Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Ghost Marriage : In sickness & in health.. or even after death?

In China, death doesn’t necessarily stop one from getting married. In the Chinese tradition of ghost marriage, one or both of the parties are dead. Chinese ghost marriage was usually set up by the family of the deceased and performed for a number of reasons, including: the marriage of a couple previously engaged before one member’s death, to integrate an unmarried daughter into a patrilineage,  to ensure the family line is continued,  or to maintain that no younger brother is married before an elder brother. 
Article Shared From Neatorama: 

There are many practical reasons to marry a dead spouse. For example, when an unmarried woman has no children to take care of her in old age, she can be "married" into another family. If a son died before he has descendants, his parents can arrange a ghost marriage to provide a "wife" who remains chaste, as a pretext to adopt a grandson to continue the family line. Another reason is to give the deceased a "spouse and companion" in the afterlife.

How is a ghost marriage performed?

Singapore Paranormal Investigators has the story:

Next, the priest empowered the East Gate with a lighted joss paper folded in the shape of a cone, which is also known as the "fire brush". Soon after this, the priest struck the paper gate three times with the sword and declared the gate to be opened at his order. At the same time, the family members were to shout out the name of the deceased. Finally, the priest declared, "From the East Gate, out you come" The whole atmosphere became very tense as the ceremony was going on. After the "destruction" of all the gates, the priest took a paper effigy out from the centre of the squared shape model. This meant that the spirit had been rescued from the gates of hell.

The paper effigy was placed in front of the altar by the priest. Beside the paper effigy, there was another effigy which was much taller and larger in size. Madam Tham continued to explain to SPI, "The paper effigy which was just rescued from hell represents the current state of the spirit, she carries the illness and sufferings she had when she was alive. The much larger paper effigy next to her represents the healthier form. The priest will soon heal her spirit and she will regain her original healthy form again."

The ceremony: Presiding Taoist priest Lu Rong Xin lights up incense straws in front of paper effigies of the bridal couple.
The pair of white-faced lovers are then prayed over and manipulated like large Barbie dolls,  bent over to take their vows in front of temple gods.
Photos - Singapore Paranormal Investigators

Requests from the afterworld
Ghost marriages are often set up by request of the spirit of the deceased, who, upon "finding itself without a spouse in the other world," causes misfortune for its natal family, the family of its betrothed,  or for the family of the deceased’s married sisters. "This usually takes the form of sickness by one or more family members. When the sickness is not cured by ordinary means, the family turns to divination and learns of the plight of the ghost through a séance."

More benignly, a spirit may appear to a family member in a dream and request a spouse. Marjorie Topley, in "Ghost Marriages Among the Singapore Chinese: A Further Note," relates the story of one fourteen-year old Cantonese boy who died. A month later he appeared to his mother in a dream saying that he wished to marry a girl who had recently died in Ipoh, Perak. The son did not reveal her name, but his mother used a Cantonese female spirit medium and "through her the boy gave the name of the girl together with her place of birth and age, and details of her horoscope which were subsequently found to be compatible with his.

Other instances of ghost marriage

Because Chinese custom dictates that younger brothers should not marry before their elder brothers, a ghost marriage for an older, deceased brother may be arranged just prior to a younger brother’s wedding to avoid "incurring the disfavour of his brother’s ghost."  Additionally, in the days of immigration, ghost marriages were used as a means to "cement a bond of friendship between two families." However, there have been no recent cases reported.

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