Cheek-piercing religious devotees sacred ritual in Phuket
Devotees in Thailand's Phuket Island has resumed a week-long sacred ritual carried out during the annual vegetarian festival after long hiatus and events being scaled back due to the coronavirus outbreak in 2020.
Worshippers from the local Chinese community have their faces pierced or walked over hot coals at local shrines in the name of purification. They also believe that going without meat, sex, and alcohol in the ninth lunar month of the Chinese calendar also helps achieve good health and peace of mind.
In Phuket's downtown on Friday (September 30) hundreds of devotees and worshippers marched in a procession in respect to Chinese gods. Some with their faces pierced with sharp objects say the meaning of the piercing is a symbol of the sinful things they might have said during the off-vegetarian season.
"For me personally, we use our mouths to talk, right? And naturally, it may be speaking of the good or sinful things during the off-season (of vegetarian festival). We may have spoken good or bad things, so the piercing is for us to feel the wrong and sins we've committed," said Patcharaporn Phromchai.
Devotees said that after the procession is done, they do not feel pain but felt like they have done their part to pay respect to the gods and goddesses they worship.
"I feel normal, I don't feel tired or anything, I feel just fine. And it doesn’t hurt at all, I don't feel anything, I can smile and eat too," Pantila Sae-Lao told Reuters after she has had metal pokers removed from her face.
Some of the most thrilling features of the Vegetarian Festival are the many, oftentimes gruesome, ceremonies held to appease the gods. During the festival, religious devotees, dressed in white to represent observance, walk barefoot over hot charcoal and take part in extreme body piercing rituals, which include piercing one’s cheeks with swords and spears to ward off evil spirits and invite another year of prosperity.
The 9-day Taoist celebration, also known as the Nine Emperor Gods Festival, is observed during September 25 to October 4 this year.