Culture

The gates of Hades are closing today: Have you prepared for the end of Ghost Month?

It is 3am and I just cannot fall back asleep. It could be the immense jet-lag that I feel. It also could be that I came to the sad realization that summer is almost over. Well, it is half way done and I guess I am a glass is half empty kind of girl. I do not know where my summer went. Between work and more work, as well as three trips into the MRI tunnel, I have been all out of sorts.  July is a unique month.  No other month ends on the same day as July. Its birthstone is the ruby which tends to represent a fired-up spirit. The ruby is also meant to symbolize contentment. For many, the month of July symbolizes summer vacation. It symbolizes road trips and being out in the open air. It symbolizes freedom. We are free from heavy work commitments. We are free from school. We are free to roam the earth, pending of course, an appropriate amount of accumulated annual leave.

Did you know that 18 countries celebrate independence day in the month of July?  Of course, in order to celebrate independence day, a period of time of non-independence also had to have occurred. Why is July such a turning point? Of course, July is named after Julius Caesar who was born in the month on July 12. Did you know that Jimmy Hoffa disappeared on July 30, 1975 at about 2:30pm?  I would be remiss, if I didn’t note that the infamous Milgram experiment (the one showing the extremes of the lab coat effect) began in July 1963.  There is something different about July.  Hall of Famer Earl Weaver noted about baseball “I think the National League has better biorhythms in July.”  What could be driving these unique July reactions?

How about this for a possible explanation? The month of July is Ghost Month.   A time for ghosts to freely roam the earth.

In Chinese mythology, there is the belief that the lunar month of July is “ghost month” and is thus a very bad time for major surgical procedures.  Here in the United States and in England, there is also the belief that July is a bad month to go to the emergency room. Not so much because of ghosts, but because July is when all the new medical doctors are taking their places in the hospitals and thus medical errors tend to go up. This is what is often referred to as the July Effect. However, do note that there is disagreement research literature about whether such an effect actually does exist. But a 2010 article in the Journal of General Internal Medicine and a 2011 article in the Annals of Internal Medicine both reported that the effect may be true. Sounds scary indeed. However, that is not why Chinese folklore refers to July as Ghost Month.

Specifically, in Chinese mythology the fifteenth day of the seventh month in the lunar calendar is called Ghost Day and the seventh month in general is regarded as the Ghost Month (鬼月), in which ghosts and spirits, including those of the deceased ancestors, come out from Hades or the lower realm. You know, where the Winchesters brothers hang out in the television show Supernatural.  Specifically, on the first day of the seventh lunar month, ‘Open Day’ in hell occurs, where the gates to the underworld are opened and the spirits are allowed to cross over into the living world.  This phenomenon could explain why the month of July is so kooky.  Interestingly, during ghost month many ghosts return to earth to enjoy feasts prepared in their honor.   However, very sadly, ghosts without families to return to wander aimlessly across the earth. What a bummer that must be. To avoid being harassed by family-less, wandering ghosts during ghost month, the Chinese may offer sacrifices to the homeless ghosts as well as to their ancestors.

Now, have you noticed any signs of ghosts throughout the month of July? Just in case, some  signs of a ghost that I learned from both the television show Supernatural and from my highly superstitious Puerto Rican mom include: flickering lights, cold spots, scratching noises, and for demons also the smell of sulphur.  Let me just share that here at 4am in Hawaii, my hotel room lights have been flickering intermittently. Is this flickering an aftermath of the tropical storm Flossie or is the flickering the result of the ghosts doing one last set of dances before the gates of Hades are closed tonight?  Just putting it out there.

In Taiwan, supposedly when the gates of Hades are closed tonight, some individuals will make a ritual offering of food at the main entrance to their homes, lighting incense and burning paper money for their ancestors to use in the spirit world. Apparently, it is also a time to cover one’s ears or use ear plugs because the ghosts will be wailing their misfortune of having to return to the underworld.

Even if you are skeptical about the goings on of Ghost Month, let me pass on some advice on things you may want to avoid doing this last day before the gates of hell are closed.  Across several cultures the act of whistling inside a house can lead to bad luck. Apparently, for those that believe in Ghost month, this is especially true. You want to make sure to not whistle today as whistling will lead a ghost straight into your home.  Growing up, I had always been warned about opening an umbrella inside the house for it could bring worse luck than crossing paths with a black cat.  Now, I have to add another umbrella superstition to my beliefs bag. Due to ghost month, if it is raining today, wherever you are, do not bring an umbrella into the house after you use it.  Such an act will drag the spirits in with you. Further, if you are about to sign off on a major business deal today, think twice about it. Postpone till tomorrow if possible. Ghost month or the July effect doesn’t bode well for agreements made in July.  Lastly, do not speak ill of the dead. Let their spirits pass on tonight without antagonizing them as they wander the earth.   You may or may not believe in ghost month but such words of advice are always good to take note of.

Considering that July is Ghost month, do you think it is a coincidence that on July 16, 1945 the Atom Bomb was successfully tested and that on July 29, 1958 NASA was created? Ok, how about this for random: Disneyland, the happiest place on Earth, opened on July 17, 1955.

Oh July! You are so vexing.

 

PS I think Ghostfacers could be revived by doing a whole summer series on this https://www.facebook.com/Supernatural .

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