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A Little Lesson


This is one of my Dad's experiences and he's given permission for me to share them.

If you ever go to a country with Chinese traditions and practices, you would not be surprised to see the locals burning incense paper (so called hell paper money). These are burned for a variety of reasons but mostly for the sake of our departed family or for rituals to pay homage to the multitude of Chinese deities. (for more details, please wiki it)

Anyway, my dad has always been a Buddhist and believer but in his youthful indiscretion, he once did something stupid. He was walking along the pathway during the 7th lunar month (which for Chinese, means the ghost festival month where the gates of hell are opened and which the living burns incense and other offerings to the spirits) and he chanced upon a pile of ashes from the offerings. Even a child would know to step aside and not purposely disrupt the offerings or ashes as a sign of respect. However, my dad went and kicked the pile of ashes (the ashes had been there for a while and was cold with nothing sharp inside it). With that misdeed done, my dad went home and forgot about it.

That night, out of the blue, he felt an intense burning sensation on his right foot and it started swelling. The entire night he couldn't rest as his foot swelled to nearly twice its original size and the burning sensation continued throughout the night.

He then became sick for 3 days with consistent fever and the doctor couldn't tell what was wrong with him.

To date, he believes that was a little lesson for him by whatever spirit he annoyed.

What do you guys think?

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The following comments are submitted by users of this site and are not official positions by Please read our guidelines and the previous posts before posting. The author, wfkiwi, has the following expectation about your feedback: I will read the comments and participate in the discussion.

Jubeele (26 stories) (897 posts)
6 years ago (2018-09-09)
Since the Ghost Month and the Hungry Ghost Festival are safely over for the year, I'd like to share this older account and another memory from Singapore.

One day during the mid-1980s, a colleague limped into work with his foot in a cast from a broken ankle. Ruefully, he told us that he'd been arguing with his neighbour over the ash from the burnt offerings and incense blowing into his place. In Singapore, most people live in flats (apartment blocks) and because it gets humid, the front door is often left open to catch a breeze. After sweeping up the ashes from his doorway a number of times, he had stomped over to the neighbour's and kicked at the altar at their entrance.

The next day, he tripped as he was walking along a level footpath. By some strange coincidence, he broke the ankle on the very same foot he had used to kick at the altar. He said he should have known better and cautioned us not to make the same mistake. We were taught that it is advisable to get along with the neighbours as best we can, and show respect for each other's cultures and beliefs. Because you never know...

aisyah1987 (2 stories) (31 posts)
7 years ago (2017-06-21)
I kind of believe in this cuz there are always these things around us and I'm sure they won't be happy to be disturbed.

When I was a teenager, I loved to go on rollerblade rides and I happened to clumsily tripped over some offerings on a pavement without apologising.

Few days after, there was a huge and ugly bite mark that made my foot swell up.
I do not recall getting bitten by anything and I make it a point to wash and clean my blades.

Told my dad and he said it could be due to that incident.

Learnt my lesson, man.
EchoStrung (2 stories) (19 posts)
11 years ago (2013-09-25)
Interesting story, I live in Taiwan right now, and ghost month just ended.
masha (9 posts)
11 years ago (2013-06-29)
Too sad... He shouldn't have done that... 😢 feel sad for what happened to him 😢
angela_maria97 (14 posts)
11 years ago (2013-06-28)
I think that is what he deserved for what he did during the offering to the sprits
Shady4u (2 stories) (188 posts)
11 years ago (2013-06-27)
Wfwiki, thank you for the reply. I agree to whatever you have said and I must admit that's something new to me. If anytime in coming future I happen to pass through such a situation, I know what to do, thanks to you 😁
wfkiwi (2 stories) (3 posts)
11 years ago (2013-06-27)
The traditional view is that the spirits would take offense if you disturb their offerings intentionally or when they are "eating/collecting" the offerings.
We have a chinese saying that goes something like "those who are ignorant, have no blame" but it's safest to just apologize immediately if you happen to accidentally disrupt the offerings.
We have this practice out in the field too, when we have to take a leak in the great outdoors, we generally say an "excuse me" to the tree, rock, etc before doing our business just in case something is residing there.
Shady4u (2 stories) (188 posts)
11 years ago (2013-06-25)
Hey there! It was indeed a lesson as I respect the Chinese culture and believe the customs to be true. I just have a question. If a person who is unaware of such a custom where the living offer things to the spirits, happens to over cross it, is he likely to be harmed? Apart from it, I enjoyed your story. Thank you.
wfkiwi (2 stories) (3 posts)
11 years ago (2013-06-23)
Thanks for the info! I've read about it before just didn't know the term "nocebo".

