Extreme piercing cleanses souls at Thai vegetarian festival

On Tuesday, Taoist zealots had their bodies pierced with everything from skewers and swords to a model ship as Thailand’s Vegetarian Festival resumed after a two-year break due to the coronavirus pandemic.

During the yearly nine-day festival, which honors the “Nine Emperor Gods,” followers abstain from using any animal products and sacrifice their bodies to the gods in the hopes that this will drive away bad fortune.

Previously, the ceremony in Phuket attracted hundreds of tourists to the southern tourist island seeking for blessings and good fortune. The event is known internationally for its frequently gory photos of the piercings.

“I could cleanse my mind and concentrate my thoughts,” said 62-year-old Teepakorn Kerdkla as he waited to see a procession of the faithful who had undergone piercings.



On Tuesday morning, 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.

“Mediums”—those willing to have their bodies punctured—believe they have a close relationship with a god. Before receiving the distinction, they must apply in advance and be given careful consideration.

According to folklore, the ceremony dates back to 1825, when a visiting Chinese opera group became ill in Phuket, but today’s celebration includes latex-gloved doctors and other contemporary security measures.

Nurses carefully observe the procedure as the sharpened objects—chosen by the mediums—are gently guided into the skin of worshippers after they leave the Jor Soo Gong Naka temple.

“The wishers have to pierce themselves as a way to express their gratitude to the gods, as well as getting rid of their bad luck,” said onlooker Chitsanuphong Tankongkoy, 18.

The mediums are led by supporters five kilometers (three miles) from the piercing site to a park beside the water.

They bestow blessings on a gathering of hundreds throughout this procession, in which some devotees look to be in a trance, their eyes rolling as they quiver, wave, and dance.

The event’s return is a much-needed boost for Thailand’s Covid-devastated tourism sector.

“We hadn’t had this festival in a few years, so this year is especially exciting,” 58-year-old participant Rapeepan Naknakhon said. “I’m glad to see lots of people joining and making merit.”


By: Miss Cherry May Timbol – Independent Reporter

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