TRUE LIFE STORY: See Thailand Vegetarian Festival Where Swords Are Used In Face-Piercing
Sept. 18, 2020
Things like Swords, knives and badminton rackets were among an array of objects pushed through Taoist worshippers' cheeks as Thailand's annual Vegetarian Festival got underway.
Also known as the Nine Emperor gods Festival, the event begins in Phuket on the first evening of the ninth Chinese Lunar month each year and takes place for nine days.
Many religious devotees slash themselves with swords and pierce their cheeks with sharp skewers for the festival, alongside committing other painful acts like walking over burning coals.
In a procession to mark the Vegetarian Festival on Thursday, devotees were seen with elaborately decorated skewers, swords, knives, and even the roots of plants piercing their cheeks and mouths.
Firecrackers exploded and traditional music blared from speakers as hundreds of participants marched down streets showcasing a dizzying variety of piercings.
One man managed to put almost a dozen knife blades through his right cheek, while another held a pole with a deity that went through his lower lip.
Skewers connected to model ships, a bouquet of orchids and pieces of fruit were also put to use.
Many worshippers work themselves into a trance before the piercing takes place, which is said to numb the pain of the ritualised mutilation.
Along the way, residents offered food, water and sweets to the participants whose rituals are meant to ward off bad luck and cleanse sins.
Participants believe that each mutilation marks a sacrifice. The piercings then allow them to take on the sins of others in order to purify themselves and return the favour to the community.
The celebration dates back to 1825, according to local folklore, when a visiting Chinese opera troupe fell ill. They are believed to have adopted a vegetarian diet and carried out Taoist rituals in an effort to improve their health.
This young devotee had multiple skewers piercing her skin, decorated with beautiful pink flowers and painted figures
The festival is expected to draw hundreds of thousands of tourists to the southern Thai island, according to Kanokkittika Kritwutikon, the Phuket tourism authority director.
The influx is a temporary boon for local hoteliers and businesses who are wrestling with a rare slump in Thailand's booming tourism industry.
Participants in Phuket - which has a sizeable Chinese population - also have a bounty of vegetarian food options to choose from, as many vendors switch out meat offerings.