Monday, September 06, 2010

Hungry Ghost Festival Stories: A Possession

This is another true story which happened to my grandma when she was in her twenties.
It was a very old story, and a very frightening one, not to mention.

It took place during the Hungry Ghost month as well and at that time, her mother (my great grandmother) had just passed away.
She was the one among the siblings to bring/escort her mother's corpse home from the hospital morgue (General Hospital).

It was slightly after dusk at that time, and somehow, the hospital arranged for the corpse to be taken out through the back door of the hospital.
Grandma was performing the custom ritual during the transportation of her late mother's corpse; which was to pray and recite for her mother's name and calling for her to go home.

(It is a tradition among the Taoists to perform this simple ritual of repeatedly reciting your family/loved one's name when they have just passed away outside of home and to call for them to return to the home. This is ensure that the spirit returns home and not end up wandering or lost in the location where they passed away, and not creating hauntings in places they died)

While Grandma was in the back valley and arranging for the corpse to go home, she heard someone call her name softly, "Ah Lui"

(Ah Lui was a Chinese(Cantonese) denotation for daughter, and it was something which my great grandmother used to call my grandmother when she was alive)

Without second thought, grandma automatically turned towards the back to see who it was, calling her.
There was no one there at all.

Anyway, grandma was not too fond of the process and hence she was relieved when she got home.

That night, she was cleaning up in the kitchen and the kitchen door (refer to my previous story: Dead Man Feasting, same scene for this story) was slightly ajar.

Grandma told my mum to go close the door, and mum was about to do it.

All of a sudden, it was as if Grandma lost her mind as she started screaming and kept rushing to the back door.
Mum and the rest of her siblings were really scared out of their mind as they watched their mother's uncontrollable behavior from the room (an old attic room type in the hall where there is a window)

Great grandfather or someone kept holding her back while she kept rushing towards the back door which led to a pitch black dark alley!

She was not herself and she had mighty strength!

Grandfather, the calm and stern man, reached for the broom and I think someone called for a Taoist priest as well.

It was a very frightening scene for the children at that time, and somehow, she finally fainted after the prayers and the broom which hit her.

When she regained consciousness, she was unable to recall anything which had happened earlier.

It seemed that there was an evil spirit which followed grandma in the back alley when she was escorting great grandmother home, but the spirit was unable to approach her.

That was why the spirit masqueraded the voice and called her in the fond manner her mother used to call her to get her attention.
According to grandma, human beings have these three huge lights (strong Yang aura and guarding lights unseen to us) located on the top of our head and on both sides of the shoulder.
It was also the main reason why we are often told not to look back or answer when someone called our names especially at night or in the forests.

When grandma turned to look at the source of the voice calling her that night, she inadvertently turned off the light on one of the shoulder with that movement.

With one light reduced, the spirit may find it easier to invade or to harm us.
It was then that the spirit invaded her soul and tried to get her out in the dark; probably to kill her and take over her body/soul.

Thank God that Grandma was safe that night, praises to the God almighty who watches over his people and condemn all evil.

Hungry Ghost Festival stories: A Partying Trail

This is a true story which happened to one of my relatives recently, during the recent Hungry Ghost Festival/month.

F (not her real name), was a young twenty-something girl who loved partying and hanging out with her friends on weekends.
Despite that fact that the Hungry Ghost Festival had made its entrance and marked its commencement, she took it in her stride and continued to live her life normally.

She went for a night of relaxing and partying with her friends on a weekend, as usual, letting her hair down and putting on a classic black attire.

She got home in the wee hours of the morning; sometime around 2-3am and started getting ready for bed.
She was removing her contact lens and make up in her room when she saw a figure walk past her door.

She thought it must be her younger brother's friend who sometimes stayed over although she was quite surprised that he was also awake at this hour.
Since she could not see clearly without her spectacles, she put them on out of curiosity to see the person who was in the house.

It was to her shock that she realized that the person was an apparition of a man.
(F had the third eye and the sixth sense to be able to see and sense the spirits).

She decided to ignore and went to bed, feeling rather scared at that time that a spirit must have followed her home or something.

She related the tale to her mum and aunts the next few days and she was warned not to go out too late at night anymore.
Apparently, she may have attracted a spirit which may have trailed her home; furthermore it was during those inauspicious hours of the night (or rather, morning).

Another interesting point was, according to grandma was that she was wearing black.
Black or dark colors are also, apparently a taboo and a no-no during this month as it was deemed to be conducive to the Yin environment during the Hungry Ghost month.

However, I was curious as to how did the spirit managed to enter her apartment which had two altars facing the main door.
One was a century old big altar which housed a variety of deities; ranging from Goddess of Mercy, Nazha, Guan Gong, etc and the other small altar at the side, slightly elevated above the arch heading to kitchen was a specially invited Thai deity.

Explanation from grandma?
The deities were not there in their form full time, OR, the deities may have mistaken the spirit as a friend F brought home with her.
Either way, I don't think there was a full and logical explanation for this.

For you partygoers out there, please be reminded that even during normal months, partying until the late hours (especially if you are girl) is not really encouraged, what more during this Hungry Ghost month.

Just be careful, and try to wear more light-colored clothing and make sure you pray to God to strengthen your faith.

