Phuket Vegetarian Festival
2017 Phuket Vegetarian Festival will be toned down, making it much smaller and quieter than usual. This is out of respect for the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej, whose funeral and cremation will be held in Bangkok around the same time as the festival on Oct 26.
Welcome to the Land of Black Magic, Spirits and Spells. If you want to Sell your Soul to the Devil and have a Dance or two with the Devil. Join the crowd at Phuket Vegetarian Festival (Oct 19 – Oct 28) which celebrates the beginning of Taoist Lent.
Phuket started celebrating the vegetarian festival after 1825 when a mysterious illness struck a group of visiting opera singers from China. According to the legend, the stricken entertainers were miraculously cured after adopting a vegetarian diet and paying homage to the Nine Emperor Gods. The festival emphasizes purification, embodied by the giving up of meat for nine days and dressing in white.
All devotees participating in the 9 day festival are forbidden from eating meat and should abstain from sex and alcohol while wearing white. The festival takes place on the first 9 days of the 9th lunar month of the Chinese calendar. Everyone dresses in white and shopkeepers set up small alters with offerings of incense, flowers, candles, fruit, and 9 cups of tea to the 9 emperor deities honored by the festival.
Vegetarian festival devotees parade through the streets of downtown Phuket, Thailand. Ritual Vegetarianism in Phuket Island traces it roots back to the early 1800’s. Believing that Chinese gods have possessed them, the spirit mediums, known as ma song, pierce their body parts to prove to their worshipers that they have truly been possessed because they show no signs of pain.
The Phuket Vegetarian Festival celebrates the beginning of Taoist Lent, when devout Chinese abstain from eating all meat and other vices. The festival takes place on the first 9 days of the 9th lunar month of the Chinese calendar. Everyone dresses in white and shopkeepers set up small alters with offerings of incense, flowers, candles, fruit, and 9 cups of tea to the 9 emperor deities honored by the festival.
Mediums bring the 9 gods to earth entering a trance state and piercing themselves with all kinds of objects, climbing knife ladders, and walking on hot coals. The mediums participate in daily processions through town where they stop at the store front alters, drink one of the 9 cups of tea, and offer blessings to the merchants. The shopkeepers stand in prayer like fashion respecting the mediums that are temporarily possessed by the deity. The self torture is done to shift evil from individuals to the mediums and bring the community good luck.
Young men carry alters of the deity images though town which culminates at central locations where merchants cover them with huge strands of firecrackers and larger explosives. The louder and longer blasts are best to drive away evil spirits. The experience is deafening and engulfs the men and alters in a painful barrage of fire and smoke.
Chinese tour groups come to witness since there is no record of this type celebration of Taoist Lent in China. The festival is believed to have started when a Chinese theater troupe fell ill for failing to honor the 9 emperor gods of Taoism. They were quickly cured when they adhered to the 9 day ritual now held each year promoting inner peace, brightness, and proper hygiene.