bring any good to her. She had a rather strong yin energy, according to one of the mediums whom grandmother brought her to.
That was why she could see or sense the presence of the spirits.

This happened when she was in her early twenties; before she was married.
She was the one helping my grandmother with the household chores and usually that required her to work in the kitchen.
She was finishing her chores that night; which coincidentally was during the 7th month (aka the Hungry Ghost month).

It was getting late at night and she was boiling water and she happened to look outside of the door.
(My grandmother used to live in those pre-war old shophouses, and there is an alley between the row of shophouses which is quite wide. They like to leave the back door of the kitchen open, but the latch on the outer metal gate would be locked. The wooden door would be left wide open to allow ventilation within the kitchen)

There was a small red shrine at the back alley, which was slightly at a diagonal angle from my grandmother's kitchen.
She spotted an old man crouching in front of the shrine.
Initially she thought he was just placing his offerings at the altar although she found it weird at that time of the night; it was almost 11+ at night.

She then heard crunching and munching sounds and she noticed that he was eating those food/offerings at the shrine and she was surprised.

She stared and noticed that the old man was staying in the row behind my grandmother's, it was someone they had known for years.

The only thing is, he had died a few weeks ago!

She realized it and immediately closed the door and ran into the living hall!

I think she developed a fever the following day or something like that, and after some remedy from the medium, she recovered fine.
Thankfully there was nothing malevolent about the spirit nor were there any harm done.

Maybe this is also a good tip to share, it may not be such a good idea to be curious during this month unless you have a huge gut to stomach certain things you are about to see.
Trust me, it will definitely be more terrifying than your rollercoaster ride or that bungee jumping, so if you want to be happy and peaceful, just leave these things alone and mind your own business.

An Annual Love Story: The Cowherd and the Weaving Girl

Despite the theme of the 'Good Brothers' during this 7th month of the Chinese Lunar Calendar, there is also an interesting celebration or rather a day to commemorate a great love story.

Yes, in the midst of all the rituals and prayers for the deceased who now roam the earth, the 7th day of this month celebrates one of the most touching legendary folktale of the romance of the cowherd and the weaving girl, who only meets once a year on this very day.
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Now, why, do you ask, if it is such a great love story, do they meet only once in a year?

Well, the story is like this:

Once upon a time, there was a poor boy who was orphaned at a very young age. Due to his parents' early demise, he had to fend on his own and it was his luck that he found an old ox which he took care of and helped him to plough the fields in the village.
He worked hard at the fields and earned a honest living.

One day, he was walking and stopped by a river where he was astonished by the sight he saw. There were seven beautiful young maidens bathing and playing in the river.
(Unknown to him, these seven maidens were the daughters of the Jade Emperor in heaven and they were immortals)
When they realized his presence, they fled the place immediately but one, was left behind.
She was the 7th daughter of the Jade Emperor and they fell in love.

They married and led a peaceful life until the Jade Emperor found out about her disappearance. (it is believed that one day on Heaven is equivalent to two years on earth)
It did not take the Emperor long to discover her and he was in a rage upon discovering his daughter had married a mortal.

He commanded her to be back in Heaven, much to the despair of the two lovers.
The old ox, suddenly spoke and told the cowherd that it wanted to repay his kindness all this while, by offering its hide as a mode of transportation to Heaven to bring his wife back.

The Jade Emperor, upon realizing the Cowherd's intentions, created a huge river and a valley to separate them.
(This river is known as the Silver River to the East; and the Milky Way to the west).

The 7th Princess was devastated, and the Jade Empress, pleaded with the Jade Emperor for mercy on their daughter.
The Jade Emperor then allowed the lovers to meet only once a year and all the magpies, touched by the story, pledged to reunite the lovers by gathering annually to form the bridge across the river.

(Another version of the story is this:)
The 7th princess in Heaven, who was responsible for weaving the clouds always yearned for true love and also a taste of mortal life on earth. Therefore, she snuck down to Earth secretly to take a peek at the life there. It was there she saw the Cowherd and how hard he worked that she was fascinated by him.

She noticed how each day he would take a container of rice with little vegetables which he would place by the side of the fields while he plowed and by noon, his lunch would have been cold. She secretly replaced his lunch each day and also mend his straw shoes left on the side as well.
The cowherd was surprised to find his food warm and hot for the first day, and also how tasty his food was and how his shoes seemed to feel like brand new but yet, he could not figure out what had taken place.
On the third day finally, he pretended to plow and hid behind the trees.