You know how angsty some teens are, its hilarious for me tho when I picture my dad in that way

My grandparents are the traditional chinese folks. According to my Dad, they were undecided whether to punish him further by caning. In the end they decided that he was punished enough by the pain and took him to see a temple medium. Who gave him one of those chinese tailsman that you are supposed to burn and mix the ashes with water and drink it down 😭
darkassassin92 (119 posts)
11 years ago (2013-06-23)
In 2010 my dad and me went to white eagle tavern oregon where I live my dad said he felt something there I did not feel anything there supposed to be the most haunted place in portland I think or oregon I heard stories that people got pusged down the stairs there or something.
RedWolf (31 stories) (1292 posts)
11 years ago (2013-06-21)
Thank you for explaining the nocebo effect. This explains how my mother in-law acts. You see I have had 3 lower back surgeries and 2 neck surgeries which still gives me a lot of pain because my lumbar region of my back is fused as is c6-7 in my neck. She has Rheumatoid Arthritis which I give to her can be painful. The thing is that she can come to visit and if I am not feeling well because of pain all of a sudden she is bent over and is in pain. We put it down to her being a hypochondriac which she is. 😐
She does this with other people in the family. My older son was in the hospital with Mercer in his knee all of a sudden she needed to walk with a cane because her knee hurt. She did the same thing when my younger son needed knee surgery then when I needed knee surgery. Thank you for bringing this up.

I agree with val. Your father learned a valuable lesson. I'm just wondering what your grandparents did when they found out what your father had done, 😆
taurus83 (4 stories) (84 posts)
11 years ago (2013-06-20)
I agree. What ever spirit he disturbed was most likely upset. Your father knew not to kick the ashes, but did so anyway. At least it was just a swollen foot and 3 days of illness. Spirits are powerful and could have caused more harm.
elfstone810 (227 posts)
11 years ago (2013-06-20)
If you're interested, Google "the placebo effect" and "the nocebo effect". The placebo effect you've probably heard of. It's where some neutral substance like sugar can act as a medicine if the person taking it believes it's a medicine. The nocebo effect is the exact opposite. It's where a neutral substance can harm someone if they believe it's harmful.

Mostly it's the effect your mind can have on your own body. Have you ever felt fine until someone says, "are you okay? You don't look so good!" and then gotten sick? That's the nocebo effect.
wfkiwi (2 stories) (3 posts)
11 years ago (2013-06-19)
Thanks for commenting!
[at] valkricry I agree with your opinion since we usually see spirits that that take the form of our religion and influences
[at] elfstone that's the "mind over matter" thing right. That could be the cause too but oh well, it's pretty cool either way. After all respecting our beliefs and the unknown is the best path
elfstone810 (227 posts)
11 years ago (2013-06-19)
I agree that it's possible that a spirit caused his sore foot and illness. It's also possible that his own subconscious was responsible. If I understood you correctly, your father is Buddhist and the offerings were part of a Buddhist ceremony? So perhaps, deep down, he felt guilty and so punished himself. The human mind is an amazing thing and it's long since been proven that thought can affect physical health.
valkricry (49 stories) (3273 posts) mod
11 years ago (2013-06-19)
wfkiwi, very interesting. Personally, I happen to believe that anything held sacred by a sect, whether of my faith or not, should be treated with respect. I'm of the opinion that spirits probably retain whatever faith they followed in life, so to me it's plausible that your dad did anger some spirit who decided to teach him a lesson.

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