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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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