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Of Sandalwood And The Ghost Month

 

Growing up in Southeast Asia, the seventh month of the Lunar calendar was a strange time of the year. Buddhists and Taoists believe that during this period, the King of Hell would release the ghosts or spirits in his domain to wander the mortal world, seeking food and entertainment. People were told to be especially careful around the time of the Hungry Ghosts Festival, because wandering spirits could sometimes visit the living.

Being neither Buddhist or Taoist, I seldom paid attention to these beliefs. But everything has been different this year. These are sad and worrying times. As the weeks neared the Ghost Month, I have felt that everything around me was being shrouded or getting blurry around the edges. Just slightly off-kilter.

Not long before the Ghost Month, I had a dream about my childhood home in Singapore. I had not dreamed about the place in years. It showed the bedroom at the back of the Queenstown flat, next to the kitchen. The walls were a buttercup yellow, or maybe it was the morning sun coming in from the window on the left.

I was lying on my back on the single bed, with the doorway to the right. Someone - I took to be my elder sister - was getting into the other bed, placed against the wall adjoining the kitchen. She tugged at the sheets near my feet.

At first, I thought she was just straightening them. But she was trying to pull them off and so I told her to cut it out. Still not saying a word, she grabbed my left foot so hard that the pain woke me up.

Sitting up in bed, I saw a small dark figure in the bedroom, over to my right. Could it be something that followed me out of my dream, or was it the cause of my pain? Silently calling on the Powers-That-Be, or guardian spirit who might be at hand, I told the shadow to go away. Two loud cracks came from the glass door out the back. Like someone had clapped a command, in dismissal.

When I turned on the bedside lamp, there was no shadow in the room. But my left foot was so sore that I had to rub at it for at least five minutes. When the pain persisted, I went into the bathroom to check my foot in better light. It was distinctively swollen, bigger than the right foot. On the right foot however, was a small round bruise, the size of an Australian five-cent piece, like a finger mark.

My husband, Rex slept through everything, though he did remember being roused briefly by the sound of crackling glass. Later that day, I messaged a friend about it. He was of the opinion that a guardian spirit could have come at my call and promptly took care of my unwelcome visitor. When he said that, the same glass door went CRACK... A coincidence?

Some days later, I was washing up at the kitchen sink in the morning, when I saw something moving across the granite countertop. A large blue flask with a glass on top of it, was moving to the right. I could gauge that they had shifted a whole inch because they were right in front of the knife block.

Lifting up the flask and the glass, I checked if it was wet at its base or if there was water on the kitchen counter. The flask and granite surface were both dry to my touch.

Just as I was looking in that direction where the flask had been, an empty vanilla essence bottle and two small plastic containers moved an inch to the right. The little tubs were stacked on top of each other and did not topple. I had the distinct impression that someone was there, trying to get my attention.

This struck me as quite a feat because the flask by itself was rather heavy. I said: 'Cool. Neat trick.'

But now that I was paying attention, nothing else happened. I did think it odd that the empty IXL jam jar sitting on the edge of the sink was not moved at all. Like someone was taking care not to break anything.

The following morning, my cousin from Singapore emailed that my much-loved Aunty May had passed away in Hong Kong. Allowing for the time difference, I estimated that it was close to the time I saw the items moving at the kitchen sink.

Aunty May was my mother's eldest sister, who had been like a second mother to her when they were growing up in post-War Singapore. She had been a strong-willed personality, a vibrant spirit and full of energy. Her actions had always been sincere and her advice down-to-earth.

A wave of sadness came over me as I was sitting at my laptop, thinking how much she would be missed. Then, I smelled sandalwood.

The scent of sandalwood always makes me think of a Buddhist temple, meditation and things of the spirit. As if someone had lit incense sticks to pray at a shrine or family altar. But as far as I know, none of my neighbours would be burning incense.

It comforts me to think that Aunty May came back to say goodbye.

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

Jubeele (21 stories) (835 posts)
 
4 days ago (2020-10-26)
Hi Fenrispro, my Mum is the same with the 7th Month. She's not a Buddhist, but still observes the taboos. I remember being chastised for travelling overseas during this period as she considered it 'bad luck'. I'm quite sure the shadow person was not my aunt, as she wouldn't have caused any harm to us. It didn't feel at all like her. Furthermore, that shadow incident was a few days before she passed away.