It was then he spotted the 7th princess changing his lunch and he called out to her.
He was struck by her beauty and he fell in love with her.
They then married and lived happily.
The Cowherd continued to plow his fields while the 7th princess sewed his clothes and make his food.
She weaved nice brocades once in a while for their living as well.
Soon, they had two children as well and life was great.

The other princesses were terrified when they realized their sister was missing and went down to earth to plead with her to return to Heaven. However, the princess refused to leave her wonderful life now.

The Jade Emperor soon found out and flew in a great rage.
He ordered the princess to be back in Heaven or the Cowherd and the children will be in grave danger. The princess, fearing for their lives, returned to Heaven.

The Cowherd was miserable with her departure and set on a trip with the children to search for her, and to find ways to get to Heaven.

The Jade Emperor realized this and created a huge river and valley which made it impossible for him to cross over (The Silver River).

The separation touched the Empress who pleaded for the Jade Emperor to spare the two lovers and they were allowed to meet once a year.
The magpies were all touched by this great love they had and vowed to form a bridge for the lovers every year.

This is truly a touching love story; and there were so many different versions that I have read since I was a kid.
Sometimes, one tend to get confused with the stories as well; and this was somehow similar to the west's Swan Princess.

Anyway, back to the legend, the date which was set for them to meet each year was coincidentally on the 7th day of the 7th month.
Furthermore, the princess/weaving girl was herself the 7th princess and therefore, the number double seven became an auspicious and good number to the believers.

This day was known by the several names; the most common being Qixi Festival (Chinese: 七夕节).
I know it by the Cantonese version: The Seventh Sister's Birthday (traditional Chinese: 七姊誕)

In one of the sources, it seems that the seven princesses were also looked up upon to protect their young
(Source: TiT Culture)
To Love and Protect

The double seventh is also an important day for young people. Chiniangma, literally meaning "seven mothers," is the name of the Weaving Maid and her six elder sisters, whom the Chinese believe are protectors of children under 16. A custom begun in the Ching dynasty requires parents, when a child reaches one year of age, to use a red thread to tie old coins under the child's neck, a protective amulet from Chiniangma. In the past, some people have substituted a silver coin or even a gold medal for the old coin. The red thread is replaced with a new one on every double seventh until the child grows up.

A person is considered grown up when he or she reaches 16; and a rite to mark the occasion is performed on the double seventh--the birthday of Chiniangma. This is somewhat confusing, since Chiniangma is a unified name; some claim the birthday is the Weaving Maid's, and some assert it belongs to the oldest sister--one more debating topic for the mortals of China.
In Taiwan, this Chiniangma custom is most prevalent in the Tainan area; on the double seventh, people go to Kailung Temple, which is almost 200 years old, and make 16-year-olds perform the ritual passage to adulthood by crawling under the offering table and by circling and passing under, three times, a miniature seven-story pagoda made of bamboo and paper and held up high by their parents.

For the Chinese woman who craves to have a child, double seventh is the best day of the year to beg Chusheng Niangniang, the Goddess of Birth. Who is this merciful goddess? She could be the Weaving Maid or any of her sisters, or any other goddess. There is no single answer; anyway, all some Chinese women care about is a child in their arms.

Coins tied with a red thread and hung around a child's neck are used as a protective amulet in the tradition of Chiniangma.

This festival, from what I know, is also a day where young unmarried women (or any unmarried women) to pray to the seven sisters for their love destiny and to meet the man of their dreams since the ancient days.
Young girls especially and maidens would put on their best clothes and pray for a beautiful love story like that of the Cowherd and Weaving Girl.

There are also a few things to note about this festival:
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1. You will not see magpies on this particular day; the 7th day of the 7th month as they will all have flown to form the bridge for the lovers as pledged.
(If you do now know how does a magpie look like, check out that bird on your Twitter account =)

2. It is also known as the Chinese Valentine's Day to celebrate this amazing love story (Another Chinese Valentine's Day is on the 15th day of the first spring)

3. It may rain on this day as well, and the older women would always say that it is the Weaving Girl crying again.

Tears of joy or sadness?
I don't know, but if you were only allowed to meet once a year with your beloved husband and children, I bet you would cry as well!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Do's and Don'ts during the Ghost Month

Due to the nature of the month whereby spirits are allowed to roam freely, there are always a few things to keep in mind as passed down by the elders.
I would like to share on some of the precautions/advices I have heard of or read about on this month:

1. Stay out late at night. It is best to be home by sunset.
(The elders used to say that this is the time where the yin energy is at the strongest and most powerful, and that bad things could happen if you are not careful. Also, it is also another belief that the spirits could roam the streets freely to their content without being obstructed by human beings which is also another reason why some Chinese shops close down early during this month)

2. Travel on the road, by flight or by ship
It is advisable to postpone any major travel or vacation during this time to avoid any mishap or accident.
Of course, if you happen to be driving to work, you can't avoid that, but do be extra careful when you're driving as well.

