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Devo­tees muti­late their faces with swords, knives and WRENCHES to puri­fy them­selves and take on the sins of their com­mu­ni­ty in Thai­land

Dozens of male devo­tees could be seen parad­ing down the streets of in Phuket, Thai­land with every­thing from knives and swords to meat skew­ers, wrench­es and petrol pumps pierc­ing their cheeks as part of a local fes­ti­val.

The annu­al Phuket Veg­e­tar­i­an Fes­ti­val cel­e­brates the local Chi­nese com­mu­ni­ty’s belief that refrain­ing from meat and oth­er indul­gences such as drink­ing and gam­bling will bring them luck and good health.

Par­tic­i­pants on the island — which has a size­able Chi­nese pop­u­la­tion — go above and beyond dur­ing the rit­u­al­is­tic acts which they believe will cleanse the com­mu­ni­ty of its sins.

That looks painful: A devotee of the Loem Hu Thai Su shrine parades with two wrenches pierced through his cheek during the annual Vegetarian Festival in Phuket
That looks painful: A devo­tee of the Loem Hu Thai Su shrine parades with two wrench­es pierced through his cheek dur­ing the annu­al Veg­e­tar­i­an Fes­ti­val in Phuket
Skewered: The festival sees religious devotees slashing themselves with swords, piercing their cheeks with sharp objects and committing other painful acts to purify themselves, taking on the sins of the community
Skew­ered: The fes­ti­val sees reli­gious devo­tees slash­ing them­selves with swords, pierc­ing their cheeks with sharp objects and com­mit­ting oth­er painful acts to puri­fy them­selves, tak­ing on the sins of the com­mu­ni­ty
Finding use for the meat knives: The Vegetarian Festival, which sees devotees of the Loem Hu Thai Su shrine in Phuket cut themselves, begins on the first evening of the ninth lunar month and lasts for nine days
Find­ing use for the meat knives: The Veg­e­tar­i­an Fes­ti­val, which sees devo­tees of the Loem Hu Thai Su shrine in Phuket cut them­selves, begins on the first evening of the ninth lunar month and lasts for nine days

The Phuket Veg­e­tar­i­an Fes­ti­val takes place dur­ing the Taoist ‘Nine Emper­or Gods’ cel­e­bra­tion — which is held all over south­east Asia, dur­ing the first nine days of the ninth lunar month of the Chi­nese cal­en­dar.

It dates back to 1825, accord­ing to local folk­lore, when a vis­it­ing Chi­nese opera troupe fell ill, and improved their health by adopt­ing a veg­e­tar­i­an diet and car­ry­ing out Taoist rit­u­als.

To this day, devo­tees car­ry out these painful rit­u­als as they believe it will puri­fy them and see them take on the sins on their com­mu­ni­ty.

Slasher: This devotee held his tongue against an axe, while shaking his head back and forth and thereby cutting his tongue on an axe, his blood dripping down his front, as he walks by the shrine
Slash­er: This devo­tee held his tongue against an axe, while shak­ing his head back and forth and there­by cut­ting his tongue on an axe, his blood drip­ping down his front, as he walks by the shrine
Many work themselves into a trance before piercing their cheeks, which is said to combat the pain
Many work them­selves into a trance before pierc­ing their cheeks, which is said to com­bat the pain
Pierced: A man winces in pain as more than a dozen skewers are inserted through his cheeks
Pierced: A man winces in pain as more than a dozen skew­ers are insert­ed through his cheeks
Each to their own: This devotee appears to have some kind of plastic took shoved through a hole in his cheek
Each to their own: This devo­tee appears to have some kind of plas­tic took shoved through a hole in his cheek
Body mutilation: Another man has a series of fringed needles stuck through his chin, shoulders and arms
Body muti­la­tion: Anoth­er man has a series of fringed nee­dles stuck through his chin, shoul­ders and arms

The fes­ti­val did not take place last year because of a lengthy mourn­ing peri­od fol­low­ing the death of the Thai king in Octo­ber 2016, but on Fri­day it was back in full swing.

One man stuck two wrench­es through his right cheek, while anoth­er shook his head side to side and cut his tongue with an axe blade, blood drip­ping down his chest.

