Ghost Moon and Hungry Ghosts

A New Earth 2016 wall calendar

A New Earth 2016 wall calendar features quotes from Eckart Tolle’s #1 New York Times best-selling book. Karangetang (Api Siau) volcano erupting, North Sulawesi, Indonesia. © Jurgen Freund / npl / Minden Pictures.

The full moon of the seventh lunar month is known as the Ghost Moon by Buddhists and Taoists in China and other Asian countries. This year, it falls on Saturday, August 29. It is the time when the doors between the afterworld and this world are open and the souls of the departed return to earth to spend time with their loved ones.

People make paper representations of food, clothing, cars, and televisions, and burn them to provide the souls with the items they might need in the afterlife. Families gather for a feast and set aside a plate and an empty chair for each family member who has died.

Shops are closed in the evening but an altar with incense, offerings, and food might be set up in the middle of the street. Lanterns and lotus boats (candles set upon the broad leaves of the lilies) are set adrift on rivers to show the ghosts how to get back home.

A Buddhist story from India that arrived in China in the fourth century tells the story of the Buddhist monk Maudgalyāyana. He was clairvoyant and used his talent to find out what happened to his parents after their deaths. He found that his father was in the heavenly realm (with the gods) but his mother was trapped in a lower realm, known as the Realm of the Hungry Ghosts, because she had been greedy during her life.

Hungry ghosts were pictured as beings with thin necks, such that they could barely swallow food, and swollen bellies because they were always hungry. The Buddha told Maudgalyāyana how to help his mother escape from this realm by setting out food for her, blessing the food seven times, and then tipping it to the ground as an offering.

During the Ghost Festival, special rituals are performed at temples to honor the Hungry Ghosts, those souls who do not have families, and special altars are set up in public places to feed them.

The corresponding festival in Japan is Obon (which is celebrated on July 15 or August 15, depending on the region). And the corresponding festival in Catholicism is All Souls’ Day (November 2), when praying for the souls of the departed helps release them from purgatory, a belief that later influenced the colorful celebration of Day of the Dead in Mexico.

Waverly FitzgeraldWaverly Fitzgerald is a writer, teacher, and calendar priestess who has studied the lore of holidays and the secrets of time for decades. She shares her research and her thoughts on her Living in Season website and in her book, Slow Time. She is currently working on a series of essays about looking for nature in the city and blogs for the Seattle PI as the “Urban Naturalist.”



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Artist Spotlight — Sue Zipkin

Be Here Now 2016 wall calendar featuring timeless quotes from Ram Dass and Sue's artwork.

Be Here Now 2016 wall calendar featuring timeless quotes from Ram Dass with Sue’s colorful artwork. Click image to see more.

We had the pleasure of having an Q&A with illustrator Sue Zipkin. She is new to our family of contributors sharing her delightful artwork for our Ram Dass series of greeting cards and the Be Here Now 2016 wall calendar. ~ Amber Lotus

How would you define your signature style?
Playful. Colorful. Sophisticated. Whimsical.

What other designers, music, and books inspire you?
William Morris is one of my faves, along with Gustav Klimt and Designers Guild. I love children’s book illustrations. I’m inspired by my contemporary artist friends and colleagues, too numerous to name. I love handcrafted styles; elegant, intricate patterns; Bohemian-flavored fabric; Indian and Persian motifs; bright colors; and patterns found in nature. I don’t read many books because of my dyslexia, but I enjoy listening to podcasts online while I work. Continue reading

Weaver Woman Festival

Women of Myth & Magic 2016 wall calendar

Image from the Women of Myth & Magic 2016 wall calendar featuring artwork by Kinuko Y. Craft. Click image to see more.

The seventh day of the seventh moon (August 20 this year) is the day in China for celebrating the love story of the weaver maid and the cowherd. The legend tells of two lovers — Zhinu, the weaver maid, represented by the bright star Vega, and Niulang, the cowherd, represented by the star Altair — who are separated by the Silver River (the Milky Way), but on this one day of the year a bridge of magpies allows them to cross the river and spend time together. Continue reading

Artist Spotlight — Adam Rhine

Hebrew Illuminations 2016 wall calendar

Images from the Hebrew Illuminations 2016 wall calendar. Click image to see more.

Adam Rhine has been creating ornate, highly detailed Judaic watercolor paintings since 1999. His style is heavily influenced by medieval illuminated manuscripts, and he combines that inspiration with modern palettes and aesthetics.

Born in Chicago in 1970, Rhine was an incessant doodler and cartoonist. At age eleven, he decided to pursue art. He graduated with a BFA in commercial illustration from Northern Illinois University at age 22, and a jury awarded him the opportunity for a one-man show of abstract paintings during his senior year. He married Karen, a classmate and fellow illustrator, soon after graduation.

In his professional life, he has animated educational videos, coordinated the 2-D/3-D animation department for a video game company, and executed web design and e-learning development for major corporations.

Rhine has been interviewed by the Hallmark Channel and the Chicago Tribune to discuss his artwork and inspirations. His designs have also been featured on the covers of the Texas Jewish Post, Kashrus Magazine, Chadashot Magazine, and Jewish Exponent.

More than 30 of Rhine’s beautifully illustrated ketubot (Jewish wedding contracts) are featured at, the largest manufacturer of personalized artistic ketubot in North America.

Rhine’s hardcover art book, Hebrew Illuminations, is a collection of all 22 Hebrew illuminated letters as well as 22 of his most well-known Magen David paintings. It also includes art from his sketchbook and text descriptions of the meaning behind each design. His artwork illustrates the covers and chapters in the three-book educational series Celebrating the Jewish Year by Paul Steinberg. Continue reading