WARNING: This page contains images (self-mutilation and gore) that may
be distressing to some viewers. Proceed at your own discretion.
Phuket Vegetarian Festival
Fireworks, guns, swords, and knives but probably not what you’re
Many years ago, as a child, I remember watching a National Geographic
show where people pierced, punctured, and cut their bodies and faces in
what appeared to be nothing more than a self-mutilation event. In 2019,
I realized after the fact that the event I saw as a child happened in
Thailand and is named, oddly enough, the Phuket Vegetarian Festival.
The Phuket Vegetarian Festival is the annual nine-day event celebrated
by the Chinese Hokkien descendants across Phuket island for physical
well-being, spiritual cleansing, merit-making, conferring good luck in
the future, and ensuring prosperity and long life. The festival is also
known as the Nine Emperor Gods Festival and features parades of the “mah
song,” a “possessed” man or woman who leads the parade with body
Firewalking, body piercing, and other acts of self-mortification
undertaken by participants acting as mediums of the gods have become
more spectacular and daring as each year goes by. Men and women puncture
their cheeks with knives, skewers, and other household items. It is
believed that the Chinese gods will protect such persons from harm, with
little to no blood or scarring.