A fish­ing rod, anchor and part of a palm leaf were also put to use, as fes­ti­val-goers marched in pro­ces­sions with the items pok­ing out of their mouths.

Gory: Other devotees paraded down the street while cutting themselves, covered in their own blood
Gory: Oth­er devo­tees parad­ed down the street while cut­ting them­selves, cov­ered in their own blood
Novelty pain: One man appeared to have cut holes in his cheeks before stuffing two large candles through them
Nov­el­ty pain: One man appeared to have cut holes in his cheeks before stuff­ing two large can­dles through them
Open wide: This person had managed to fit no more than nine large knives through the side of his face
Open wide: This per­son had man­aged to fit no more than nine large knives through the side of his face
A devotee of the Loem Hu Thai Su shrine has a metal rod pierced through his cheek during the annual Vegetarian Festival
A devo­tee of the Loem Hu Thai Su shrine has a met­al rod pierced through his cheek dur­ing the annu­al Veg­e­tar­i­an Fes­ti­val
Anything goes: A man with dozens of needles piercing his arms has pushed a metal jug through his cheek
Any­thing goes: A man with dozens of nee­dles pierc­ing his arms has pushed a met­al jug through his cheek
That's devotion: A man's head is being held in place while large knives is being pushed through his cheeks
That’s devo­tion: A man’s head is being held in place while large knives is being pushed through his cheeks
Back with a bang: The Vegetarian Festival did not take place last year because of a lengthy mourning period following the death of the Thai king in October 2016
Back with a bang: The Veg­e­tar­i­an Fes­ti­val did not take place last year because of a lengthy mourn­ing peri­od fol­low­ing the death of the Thai king in Octo­ber 2016
Full use: A young man has pushed both the ceremonial sword and the weapon's cover through his cheek
Full use: A young man has pushed both the cer­e­mo­ni­al sword and the weapon’s cov­er through his cheek
Modern pain: A man is seen walking down the street with a gas-pump nozzel pierced through his cheek
Mod­ern pain: A man is seen walk­ing down the street with a gas-pump nozzel pierced through his cheek

The pierced men are the deities who descend down to Earth to show their mir­a­cles, and the pierc­ing means that the deities suf­fer so that peo­ple’s sins are cleansed,’ said Path­om­pong Rean­thong, 24, one of the organ­is­ers.

The key to this fes­ti­val is for the peo­ple to observe the reli­gious pre­cepts, and rid them­selves of meat con­sump­tion. It’s actu­al­ly a fes­ti­val to ward off bad luck,’ he added.

Many work them­selves into a trance before pierc­ing, which is said to numb the pain. Par­tic­i­pants are expect­ed not to eat meat dur­ing the fes­ti­val.

The festival dates back to 1825, when, according to local folklore, a visiting Chinese opera troupe fell ill
The fes­ti­val dates back to 1825, when, accord­ing to local folk­lore, a vis­it­ing Chi­nese opera troupe fell ill
The Chinese troupe reportedly and improved their health by adopting a vegetarian diet and carrying out Taoist rituals
The Chi­nese troupe report­ed­ly and improved their health by adopt­ing a veg­e­tar­i­an diet and car­ry­ing out Taoist rit­u­als
The Taoist "Nine Emperor Gods" event held on the holiday island of Phuket, began October 9 and coincides with observances of Chinese communities across the region 
The Taoist “Nine Emper­or Gods” event held on the hol­i­day island of Phuket, began Octo­ber 9 and coin­cides with obser­vances of Chi­nese com­mu­ni­ties across the region 
As burning incense fills the air, devotees in trances force skewers and swords through their cheeks in ritualistic acts
As burn­ing incense fills the air, devo­tees in trances force skew­ers and swords through their cheeks in rit­u­al­is­tic acts
Thorny issue: A man parades down the street with two large flower bouquets sticking out of his face 
Thorny issue: A man parades down the street with two large flower bou­quets stick­ing out of his face 
Locals believe the men taking part in the piercing rituals become gods descending down to Earth, and by piercing themselves with objects they  purify themselves, taking on the sins of the community
Locals believe the men tak­ing part in the pierc­ing rit­u­als become gods descend­ing down to Earth, and by pierc­ing them­selves with objects they  puri­fy them­selves, tak­ing on the sins of the com­mu­ni­ty

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