Extreme piercing cleanses souls at vegetarian festival

Just passing through: A devotee with a skewer through her cheeks in Phuket. — AFP

TAOIST devotees had body parts pierced with objects ranging from skewers to a model ship as Thailand’s Vegetarian Festival returned from a two-year pandemic hiatus.

The annual nine-day celebration honours the “Nine Emperor Gods” and devotees shun animal products while offering their bodies to deities to banish bad luck.

Internationally known for often graphic images of the piercings, the event in Phuket previously drew thousands of visitors to the island hoping for good fortune.

Those volunteering to be perforated are known as “mediums” and believe they have a personal connection with one of the gods.

They are carefully considered before being granted the honour.

On Tuesday as the sun rose over Phuket, the mediums prepared themselves at a local temple as drums beat, bells rang and incense burned to begin the day’s festivities.

After devotees emerge from the Jor Soo Gong Naka shrine, nurses monitor the proceedings as the sharpened objects are carefully guided through their skin.

“The wishers have to pierce themselves to express their gratitude to the gods,” said onlooker Chitsanuphong Tankongkoy, 18.

After the piercing is complete, the mediums are guided by supporters 5km to a park by the sea.

During this procession – in which some devotees appear in a trance, their eyes rolling as they tremble, wave and dance – they dispense blessings to a crowd of hundreds. — AFP

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