Devotees parade through the streets with metal spikes piercing their faces for a gruesome ritual in Thailand.
Others slice their tongues open with axes in a test of endurance at Phuket’s annual Vegetarian Festival.
The holiday island’s nine-day festival honours the Nine Emperor Gods of Taoist beliefs.
Through the festivities, followers abstain from eating meat and having sex in an effort to cleanse their souls.
Thai devotees are possessed by spirits and pierced with long needles during a Vegetarian ritual at the Sapam Shrine in Phuket, Thailand. Picture: Lauren DeCicca/Getty Images.Source:Getty Images
Thailand holds its first major festival since COVID-19 lockdown restrictions were put in place in March of 2020. Picture: Lauren DeCicca/Getty Images.Source:Getty Images
Some also prove their devotion by taking part in ritualistic self-mutilation and pain trials.
As well as piercing and cutting their faces, participants will run over coals and climb ladders with razors on the steps.
The beating of drums helps them enter a trancelike state in which they say they are possessed by gods and feel no pain.
In previous years, devotees have also pierced their cheeks with bizarre objects such as bicycles, guns and badminton rackets.
Many believe the pain from the piercings is a way to absorb the ills of their community and bring good luck.
This year, the Thai government hopes that allowing the festival to happen despite emergency decrees will help boost the suffering local economy. Picture: Lauren DeCicca/Getty Images.Source:Getty Images
The annual Vegetarian Festival in Phuket, where devotees follow a strict vegetarian diet to celebrate the 9 Emperor Gods, remains one of the most popular events in Thailand. Picture: Lauren DeCicca/Getty Images.Source:Getty Images
Phuket’s gruesome tradition emerged in the 19th century when a group of Chinese singers were struck down with malaria while visiting.
The musicians were healed when they began worshipping the Nine Emperor Gods and cleansed their bodies by avoiding meat and practising self-flagellation.
This year’s event has taken on extra significance because it was the first festival allowed in Thailand since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Phuket airport is expected to receive nearly 15,000 domestic travellers per day throughout the duration of the 9-day festival, generating millions of baht. Picture: Lauren DeCicca/Getty Images.Source:Getty Images
Over the course of the pandemic Phuket has been one of the hardest hit areas in Thailand, with 80 per cent of the island’s profits reliant on foreign visitors and tens of thousands unemployed. Picture: Lauren DeCicca/Getty Images.Source:Getty Images
Phuket airport is expected to receive nearly 15,000 domestic travellers on each of the nine days.
Authorities wanted it to go ahead to boost the hard-hit economy on the island, which is heavily reliant on tourism.
Tens of thousands of people there are unemployed after the virus forced visitors to stay away.
This article originally appeared on The Sun and was reproduced with permission
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