Hungry Ghosts are not the only spirits in Buddhist and Taoist mythology. There are also ancestors and gods, and different rituals are important to appease, honor, and communicate with them. It’s not always an easy matter: Forgotten ancestors can become hungry ghosts (so honor your grandparents!), but hungry ghosts can marry and become part of the ancestry. (They can even marry humans! No worries, you are allowed to marry another human even if you married a ghost…)
While you try to appease hungry ghosts and hope they will scuffle on, ancestors and gods are usually not only honored but also welcome. Many Taiwanese homes have a small shrine where frequent offerings are made. The altars of gods in Taoist and Buddhist temples are so plenty its hard to keep an overview on the wide diversity of different gods. Still, many of the rituals mirror those for ghosts I wrote about yesterday: you offer food, burn incense – or “Ghost money,” as in the picture here.
It is important to know what you are doing, though, as there are three different kinds of ghost money: copper (for hungry ghosts), silver (for ancestors), and gold (for gods). Of course, burning the wrong kind of money might irritate the spirits you try to build a good relationship with.
Offerings like these are not only a private, but also a professional matter. Getting on good terms with the various spirits is important for you business – here for instance for the owner of the food stand we visited last Saturday. As we will see tomorrow, this is especially true for the ghost money business itself…