3. Step on the praying paraphernalia or burning paper/food.
These are food and offerings to the spirits, and avoid stepping onto or kicking them away as this could offend the spirits.
After all, if it were you, would you like to have your food/gifts being stepped or kicked off? (reverse the situation)

4. Moving into new house or change new furniture/mattress (No housewarming or house parties as well)
This could inadvertently 'invite' some wandering spirits into your house as you are moving items and into a new unoccupied space which the spirits could deem as their own as well. Furthermore, they could hide from the guards to escape going back to their realm.

5. Curse and swear everywhere
You could incur a spirit's wrath if you happened to be in his path as it could be perceived as being disrespectful.

6. Getting married
Weddings during this month may not have a good ending, as believed, as there may be bad curses or hex placed by spirits on them. Furthermore, you would not want to have additional 'uninvited guests' crashing your party which you obviously did not plan for, do you?

7. Place your child on the offering altar when you are visiting the temples or the sites where the Guardian of Hungry Ghosts/Hell is located.
I have shared a story which my aunts have told me before on how a mother used to place her child on the offering altar while preparing her offerings and when she turned to check on her child, the child was already breathless.
Anything placed on the offering altar may be considered as an offering to the spirits and they will take it.

8. Paint your nails black
Much as you think it is funky to do so, refrain from doing so particularly during this month as only the dead have nails which turned black due to the halt in blood flow.
Black nails may lead the spirits to think that you are one of them and may lead you back to hell as well.

9. Whistle/Sing at night
For obvious reasons, you could be attracting the attention of the roaming spirits.

10. Swim or play in the sea/river
There are spirits who have drowned and there is a belief they may be out to take revenge or to find a substitute to take their place in death to allow for their reincarnation or to leave the place where their souls linger.

11. Sitting on the front rows or seats which are left vacant while the others are all occupied
This is especially when you watch the street performances such as opera or ko-tai, as some still follow the old tradition to reserve the first row of seats for the spirits as a form of respect.
In the older days, they do the same in the cinema; there is always a row of vacant seats which they reserve specially for the unseen.
If you are running late and you notice that there are empty seats in the front row, just stand by the side. It's better to stand than to offend any of the spirit.

12. Look underneath the altar table/offerings table when there is a prayer session
If you are unlucky, you may spot some unseen having their feast underneath the table and they don't like being disturbed.

1. Show respect to the praying and burning procedures taking place by the side of the streets or junctions. Do not mock or laugh at the people doing so or you could risk offending the unseen.

2. Pray for the spirits and also to God should you feel afraid

3. Refer to the spirits as the 'Good brothers' as the local folks do instead of ghosts to avoid hostility.

4. Listen to the advice of the elders. If they tell you what to do and not to do during this month, do not argue, just follow. The supernatural is not something to be messed with.

As long as you are careful and be mindful, this month will not be such a bad month for anyone as we just need to be respectful of the spiritual beings among us.

What are Hungry Ghosts?

The Hungry Ghost festival may trigger the question, "Why are they called Hungry Ghosts? Are they in hunger?"

Well, according to this source of Wikipedia:
Hungry ghosts are not the same as ghosts in Chinese tradition. The traditional belief is that people become ghosts when they die,[1] however, it was originally thought that ghosts did not have eternal life, but would slowly weaken and eventually die a second time.[2][3] Hungry ghosts in traditional thought would only be an issue in exceptional cases, such as if a whole family were killed or when a family no longer venerated their ancestors.[3] With the rise in popularity of Buddhism the idea that souls would live in space until reincarnation became popular.[3] In the Taoist tradition it is believed that hungry ghosts can arise from people whose deaths have been violent or unhappy. Both Buddhism[3] and Taoism[4] share the idea that hungry ghosts can emerge from neglect or desertion of ancestors. According to the Hua-yen Sutra evil deeds will cause a soul to be reborn in one of six different realms.[5] The highest degree of evil deed will cause a soul to be reborn as a denizen of hell, a lower degree of evil will cause a soul to be reborn as an animal, and the lowest degree will cause a soul to be reborn as a hungry ghost.[6] According to the tradition, evil deeds that lead to becoming a hungry ghost are killing, stealing and sexual misconduct. Desire, greed, anger and ignorance are all factors in causing a soul to be reborn as a hungry ghost because they are motives for people to perform evil deeds.[1]

