On Ghost Marriages: An Interview With A Funeral Director
Time has a funny way of moving, or not moving this year. It seems like almost a lifetime ago when Mimossa and I’s paths crossed.
Mimossa made an impression at once. She does that. After all, she is a bubbly, charming, dignified auntie and a funeral director.
She is also almost always dressed in a myriad of colours, in an eclectic fashion with many beaded necklaces around her neck. Her signature oversized spectacles make her look like a refined owl. She also sports earrings with semi-precious stones in them. Definitely not what one pictures when one pictures a funeral director.
Because it is the 7th lunar month, I talk to her about ghost marriage, which is known as [冥婚] or [阴婚] in Chinese.
Here is my interview with her, which has been condensed for clarity.
Spotted Media = S
Mimosa = M
S: Good morning, Mimossa! Can you tell me about your experience in this line?
M: Good morning! I have been in the funeral industry for nearly 20 years.
S: When you were new to the job, what did you understand by the term “ghost marriage”?
M: It’s the process of finding a partner for the deceased. Sometimes, two people who have passed on are wedded together. Sometimes, a living person is wedded to one that has passed on.
S: Why does the decedent’s family choose to perform “ghost marriage”?
M: Sometimes when a member of the family who is of suitable age passes away, they will also want to look for a partner, just like living people. If fate wills it, we will choose a suitable date, with the help of a mipo [米婆] or lingmei [灵媒] to perform the ghost marriage.
Credit: Marjorie Topley
Another reason for performing ghost marriage is to unite a couple when one half of a couple passes on due to sickness or accident. Because of the deep love that existed between them, the surviving partner decides to marry the now deceased partner to fulfil their wishes of being together.
S: You said you’ve witnessed 3 instances of ghost marriage. When was that?
M: 1996, 2006 and 2015.
S: What were the ages of the couples?
M: The first pair were a miscarried male child and a young girl of about 10 who had passed away due to sickness.
The second pair was an aborted male fetus and the girl child… I don’t remember.
The third pair was a male child of around 10 and a girl of around 4 who passed away due to illness.
S: When they were still alive, did they know that their families had plans to arrange their marriages?
M: No, they did not.
Credit: Alina Tang
S: How is ghost marriage performed?
M: Ghost marriages must be performed by a mipo [米婆]. A good date must be chosen. Family from both sides must be with the mipo to witness the marriage and affirm their support for both bride and groom. The whole process takes an hour or so. Sutras must also be chanted.
S: What is a mipo?
M: A mipo is one who is someone you consult regarding all matters of yin. If you need to conduct affairs that are related to the dead or underworld, you look for a mipo. They are also known as a lingmei [灵媒].
Writer’s note: In a Chinese language news article Mimosa sent me regarding the ways of the mipo, it describes them as the representatives of the ghosts and gods.
S: What is needed for Ghost Marriage?
M: First of all, it’s quite costly. A few thousand dollars is not unheard of. Offerings must also be made. Such as a paper mansion, gold and silver ingots, furniture and maybe even a pair of servants.
S: The practice of ghost marriage, does it belong to any specific Chinese clan? Or is it just a Chinese custom, in general?
M: It is a Chinese custom.
S: Now that you have a lot more experience in this area, what else have you learnt about ghost marriage?
M: Of course, in the past I had a very incomplete understanding of ghost marriage. Now that I know more, I can say that it is not too different from the marriages for the living performed above ground.
S: Thank you Mimossa, for taking time out of your very busy schedule to share your experiences with us.
What have you learnt about ghost marriage today? Were you aware that the custom is still practiced in Singapore today?