Halloween Spiritual Practices
Have you ever wondered why do we get so exited around this time of the year, dress into skeletons and run around streets in a search of red lanterns and hollow pumpkins, screaming seeing dead men walking, witches laughing, demons trembling and the sick bleeding.
The dead, the sick, the ghosts symbolically exit their graves and enter the world of living in the shape of masks walking aimless through the streets. All the cultures at all ages gave their due respect to death, to ancestors, or are scared of the consequences if they do not.
Both early Buddhists and the Indians burn the bodies of their dead so that the soul does not linger around the body for too long. After death, preparing the dead for the funeral fire, the Lamas (monks) chant for hours to help the soul leave the body. It is believed that for the first 4 days the dead person is not even aware that he or she is dead. During the ‘departure’, the person sees and feels all that they have ever done during their life time. It is believed that a spiritual practitioner will have no fear nor regrets at the time of death and will die in a state of peace.
Halloween and Wondering Souls
Most of the religions agree that at the time of death the consciousness leaves the body like an empty shell and takes the form of an intermediate state being. The soul either goes to the next life carrying the positive or negative karmic imprints or stays within a state of Hell or Heaven. According to Hindus and Buddhists the soul is drawn to the place of re-birth by the force of attraction to its parent of the opposite sex. However Buddhist believe that one will not necessarily be reborn as a human being. One can be born within the hell realms, or as a hungry ghost, in the animal realm, or for example as a jealous god.
With such a colorful range of possibilities of the realm worlds, no wonder we get all excited with various devils, angels crossing to our dimensions, ghosts, ferries and the likes.
Chinese Funeral Rites
Chinese people have always had very complex funeral rites. You probably have heard about the 9,000 terracotta army that was buried to protect Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China.
Traditional burial customs include a custom for family members taking shifts to watch over a relative on their deathbed. They stay with the dying, so to accompany them to the very last moment before entering the afterlife state.
Chinese funeral has several main traditions. First 7 days after death are the most important because the soul of the dead is at that time most sensitive and confused. Prayers are repeated 100s of times for 49 days. Traditionally there is a special Buddhist prayer ceremony for dying held every 10 days until the funeral some 40 days later. A final ceremony will be organized at the graveyard 100 days after death.
The age of the dead, the cause of death, the social status are all factors that influence Chinese death rites. The whole procedure has to be done in a proper way and any irregularities can cause bad luck and accidents in the family of the dead. The ancestors and the dead have the very active role in building happiness within the family.
Chinese also have some interesting beliefs around the dead-man clothes. All clothes that belonged to the dead are burned and they believe that if the dead is dressed in red for the funeral s/he will become a ghost.
Traditionally children of the deceased would not cut their hair and beard for 49 days after the death. At the foot of the coffin the family prepares an altar with burning incense and white candles. Chinese cemeteries are usually located on a hillside. When the coffin is removed from the car and put into the grave site everyone turns away. When the coffin is in the grave everyone will throw a handful of soil on the coffin. After returning home the family will set-up and use an ancestral table to worship the dead.
Halloween and Qingming Festival
Qingming Festival is when Chinese people visit the graves or burial grounds to pray to their ancestors.
During that day people pray before the ancestors, clean their tombs and offer food, tea, wine to the ancestors. In Asia some people carry willow branches on Qingming or put willow branches on their front doors. They believe that willow branches help ward off the evil spirit that wanders on Qingming. On Qingming, people go on family outings, sing, and dance. It is the time to fly kites in the shapes of various animals.
Celebrating Halloween Today
Trick or treating? Creepy and mysterious! Also known as Samhain. For many Wiccans and Pagans it is the Spiritual New Year. Perhaps our version of a Chinese Qingming Festival: Remembering ancestors, respecting Death and watching kids (our new life) have great time dressing up and overdosing on candies.
November the 1st amongst many is for centuries known as one of the most magical nights of the year. A night when the veil that separates two worlds (living and dying) is at its thinnest.
The Celts believed that a special window opens during this time allowing the spirit world to intermingle with the living. During the night the graveyards of Ireland were lit up with torches so that the dead will find their way home and celebrate with their family.