My husband, Rex knows of two women who died of natural causes (at different times) in our building some time ago. Another woman died in a vehicle accident just up the road three years ago. Most of the time, I don't notice anything odd happening during the Ghost Month. But this year has been unusually active. My theory is that the pandemic has caused much pain and suffering to many people, which created much negative energy. Maybe it attracted a wandering spirit who came to make mischief, but was told to go away. I just hope it didn't go off to cause trouble elsewhere!

Stay safe and well over there in Singapore.
Fenrispro (51 posts)
+1
5 days ago (2020-10-25)
Oh a new one! I hate the 7th month, I'm christian but my parents always go into the taboos of what not to do, and even have to rush to take in laundry outside.
Hmm but if it was your aunt why would she cause pain to u?

Sometimes I watch US paranormal shows, like the more evil entities / demons would cause hurt.
Jubeele (21 stories) (835 posts)
+6
1 week ago (2020-10-20)
MrRiggs - That was rather strange about the watch, phone calls, among other incidents. You've received your share of messages. But then again, I believe that love finds a way to reach us from beyond the Veil. One of my favourite quotes goes: "Death is not extinguishing the light; it is only putting out the lamp because the dawn has come." - Rabindranath Tagore

When the time comes to put out my lamp, I hope to greet the dawn with no regrets but light in my heart, and be met by loved ones who have gone before to brighten the way.

Melda - Oh yes, I now tell my niece what Aunty May taught us - the value of Vitamins. 😊 One of my fondest memories is sharing a pot of jasmine tea with her over exotic dim sum delicacies, at her favourite Chinese restaurant in Hong Kong. The scent of sandalwood now holds extra special significance for me.
MrRiggs (7 stories) (100 posts)
+6
2 weeks ago (2020-10-19)
While I can offer nothing regarding sheet-tugging spirits, I am familiar with spiritual visitations.

I just noticed how difficult it is to write about this. It is one thing to provide input, it becomes quite another when remembering our dead loved ones.

There is no doubt in my mind that Aunt May stopped by. Visitations are relatively common place. Leaving or providing scents is a well recognized method of communication used by the dead. Another is stopping watches or other time pieces.

I often spoke to my cousin's husband about my near death (like) experience. He was polite but wasn't buying it. His time came and he passed with his eldest son at his side. The young man recorded the exact time of his passing and I soon learned the details. Later, I found my battery powered wristwatch stopped at the exact time of his death. Though we were not close, it was his way if showing me dead is not really dead. He made it from a hospital in Dayton, Ohio to my home in rural Kentucky to leave his calling card. Once out of body, distance is meaningless.

Scarier is that I saw that watch just a few days ago and it was running just fine. It had been stopped for 4 or 5 years. That seems a little spooky. Maybe my clock is ticking...

A couple of years ago I smelled my father's scent. It was a mixture of residual cigarette smoke and after shave. He was a very unpleasant man and this minor encounter was a bit unnerving. It may have come about because I had begun praying for the welfare if his soul.

My dead mother kissed my wife on the forehead the night after she died. We were sleeping in her bed at the time. That certainly got my wife's attention. I could hear the fear in her voice.

A friend has twice received telephone calls from the dead that were unintelligible.

The dead are not nearly so dead as we tend to think when we stand at their graveside. Theirs is just a long-term out of body experience as we wait for what comes next.

That your beloved Aunt May stopped by just after passing is no surprise. Love triumphs over the grave. She stopped in to show you all is well. How gracious a gift to show you that you need not grieve too deeply.

Condolences over the passing over the loss of your loved one. But let your hear be not troubled. The dead are not nearly as dead as we seem to think.
Melda (10 stories) (1324 posts)
+3
2 weeks ago (2020-10-18)
Jubeele - Thanks for the link to the ghost month taboos, really interesting.

Haha, Vitamin M, Aunty May certainly knew on which side the bread needs to be buttered 😆

Regards, Melda
Jubeele (21 stories) (835 posts)
+3
2 weeks ago (2020-10-18)
Lealeigh, I'm reminded of the following quote on the sense of smell Fergie left me on one of my accounts, 'Disturbed By The Spirits':
"Of all of the five senses which we humans are blessed with, the sense of smell is perhaps the most spontaneous. It is also the most strongly connected of the senses to the areas of the brain that process memory, meaning that even the smallest whiff of a smell that you had previously connected to a certain place can bring you back to that place in mere moments..."