The hungry ghosts are also classified as those whose families have forgotten about them or not tend to their graves. They are also believed to have thin long necks as they have not/never been fed by their families since their passing.

It is based on this notion that most practices and rituals during the Hungry Ghost Festival/Month to offer food and prayers to appease their spirits.
At the same time, the need to appease is to avoid any misfortune or haunting by the wandering souls among their household; or in short, unlikely mishaps.

Of course, despite being allowed to roam freely among the living during the whole month, my grandma also used to tell me that they have the guards from hell patrolling the Earth and watching over the ghosts to maintain security and peace among the living.
In fact, during the Yu Lan festival which falls on the 15th day of the month (or sometimes celebrated on the 14th in some places), you can see huge statues of the King of Hell/Great Guardian of Hell everywhere.
They are also like the law enforcers from hell to maintain discipline and to ensure that the spirits do not create chaos and will stick to their rules to go back to hell at the end of the month.

It is also a belief that we will observe rain throughout the month due to the yin energy and the dark clouds create the strong yin atmosphere to protect the spirits.
Heavy rain may be observed on the last day of the month due to the mourning and the reluctance of the spirits to go back or to bid farewell to their loved ones.

Well, I don't see any reason to doubt this as it has truly been raining for almost every day recently.

Ghost Festival Vs Ching Ming

There have been many questions raised regarding the difference of this two festivals and what makes them so distinctive from each other to have two different events to commemorate the dead that I have decided to do a bit more of research and to write about it in my own context.

As most of us know, Ching Ming was celebrated in the 2nd month whereas Ghost Festival/Yu Lan is in the 7th month in the Chinese Lunar calendar.

Ching Ming is when families would gather annually and make pilgrimages to the cemeteries of their dead ancestors.
They would clean their graves and offer incense/joss sticks, food (usually the favorite food of the dead), flowers and paper money.
They would burn the paper money and also other paper paraphernalia resembling items used by the living such as car, house, maid, clothes, or even tv and cell phones as the vendors get creative these days.
They are there to pay homage and respect to their dead ancestors and to fulfill their duties to clean the graves of their dead ancestors.

During this month which is after the Chinese New Year/New Spring, you will see most of the Chinese cemeteries/crematoriums crowded with people as all the families gather to pay their respects to their ancestors.
This is a tradition observed for centuries and I believe it originated from the teachings of Confucius on the importance of filial piety and remembering our ancestors and thus, all family members from near and far would travel back to reunite with their families and travel in huge groups to the graves.

The Hungry Ghost festival on the other hand, is when the dead comes back from Hell to visit their loved ones.
I remember one of my aunts used to tell me that during Ching Ming, the spirits are only allowed to roam the vicinities of their grave whereas during the Ghost month, they are allowed to go anywhere.

The rituals performed during this month is not only for your own loved ones/deceased ancestors, but also for the younger ones and even wandering spirits who may not be related to you.
Ching Ming, on the other hand focuses more on the ancestors, but Hungry Ghost festival is offered to all the spirits around; including your younger loved ones who have passed on.

During the Ghost month, there are also offerings to the King of Hell and the other guardians of Hell to ensure peace on the living earth, and also food and prayer offerings are made to the lost and wandering souls who had no one to tend to their graves, etc.

So, the main difference lies in the above reasons; and if that's not enough, during Ching Ming, the festival only lasts for 2-3 weeks compared to a whole month of the Ghost Festival.

All hell breaks loose

It is now the 7th month in the Chinese Lunar Calendar; whereby it is also known as the month of ghosts.

Taoists believe that this month is the time when the gates of hell are opened and all the spirits/ghosts are allowed to roam freely on the Earth among the living.

It is also believed to be the birthday of the King/God of Hell on the 15th day of the month and it is in conjunction with this celebration that the spirits were given this 'passport' to wander freely for an entire month.

