UNBELIEVABLE! See Why People Pierce Their Faces With Different Objects During This Festival [VIDEO]
When Westerners think of Phuket, Thailand’s largest island located 500 miles south of Bangkok in the Andaman Sea, it’s most often the luxurious attractions of a tourism industry that come to mind.
Beneath the fantasies projected for tourism revenue, there exists a deep-seated religious passion and cultural heritage that reveals itself during a bizarre and mesmerizing annual festival.
For nine days every October (a few days occasionally fall in September or November), Phuket celebrates the Vegetarian Festival, transforming itself into a singular tableau that is aesthetically captivating in a drastically different way than the paradisiacal waterfront resorts and remote lagoons.
The Vegetarian Festival, a Taoist tradition based on the myth of the Nine Emperor Gods, said to be the sons of the Big Dipper Mother goddess, Dou Mu, is Phuket’s own distinct version of the Nine Emperor Gods Festival held throughout Southeast Asia.
The celebration takes place during the ninth lunar month on the Chinese calendar, when devotees believe the emperor gods descend from heaven to Earth, arriving in various waterways. During the festival, religious devotees skewer their tongues and cheeks with spears, steel rods, and guns; impale themselves with swords; climb knife-blade ladders; and walk through exploding firecrackers.
The acts of self-mortification often employ a macabre ingenuity, as participants pierce themselves with objects ranging from revolvers to tire rims to gasoline pumps.
t’s not just anyone that flays his skin when October rolls around in Phuket. While much of the Thai Chinese population in Phuket participates in the Vegetarian Festival in one capacity or another, only a select few engage in transmogrification.
These men and women (mostly men) are known as the mah song, roughly translated as “horses of the gods.” This title refers to the idea that participants are surrendering themselves to the gods for the length of the festival.
Not everyone can become a mah song, though. Prospects must be unmarried and celibate at the time of the celebration, as the mah song become vessels for the emperor gods, and only the purest Thais are seen as worthy receptacles for this prestigious purpose.
Further, many believe that in order to become mah song, one must be chosen by the gods. This phenomenon can happen through dreams, visions, or even a sudden possession. Watch the festival below.