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9 taboos to avoid during Taiwan's Ghost Festival

Here are some spooky superstitions to take note of during Ghost Festival

(Undead Encyclopedia illustration)

(Undead Encyclopedia illustration)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Ghost Festival in Taiwan is on Sunday (Aug. 22), a time when many Taiwanese send offerings and pray to their ancestors, gods, and ghosts.

The Ghost Festival falls halfway through Ghost Month, on the 15th day of the seventh month of the lunisolar calendar, which this year was Aug. 22. Devout Taoists and Buddhists believe that during this time of year, the gates of hell are opened for a full month so that hungry ghosts can roam the world of the living in search of food, money, entertainment, and possibly souls.

Offerings typically given on this day include rice wine, fruit, chicken, pork, fish, snacks, incense, and joss paper. Gold joss paper is burned for the gods, while silver joss paper is burned for spirits.

The terms "Good Brothers" (好兄弟) and "Good Sisters" (好姐妹), as opposed to "ghosts," are considered preferable when referring to lost souls — to avoid offending them. These apparitions are not worshipped in the same way as ancestors and vary in nature from pitiful to dangerous.

The following are nine taboos to dodge a ghoulish gaffe during the Ghost Festival in Taiwan:

  1. Don't take the last bus or train. It is believed the early morning hours after midnight are the strongest in yin energy. Therefore, it is advisable to avoid taking the last bus or train of the night to avoid being taken away by a phantom driver.
  2. Don't pat a person on the shoulders. The living are believed to have a protective invisible flame that emanates from either shoulder and thus patting a person on the shoulder will snuff out that flame.
  3. Don't take photos at night. Avoid taking photos or videos in dark corners, especially at night, otherwise, a phantom photobomb might ruin the picture.
  4. Don't take a mirror inside an elevator. Elevators are generally not exposed to sunlight and tend to gather yin energy, while mirrors are an object that Good Brothers love to possess. It is advisable to spend less time looking in mirrors to avoid unsightly spectators.
  5. Don't suddenly look back. Ghouls with guile will call out their victims' names or pat them on the back hoping they will suddenly turn their head, making them vulnerable to attack. The solution is to turn the whole body at once instead of just the head.
  6. Do not hang wind chimes. The ringing of wind chimes sounds similar to the ringing of the soul, therefore it is believed they attract ghosts.
  7. Don’t pick up coins off the street. After burning clothes for Good Brothers on the street, people often toss coins. If a person picks these coins up and take them home, some uninvited guests may tag along.
  8. Don't walk near walls. Since ghosts like to stick on walls because they are cooler. It is therefore, advisable to avoid contact with walls as much as possible during the Ghost Festival and Ghost Month in general.
  9. Don't engage in water sports. It is considered highly dangerous to go swimming in coastal areas and streams because it is believed that evil spirits that have drowned may try to drown the swimmer to gain a chance at rebirth. The upside for non-believers is that the beaches are pretty much empty for the whole month.