Category Archives: The Hungry Ghost

Trading Card Tuesday

Two weeks ago last Tuesday, we sallied forth into the world to distribute our Hungry Ghost Trading Cards. We did not want to be overly ambitious our first time out, so only a few destinations were planned.

We had high hopes that our cards would attract attention.

They did.

But not exactly the kind of attention we expected.

But I am getting ahead of myself, so I will backup a bit and tell the story properly.

I have wanted to create trading cards for years. But, the printing was always too expensive. Recently, however, I figured out that they could be printed as 5×7 postcards then cut into quarters to yield four trading cards per postcard.

Seemed easy enough having done a fair number of postcards and other similar print materials in the past. So, we decided to use our Hungry Ghost Festival project to field test our very own collection of unique trading cards.

The Hungry Ghost Trading Cards were specifically designed to promote this website as well as our growing catalog of esoteric electronic books available in the iTunes Bookstore including The Hungry Ghost, Hungry Ghost Stories and the Hungry Ghost Guide.

We had the idea that we could leave a stack of them at places where people leave business cards, and they would be so attractive that everyone who saw one would take one home.

We created nifty joss paper decorated card holders to pin to bulletin boards. Each card holder was stuffed with nine trading cards. We planned on six stops that Tuesday morning. Stops 1 through 3 went as planned.

Stop 4  was a coffee shop in one of the more “hip” parts of town.

The posting of the cards in the holder happened in a bit of a clandestine fashion as it seemed to just suddenly appear out of nowhere pinned on the wall right above the sugar and cream bar.


Within minutes, one of the baristas spotted the card holder, walking up to it with interest. The interest instantly morphed into disgust. “How terrible. Where did this come from?” A co-worker approached, mystified but not really upset.

“Did YOU put this here? Who put this here? Should I take it down?” The co-worker made some remark about a ghost and in an instant, the card holder and all nine trading cards were taken down and disappeared around the coffee bar.

It occurred to me then just how personal all this is – the whole concept of the hungry ghost, or even just the notion of ghosts themselves. Ghosts are, after all,  dead people.

Most people would rather not think of death. Especially in mainstream America… where death is a necessary evil that one contends with only when no one else will, the business of the funeral, the cemetery, the metaphoric wiping of the hands as one turns and walks away.

Hungry Ghost Month is not about getting the job done. It is about honoring the lives and deaths of those who lived before us and among us.

It is about us.

And that it is mighty personal.

The Hunger


What makes a hungry ghost?

They are not the norm. The ghost spirits of most people are believed to dissipate quietly into a second death, but not so the hungry ghosts. They live on and on, tormented by a hunger that cannot be fed. In the seventh lunar month of the year, the gates of hell are opened, and they are let loose to roam the world until those gates are again closed for another year.

So what do these ghosts hunger for?

Some ghosts are left hungry for love and are driven by their loneliness. Their hearts are as empty as their bellies. Spirits who have been abandoned by their families and ancestors who are no longer venerated become hungry ghosts.

Other spirits become hungry ghosts as a result of their evil deeds motivated by fear, greed, anger or ignorance. These are the ghosts of those who are being punished.

Some ghosts are left hungry for justice. Unfair circumstances snatch their lives, oftentimes abruptly as when an airplane is crashed into your office building or an atomic bomb is dropped on your city on an otherwise ordinary day.

What does a hungry ghost most need?  Respect. But offering respect to a hungry ghost first requires time to develop an understanding of that ghost, without which there is nothing to respect other than the ghost of an idea.