I've wondered why that shadow thing was messing with my feet. Maybe it was trying to drag me off but the bed, but I was too heavy! I did feel a sense of malice and mischief, and it was something unwelcome. Keeping a journal about these incidents has made me more aware of spirit guardians. It has been interesting to note the things that have happened. Once, I'd discount them as mere coincidences, but there have been so many of them. Even Rex now admits that Someone watches over us.

I feel blessed to have this experience with Aunty May and that I could share it on YGS. Glad you enjoyed it.
Lealeigh (5 stories) (497 posts)
+6
2 weeks ago (2020-10-18)
Hi Jubeele!

It is uplifting that your Aunty May came to visit you. I always wonder how there are many times that scents can accompany an encounter. It's like physical matter is being added; because, as I understand the sense of smell, small particles of matter are collected when we breathe and then are interpreted by our brain. Weird.

It's curious to me that both of your feet were affected. I wonder why that thing was in your room. I think your dream came to you because that thing was messing with your right foot too and it only woke you up after it grabbed your left foot.

This is a cool story. I'm glad there was someone there to protect you.

- Maria
Jubeele (21 stories) (835 posts)
+4
2 weeks ago (2020-10-16)
Melda, I remember your account of what happened at your childhood home, involving some form of shetani or malevolent entity. That was really frightening - no wonder you still have nightmares about it. When I woke up from the dream of my childhood home, it was creepy to find that figure next to the bed. Thank God, someone was looking after me.

It's true that some of these traditions and beliefs have rubbed-off on me. Rex has pointed out that I insist that we wash our feet after being outdoors. Apart from the hygiene aspect, it is a water cleansing ritual meant to wash away the trail and deter any wandering spirit from following us home.

During the Ghost Month, my traditional-minded Mum would remind us of the taboos to observe: 😨
Https://fengshuibeginner.com/hungry-ghost-month-taboos/

Aunty May was more modern in her thinking. Decades ago, when I split from my ex, she said: "My dear, a woman must always make sure to have Vitamin M." She meant money and the importance of being financially secure to be truly independent. No playing helpless damsel or waiting to be rescued. It was empowering. We were very blessed to have known Aunty May. 😘
Melda (10 stories) (1324 posts)
+3
2 weeks ago (2020-10-16)
Jubeele - In and around the Ghost Month, The King of Hell! You might not have had that belief system but you were part of an environment which strongly believed it. It isn't impossible that it might still have a "rub-off" effect on you.

I think what you experienced might very well have been real because there was physical evidence.

To this day I still have dreams about my childhood home and there is always a ghost or two involved. I must admit though that those are just dreams, probably because of the trauma of the hauntings I experienced there.

Oh Aunty May! I commiserate with you. She will never leave you and your family. And there she was "helping" in the kitchen because she knew that you would sense her. Lucky you!

I love your comment about her and Uncle Graeme enjoying tea with scones and chocolate muffins.

Regards, Melda
Jubeele (21 stories) (835 posts)
+5
2 weeks ago (2020-10-16)
SWS - You're right about the shiver, Miandra. I actually went cold when I read the email. My first reaction was that it was all a mistake. Aunty May was supposed be around for many more years and live to a 100! Their eldest sister, from the First Wife, made it to 99... But it's a reminder to make the most of the moments you have with loved ones. Especially in these uncertain times. Rex and I hope you're keeping safe and staying well in your neck of the woods. Thank you for your kind words.

Helvetica - I think all of us would have our share of love and loss. I do believe it was Aunty May. It felt like her, as if she was standing there, smiling at me. In much the same way as your mother knew it was grandma when she smelled the carnations. It was lovely, knowing that loved ones came to say goodbye. Thank you for joining YGS to share your experience and kind thoughts.

Lady-glow - Sandalwood is one of my favourite scents too. Along with frankincense, it's something I would use in cleansing. Heaven would come with packets of chocolate Tim Tams that never run out. Aunty May would be there, sipping Chinese tea and telling stories of her days working at the university in Hong Kong, her travels around the world and Uncle Graeme's exploits. He was a retired major from the British army. I can visualize Uncle Graeme and Aunty May enjoying cups of tea together, with buttered scones and chocolate muffins. Thanks for coming by.
lady-glow (13 stories) (2714 posts)
+4
2 weeks ago (2020-10-16)
Hi Jubeele.

I'm sorry for your loss.

It seems like Aunt May stopped by to say her goodbyes and to let you know that she's at peace.
Sandalwood has such a calming and relaxing aroma that, I'm sure, heaven smells of sandalwood and chocolate muffins.