Another famous legend linked to the origin of this festival was the story about Mu Nian (or Bok Lian in Hokkien); a story told to me by my mother and grandmother (it was passed down by my great great grandmother).
This was not just some grandmother's story as I have done a bit of research and found that it really exists; and there are even different versions of it.

I am sharing the version which I have from my grandmother/mother.

Mu Nian was a filial son and he lives with his mother and uncle. They were vegetarians but his mother broke off from being a vegetarian after his father's death and fell to the temptation of his uncle who brought home feasts of meat and wine.
When his mother died, he dreamt of her constantly and it was said that her cries from Hell could be heard by Mu Nian. She was suffering; she was being punished for her gluttony and she was crying for help. She was fed with food which turned to hot coal and burnt her tongue each day and she was surrounded by fire.
Her soul could not rest in peace and she was in so much pain that she screamed for her beloved son to come to her rescue.

Mu Nian, being the filial son, was upset and could not bear to see his mother in so much suffering that he prayed and begged that he be allowed to see her and he tried to break through hell to see his mother.
He then begged the deities to spare his mother from her suffering and he started to chant prayers to reach to his mother and to appease her soul.
His prayers were so strong that it penetrated through the gates of Hell and could be heard by his mother.
This was how the festival of Ghosts came about when the ruler of Hell decided to allow the spirits to visit their loved ones.
It is also how the notion of prayers and burning incense/paper money to the deceased during this month.

During this month, believers would offer prayers and perform rituals to absolve the sufferings of their loved ones and all the other lost souls.
That is why you can often see people crouching down by the roadside, setting down food like cakes and fruits, and lighting candles and joss sticks, and burning paper money.
It is a common thing you see during this month; and most do it immediately on the first day itself too.

Due to the nature of this month, it is also particularly a month feared by most Chinese folks due to the presence of spirits everywhere and at all times of the day.
There are a lot of rules to follow during this month; and extra caution need to be taken during this month to avoid any mishap.

This festival is celebrated among the Chinese communities across the globe, but the presence is stronger in the regions of Asia whereby there is a mass accummulation of the Chinese here.
The festival is observed in Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and of course, China.

There will also be street performances during this month in various places; whereby you will see mock stages being set up along the street everywhere.
These stages will have opera performances, and muppets and there will also be a huge tent at the other end which will house the paper statue made in the image of the King of Hell (some say the Guardian of Ghosts); Di Zang or in Hokkien, my grandma used to refer to him as Tai Su Ya.

If you observe closely, you will find a small statue of Buddha or Kwan Yin perched on top of his head as according to my grandma, he was the transfiguration of the deity herself.

On the 15th day of this month, it is the Ghost Festival; known as Yu Lan or also Zhong Yuan.
On this day, the Chinese believe it is the day where the ghosts are at their most powerful and children are warned not to run around on their own.

Most will be making their offerings and praying to the King of Hell for peace at home and also for the peace of the wandering souls.

Opera performances and Ko-tai (a Malaysian Hokkien term used to describe the singers performing on stage) are there to provide entertainment to the spirits.
It is also a form of showing respect to them and to appease them so that they will not harm the living.

In some places like Hong Kong, they even put paper lanterns or boats on the river/sea which carries their prayers and believed to guide the ghosts.

As quoted from this source (,

When the festival sets in, a sacrificial altar and a chair is built for the Buddhist priest either at street entrances or in front of villages. In front of the chair sets the statue of the King of Hell Di Zang. Under it are plates of flour-made rice and peaches. On the sacrificial alter are three spirit tablets and three funeral banners. After noon, pigs, sheep, chicken, geese and cakes, fruits of all kinds donated by households are displayed on the altar. On every sacrifice the Buddhist priest will put a triangular paper banner of three colors with special characters. After the rite gets started in solumn music, the priest will strike the bell to call back the souls, other monks singing chimes of incantations. Then he will throw the rice and peaches into the air in all directions to distribute them to the souls.

It is very important to observe these rituals correctly and to be careful with what you say or do this particular month to avoid anything bad from happening.
It is also best not to stay out too late at night as the elders usually say that it is a form of respect or courtesy to leave the streets to the ghosts to party all night.

There will be significantly lesser weddings during this month and some women even avoid giving birth at this time as well.
House moving/house warming or any outdoor activity is usually not encouraged, as this could invite the spirits or offend them.
New business ventures or changing jobs, attending funerals are also on the lower scale this month.

