The equivalent of Halloween in China is Hungry Ghost Festival. Buddhists believe “hungry ghosts” are beings from the dead (ancestors, deceased loved ones) who return to the living in order to quench their unfulfilled hunger. The living welcome them back with a festival of food and drink to assuage their suffering. Children release miniature paper boats and lanterns on water to help the lost ghosts find their way. Western culture isn’t as friendly or forgiving. Our instinct is to kill zombies if they arise from the dead, like the mindless Inferi of Harry Potter books. And we cheer when “acromantulas” – giant eight-eyed hairy spiders – are slayed by a spell that Harry casts. It comes as no surprise that author J.K. Rowling is arachnophobic.
There’s a reason why we associate spiders with Halloween, and it’s not just because so many of us are easily spooked by them (50% of women and 10% of men are said to show symptoms of arachnophobia). October is peak season for Mother Nature’s eight legged creepy crawlers. Most populous in the U.S. are Common House Spiders and Daddy Long Legs. Male spiders wander at night in search of some tangled female touch. They mate for a few days, the male dies and then the female (provoked by grief, no doubt) eats him.