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Of ghosts and ghosting

Today is the fifth day of what this year’s Chinese lunar calendar considers as Ghost Month.

It started on July 29 and will end on Aug. 26. According to Chinese folklore, this is the time of the year when the gates of hell are opened to allow ghosts to roam the world of the living to look for food, money and entertainment.

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In effect, the ghosts are being given a break from their humdrum life in the underworld.

Then, on the last day of the month, the gates of hell would close as the ghosts return to their spiritual realm.

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In the belief that misfortunes are likely to happen during this period, e.g., poor health, business losses and bad luck, people are advised to refrain from doing anything that may displease the ghosts and, in the process, make life miserable for them.

On a personal level, the following, among others, can be done to appease the ghosts: display photos of deceased ancestors on the family altar, prepare food offerings and burn incense or red candles.

The “don’ts” include touching the food offerings, wearing red or black clothing, hanging clothes outside at night and opening an umbrella indoors.

From the commercial standpoint, this month is supposedly not an auspicious time to invest in the stock market, enter into deals with partners, or engage in risky or untested business ventures.

Those activities should, as a precautionary measure against getting hit by bad luck, be held in abeyance until the ghosts have returned to their habitat.

Although this annual affair may seem anachronistic in the present setting, many Filipinos of Chinese descent as well as those who do not have Chinese blood observe it and engage in some of its practices.

For the latter, it’s probably more for the fun of it rather than to give homage to the event.

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And why not? Nothing would be lost in honoring the tradition. Who knows, it may even bring good luck or fortune. Give it to the Filipino to find a positive spin in any activity that breaks the routine of daily life.

For some geomancers, the negative vibes that this month is believed to bring about, particularly in relation to profit-making activities, can be minimized or avoided by taking some feng shui-related actions.

Feng shui is an ancient Chinese practice that believes energy (or “chi”) forces can be used to harmonize persons with their environment.

For example, a powerful feng shui symbol, like a sculpture of a white galloping horse which is believed to represent strength, fertility and prosperity, can be placed on the office table, or the picture of a dragon (which symbolizes abundant life, strength, fertility and prosperity) can be hung on the office wall.

These materials are looked upon as counter-measures to bad luck that is presumed to accompany the month.

But it’s not all unpleasant happenings during this period.

For one, if the bulk of a company’s transactions is with entities that observe the month by drastically reducing their commercial activities, the lull gives it the opportunity to do a thorough review of its operations in the first half of the year and, if warranted, make the proper adjustments for the rest of the year.

For stock market aficionados, this month is purportedly the best time to hunt for bargains because there is decreased trading activities and the prices are relatively low.

But whether or not the prices today are down because of the ghost-month syndrome is debatable. The stock market has been in the doldrums for quite some time due to domestic and global economic issues.

Incidentally, ahead of the Ghost Month, a congressman filed a bill making “ghosting” (or abruptly terminating communications or contacts with someone without giving any reason) as an emotional offense for which sanctions should be imposed on whoever does it.

It looks like the ghosts have a kindred spirit in the present Congress. INQ

For comments, please send your email to [email protected]

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