Some even blame any misfortune or bad luck on the aura of this month.
Sometimes, you may even notice that there seemed to be more funerals/accidents compared to other months. A myth or a fact, you choose, I chose not to doubt.

This is a month which is deemed the month whereby fear resides in most of the living due to the presence of spirits all around; be it the good or the malevolent who may be back for revenge; especially towards those who have wronged them during their lifetime.

It is a time whereby every spirit is released for this one month, so be careful, and just take extra precaution whether you believe it or not.
Beware, it is a month where all hell breaks loose...

Monday, August 09, 2010

Solemn news

So, two days after my bizarre dream in my previous post (on death, accident and my deceased grandmother), I received very solemn news from my family over the phone.

My GrandAunt passed away on Friday morning.

This Grandaunt was the younger sister of my paternal grandfather who resided in Singapore.
She and her children (uncle and three aunts) all reside in that liberal and clean neighboring country of ours.

She was the only one we knew from grandpa's side and the only one possibly left to link us to our ancestry parentage.
To be frank, my cousins and me may not be really that familiar to her nor were we close to her.

The first time we visited her in Singapore was to attend her eldest son; our uncle's (my dad's cousin brother) wedding.
We were so young that time; I remembered I was only 8 I think, when I was there in Singapore.

Now my grandaunt was a really healthy old lady, and she always have on that smile which showed her nice white teeth flashed at us kids when she meets us.

She has come to Malaysia a few times too; and she always tried to talk to us kids whenever we sit on the couch to say hi.

Only thing is, what amused us (I am referring only to my cousins and me; our generation) is how we always could never understand her after the first few syllables in the sentence.

She has a very distinct and accented way of speaking that dialect of the family and though my cousins and I speak the same language, hers was definitely much more in the college or postgraduate level.

I was deeply shocked to hear about her demise, although it had been so long since we met her.
We rarely kept in touch even, and I guess that was really to blame on our part.
I guess we were not great in keeping in touch, and for that reason, I felt rotten.

I am not sure whether we attend the funeral in Singapore or not, but the adults have made the arrangements; so they will be representing the rest of us to attend the wake and funeral and pay the last respects to our late grandaunt (for daddy and uncle, she's their Aunt).

I guess what I can only do is to pray for her (even though she's a Taoist/Buddhist) and also to mourn/grieve by wearing dull color clothes for at least a week since I can't be there in person.

It made me feel like this is one thing I can do for a great ancestor who had lived and these are the last respects deserving of an ancestor.

Oh, did I mention she must be almost a 100 now? Or at least close to a 100; I know she's definitely over 90.

Rest in peace, Grandaunt...

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Another dream of the deceased and death

I had yet another dream last Tuesday night; on my 2nd or 3rd night in this new place I have currently moved to.

It was some kind of bizarre dream and I must say one of the worst/scariest dream (or it should be categorized as nightmare) I have ever had.
It was also one that I would have never anticipated.

There were two parts to the dream, and both were not good.
I did not remember or have any proper recollection of the first part of the dream but I remembered seeing someone (or rather, a fuzzy and fast forwarded silhouette) who was dear to me, and whom I have not seen for so long.

The first part of the dream; it was pretty dark and I only remembered seeing or hearing my deceased paternal grandmother.
She seemed pretty young in the dream; she looked younger in appearance to me.

She was kinda busy or preoccupied with something and I don't really remember anything else about the dream except her presence.

Some may say that I should not be freaked out dreaming of my dear old grandmother who loved me, but the weird part is, I have not dreamt of her, not even once since her death more than 10 years ago.
When she passed on in 2002, I was not even informed, nor was I there at her funeral to see her off for the last time.

I even found it tough to believe it when my parents told me that time when they came to pick me up after my first year.
They didn't tell me because I was sitting for my finals at that time, and it broke my heart not to see her or send her off/bid farewell to someone who loved me so much.
That was the main reason I guess I never did dream of her for so many years.
Grandpa, I did dream of him a few times since he died but not grandma.
Sometimes I wonder whether she was disappointed that I didn't say goodbye to her which was why she didn't appear in my dream.

Anyway, moving on to the 2nd part of the dream, which kinda started after I woke up from the short dream for a short moment.

I was kind of driving along a road which was a corner bend (it looked suspiciously like that bend near Queensbay Mall).
Then I heard some mutterings that there was an accident; a really bad one and shortly after I heard that, I saw blood.
Lots of it, like thick puddles of blood on the floor.

