Keeping the Peace with Ghosts – World Religion News


The harvest season is ending and winter is coming. Festivals celebrate the fruits of the harvest and rituals are held to ward off the coming of the spirits that come with the darkness of winter.

Celtic tradition describes a veil that holds back those who have gone before at its thinnest at this time of year. In parts of Asia, it is described as the month of ghosts where all who have gone before can return to visit the living. In Mexico, a multi-day celebration is held to support the dead on their journey through nine levels of challenges in the afterlife before their final resting place is reached.

Old traditions do not always maintain the idea of friendly ghosts. Failure to perform Samhain ceremonies in Ireland would incur the wrath of the gods, and those coming from the other side of the veil to visit were also not trustworthy, so the Celts dressed like animals and monsters to avoid being kidnapped. In China, hungry ghosts roam the villages seeking to claim victims in order to achieve their rebirth. In Egypt, the dead were believed to pass through the Field of Reeds, an endless paradise, but even so ghosts could become angry and rituals existed to lessen their power.

The fear of ghosts was fought as in Egypt where they disfigured the tombs of the dead to strip them. Whereas in ancient Ireland they held “dumb suppers” where ancestors were invited to eat before the living, and children played as entertainment. The Chinese would light lanterns to show the dead the way out and offer food to ghosts who had no living family and were therefore hungry. Mesoamericans would provide food and tools for their loved ones to overcome the challenges of the afterlife.

The American tradition today is a scrambling of Samhain, All Saints’ Day (in Middle English Alholowmass means Toussaint), Native American traditions and a bit of capitalism. It’s quite unique with billions of dollars spent on candy and costumes, millions of dollars made on horror movies, and thousands of haunted attractions nationwide. The average deceiver may not know the roots of their tradition, but they follow it to the extreme and have not forgotten the ghosts.

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