Possession and Hot Water Bathing - Phuket Vegetarian Festival 2012

Choor Su Gong Naka Shrine, locally referred to as Samkong Shrine was the location for my next investigation into the Phuket Vegetarian Festival.

The road in front of the shrine was used to sell Vegetarian Food and there was a convenient place to park, Jemma was more excited than I was BUT she was staying in the car.

I arrived to a rhythmic (almost hypnotic) beating of drums and ringing of bells of a shrine that was abuzz with people milling about - possessed or not possessed. The first distinction I noticed was that the male Mah Song were being 'entranced' in the main temple and the female Mah Song in the smaller shrine to the right.

On entering the main shrine I was immediately were that there were a plethora of things going on at the same time. There were a number of devotees dressed plainly in white waiting patiently before they were ready to be possessed by the spirits. There is no real expression of the tense atmosphere in the shrine but it is fascinating. 

I have collected a number of photographs together of the same chosen devotee being entranced, possessed and then released.

The first thing the devotee must do is wait - I have no idea what happens before this. The Shrine Attendants then assist the possession by wafting a burning piece of paper with Chinese Hieroglyphics around the intended.

The devotee then waits - at a particular time the devotee begins to shake and make noises. Suddenly the devotee springs up and approaches the 'alter' - here the Shrine Attendants dress the devotee in a particular robe.

One particular devotee took the burning wood and began to hit themselves on the back and on the front - an intoxicating atmosphere - then it rained!

The possessed all waited in front of the shrine.

The hot water was not hot and the intended activity was stopped - the Mah Song were all slowly brought back into the Shrine. It was here that I watched the possessed being released. After banging the alter a number of times the devotee jumped backwards and was caught by a Shrine Attendant.

A black flag was draped on the head of the devotee, who was then released from their trance and the spirit gone.

To recognise the vibrancy of this all you MUST visit.

View Chinese Shrines in Phuket in a larger map