Then I saw a man; slightly dark in complexion with slightly curly hair.
He was lying down; obviously dead as I swerved my car around the body.
I heard mutterings that there were a lot of bodies around there as it was a really bad accident.
I even heard that the people/victims in the accident were Chinese nationals; and they were expats and that they all perished in the accident.

Then I saw a lot of beds; not those trolleys where you push the corpses on but rather double beds neatly tucked in at the corners (like those you get in the hotels) everywhere.
There were a lot of them everywhere on the road or some white background dimension.
They were all covered with white cloths with beige and nude colored linen and though it may sound crazy now, but it seemed like in the dream, it was understood that the corpses laid there.

Then I woke up.

I find myself feeling all weird and uncomfortable when I woke up, but I guess everyone who has had a dream on death would feel the same way.

I took some time to calm myself down and after that, I tried to figure out what my dream meant.
I tried to dissect them part by part and to decipher what they meant.

Let me see, I am going to isolate the objects which appeared in my dream as usual before combining them into the scenario.

Part 1:
Deceased grandmother - security, love, trust, faith, that's what grandparent(s) usually mean when they appear in dreams. it could be a forewarning of something, of people around me. The fact that she had been dead for so long also meant of a longtime situation or relationship with another living person which resembled the same quality and which I had to deal with.

Part 2:
Driving (me)

Blood - There may be trouble with an enemy if I were to go into business or starting something new. It could also be related to relatives/families/friends and that it is not good to go into any confrontation.
There could also be relation to emotions, bleeding emotions.
Blood is also a symbol of love, life, passion and disappointments.
I saw someone else bleeding and that means an emotional cry for help.

Dead - This could be a forewarning that there is bad/negative influence or that one could be with the wrong crowd.
This may be a resolution of feelings with those who have passed on. There could also be possibility of material loss.

Beds - Since these were not my beds, this could mean that there is a change of luck in my business affairs. A small increase in good luck actually.
The beds were made, so this was a symbol of security. Bed could also symbolize the discovery of sexuality and my most intimate feelings.

Death - It could mean death in itself; or sometimes there could be some good news (opposite of death)

Putting them together, somehow the two seemed like they were really related through all the elements.

I guess there was a forewarning about my own family or relative; there could be some bad influence or arguments.
I am entangled emotionally; and I feel bothered by everything that will happen around me. I could feel emotional and there is a lack of security in not just my own emotional/family affairs and maybe business.
Make that short, I am about to be bothered by something which happens and could revolve around either family or work or both.

I dreamt of my deceased grandmother; and she came to warn me.
She was a source of warning, as grandparent(s) symbolize love, passion, life and disappointments.
There was something that is related to family, and I could really be missing my grandmother and that I need to resolve my feelings of guilt or disappointment (either in me or in her) that I wasn't there to bid her farewell.

Furthermore, since it had been such time since she had passed on, it was also a symbol of a current situation or relationship which needs to be resolved. The quality of the relationship or situation resembles that of this long death and that I need to learn how to resolve it; either to let it just die or end it.

I saw blood, and an accident, which meant that I had some fears and anxiety about something. I am in an emotional turmoil where I feel like asking for help but yet I did not.

This could be related to the part where I dreamt I was driving; which symbolized my journey and path in my life; how I am going through or navigating my life.
Since I was the one I saw driving in my own dream, and yet I don't remember that I saw where I was supposed to be going or where was I headed to.
Guess it means I may be fearful of where I see myself going ahead in life and to confirm what I want to do in the future.
Bad as it seems, it may be that I am not sure of my own direction/goals.

Perhaps I also do not want to see what is ahead for me or I am afraid to confront certain issues. I may be feeling apprehensive about the future.

Was my view is blocked or obstructed while you are driving, then it symbolizes your lacking awareness of something in your life, yeah I guess that's it, since I saw blood and a dead body, right?
I could be overlooking certain aspects in life.
Alternatively, the dream indicates dangers or problems that I am not aware of yet.
I was driving on a curvy road, and I guess it indicates that I was having difficulties in achieving your goals and I just find it difficult accepting the changes associated with it.

There is some certain degree of truth to the whole dream thing; well, i guess that's why some say that dreams are our subconscious minds speaking.

However, I still think the whole thing is bizarre, seeing all these different elements but I do know I am really messed up at the moment with all my emotions and matters bothering me, I guess I need to really chill out soon