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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.
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.
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.
‘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.