The Last Day of the Hungry Ghost month

Today marks the last day of the month-long celebration of the Hungry Ghost festival for the Chinese community.

If you've noticed, it has been really cloudy and the rain have been pouring in torrents for the past few days, and yesterday started with heavy rain in the wee hours of the morning and the gloomy skies continue to loom for the entire day.

This morning was no different as the dark and heavy clouds were once again spotted instead of the bright and shining sun in the morning.

I remembered my grandma used to tell me about the weather forecast for this month; a belief or prophecy which have been passed down from generations.

It is believed that rain and dark clouds; not to mention gloomy weather will often preside over the month of the Hungry Ghost and also Qing Ming.
This is in conjunction with the atmosphere or the aura of these festivals which are related to the dead and also the spirits.

As you know, there are two elements; Yin and Yang whereby the Yang is always associated with brightness and warmth, while Yin is associated with gloom and darkness.

The spirits are categorized in the Yin element and therefore, during these months, the skies would be conditioned in the right atmosphere to commemorate the festivity of the honorable worship of dead ancestors and the spirits.

It is an interesting theory, isn't it?

Despite the drastic change in the local weather these days, there is still some truth in this grandma's old tale.

These few days' weather were also often predicted to be especially rainy and cloudy; due to the farewell of the spirits to the living world and how they are distressed with having to part with their loved ones (not to mention missing the month-long of vacation and partying; with full freedom to roam wherever they want)

In certain countries, they even set off paper boats or lotus lanterns to the sea with prayers and well wishes/blessings for their loved ones and wandering spirits on this last day.
It is to pray for their peace in wherever they may reside.

So, don't forget your raincoat and umbrella and drive safely, although it is the last day, precaution still needs to be taken as it is still in the same month.
I remembered asking my grandma once, "What happens if they don't wanna go back on the last day after a whole month of partying?"

Grandma said, "There are also law enforcers in their realm, which is why you see the deities being worshipped and stages being set up on streets. Although they have street opera and singing (getai), there is always a huge tent housing the fearsome and powerful deity who guards the spirits and the gate of Hell. Besides, didn't you notice the paper dolls at the side of the tent? Those are the police officers responsible to maintain peace and harmony among the living and making sure that the spirits do not misbehave. When the last day comes, these law enforcers multiply to usher them back to where they belong"

I asked, "They won't lose count of anyone? There are so many of them"

Grandma said, "No, my dear, they have their checklist/attendance register too. They can't escape. No one escapes their fate and the deities and 'police' see to that"

Okay, they have a system too down there, no wonder it is always a tearful farewell (pun intended) on the last day as they were reluctantly ushered back to their realm.

Let's pray for our loved ones and all those wandering spirits as the month comes to an end.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Hungry Ghost month stories: Banging Door in the Office

This was a story told to me by my colleague who was left alone in the office during the middle of the 7th month.
(yes, scarily, that is the same office I am working in as well and I do feel fortunate that I was out of the office at that time)

This incident happened two weeks ago, on the 15th day of the Hungry Ghost (7th month in the Chinese Lunar Calendar).
S (a pseudonym for my colleague, not real name), was in the office at that time.
Most of us were out for meetings with clients, presentations, service and support in the factory or on site.

Since she was our admin and office support, she is usually in the office for the whole day.

The whole day was just like any other day for her, and it was soon 3pm in the afternoon.

S was sitting at this desk whereby her back was facing this conference/meeting room (right behind her).
The conference room is used for trainings, and well, conferences/meetings, of course.

The door is always kept closed since this is a branch office and trainings are more of a sporadical nature.

At about 3pm that afternoon, she heard the door hitting itself again and again like there was a wind pushing against the latch at the side of the door.

Initially S thought it was the other conference room's door (the smaller room in the other office space.
Then the hitting/banging got louder and she got up and went to the conference room to check on the windows.
The first thought on her mind was that the windows may have been left open by the cleaners or someone.
It was funny though because we have almost never, opened the windows in this particular conference room.

When she opened the door and went in, she saw that all the windows were tightly shut (or rather, locked).
In fact, even the blinds were as usual, down and covering the windows from the sunlight.

She thought nothing of it, and just closed the door behind her when she walked out of the room.

S is a Chinese, and she was aware of the 7th month being the Hungry Ghost month, but at that point, it did not hit her about the date on that day (which, was probably a good thing).

She was not one who observed the lunar dates on the calendar and it did not occur to her that it was the 15th of the month at that time.
When she noticed that the neighboring offices and people praying and burning incense and joss sticks and putting food outside on the road, she just assumed that it was due to the festival or custom for the entire month.

It was only when she left the office for home that evening and reached home that it struck her that it was the mid of the month for the 7th month; which means that day itself was the Hungry Ghost festival!

She shuddered and realized that it could be something supernatural with the door banging in the office earlier!

Otherwise, how do you explain the banging of the door like it was caused by the wind when the door was always tightly shut and the windows too?
Seriously, she described that the door sounded like it was hit repeatedly by the wind and it was deciding between closing or opening.

How, now, is that possible when it is always tightly shut in its latch?

Another thing, she mentioned that after she checked and closed the door behind her, the banging just kind of stopped.

Hmmmmmm.....something to ponder upon? A mere coincidence or again, a figment of imagination?