Nice to hear from you, thanks for sharing.
Helvetica (1 posts)
+3
2 weeks ago (2020-10-15)
Hi Jubeele,

First of all this is my virgin post, I read your story and had to write. The first part was very interesting, however it was the second part that rang a bell with me. I'm sorry to hear of the passing of your Aunt May, she sounds like a wonderful person. I also believe that it was she who visited you. Scents are an important part of our lives and can trigger good and bad memories. I remember my mother telling me that after her grandma died my mom was alone in her childhood home and suddenly she was over whelmed be the scent of carrnations, her grandma's favorite flower. My mom "knew" it was her beloved grandma. I love the scent of sandlewood and think this would be a lovely way for your Aunt to say a final goodbye.
Sleeping-with-steve (8 stories) (459 posts)
+2
2 weeks ago (2020-10-15)
Hello Jubeele,
I'm so sorry for your loss. Covid19 makes it difficult on so many levels.
It must be hard not being able to go to your Aunty Mays funeral. Your Aunty May obviously loved you dearly and couldn't leave without saying goodbye to you.
Such a sad post. I felt a shiver down my back towards the end when I read how you got an email from your cousin in Singapore telling you what happened.
My thoughts are with you Jubeele.😭
Best wishes to you and Rex-T. 😘
SWS
Jubeele (21 stories) (835 posts)
+5
2 weeks ago (2020-10-15)
Rex - Wish you could have seen the bottles moving. Maybe Someone was giving a newbie spirit a lesson, along the lines: "This is how you do it. Now, you try." Which would explain the second display of moving bottles. That was the impression that came to me.

Aunty May was a force to be reckoned with. Fiercely independent, at a time when women were expected to be meek and demure. I can just see her rearranging the whole kitchen until things were to her satisfaction! The Hungry Ghost Festival celebrates filial piety, and paying our respects to family and those who have gone before.

Val - Aunty May would have visited the temple on certain occasions in the past. She and Mum shared the same mother, both from the Second Wife. Their family hierarchy was traditional, almost feudal. Think of the Chinese classic 'Dream of the Red Chamber', Houloumeng 红楼梦. Grandmother followed Buddhist/Taoist beliefs. I remember she had a family altar with joss sticks. Sandalwood reminds me of departed family and loved ones, and paying our respects to them.

With all the travel restrictions in place, we couldn't even attend her funeral and that was really hard. But the family managed to get the service Zoomed across the world to the rest of the clan. Like Aunty May, we found a way to visit and pay our respects.

Ruskin - Brother 'Brat', you'd have enjoyed talking to Aunty May. She lived through 'interesting' times of tumultuous change: Singapore under colonial rule, WWII and the Occupation, the Handover of Hong Kong and the more recent demonstrations.

The Ghost Month is the seventh Lunar month, usually between August and September. In the Northern Hemisphere, this would be the end of summer and the start of autumn or fall. I've read about the ancient Celtic concept that spirits could slip through 'betwixt and between', and there are various thresholds in space and time. I've wondered if these festivals marked some threshold during periods of seasonal change. The end of summer, start of autumn and preparing for winter. Thus, the barriers between worlds are thinner at such times, allowing for otherworldly events to occur. But under certain circumstances and only to a few?

Https://www.gerrymaguirethompson.com/the-ancient-celtic-concept-of-thresholds-in-time-and-place/
RCRuskin (8 stories) (642 posts)
+4
2 weeks ago (2020-10-14)
Interesting. And reading this story, I was thinking 'I should share this with my honorary sister'... Well, OK then!

So many cultures have traditions about the dead visiting the world of the living at this time of year. I wonder what happened so many millennia ago when humanity was still a young species on this planet; what was witnessed?
valkricry (45 stories) (3099 posts) mod
+6
2 weeks ago (2020-10-14)
Curious, did Aunty May burn sandalwood perhaps?
With the timing of everything, it certainly seems as if it could have been her paying a visit.
Rex-T (5 stories) (273 posts)
+5
2 weeks ago (2020-10-14)
Jubeele and All,

I've got to say that Aunty May was a beautiful person and very forthright in her views.

Although I missed the rearrangement of bottles and containers on our kitchen bench, I laughed when picturing Aunty May pushing her diminutive frame to the front of the bench and putting "things" in their right place.

I've heard that the Hungry Ghost Month can also be a time of reconciliation with those that have passed.

Rex-T

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