Saturday, January 12, 2013

Gaki--Hungry Ghosts in Japan

All-Souls Day in Japan and Hungry Ghosts

Bon is called “the Feast of the Lanterns” in Japan. It is celebrated in the summer to honor the souls of the dead. Bonfires are set at the tops of tall mountains so that the souls will be able to find their ways back. Mountain paths are also cleared so that the souls will be able to pass freely. 
One of the interesting features of these customs is the erecting of two kinds of altars. One is for the ancestors. Ancestors are the well-wishers of the family. Another altar is set for the gaki, or hungry spirits, which are ghosts who have nobody to feed them. 
People who have no descendents to offer them worship will become ghosts, but they are not alone. Women who die in childbirth, scorned lovers who die, people who commit suicide, and people who die with deep regrets may become ghosts. 
In my book, Oni Demons, there is the story of a woman whose father tricks her into believing that her indigent lover dumped her. She dies of grief, but returns to seek him out. The result is horrific.

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