Fire-Walking - Phuket Vegetarian Festival

Fire-walking is something which I have seen previously in Phuket and am always ready to watch this spectacle. The fire-walking that I chose to attend this year was at Jeng Ong Shrine - this is a very old linkThe Shrine was busy when I arrived at 7:30pm so I took the opportunity to watch the people paying their respects to the Gods.

The burning coals were extremely hot - I was hot and I was not even close... yet.

There was a group of people caring for the coals by banging a length of wood on it and dragging it along it to flatten it, 

quickly returning to their tent to douse themselves in iced water! 

On the indication of the drums from the Shrine the possessed began to leave and wait at the entrance. 

I was ushered inside by the staff and I took a place next to one of the 4 small make-shift shrines set up around the burning coals.

The scene was set - a man, I think looking after the Shrine, that I had previously seen perform the same act at Bang Neow Shrine in Phuket Town in 2013 - who is he? After performing this he returned to the possessed and took pieces of the yellow paper with the red Chinese writing on it, returned to the burning coals and thrust pieces into it?

At an appointed time the possessed began to run across the burning coals - some of the possessed were a lot faster than others but a couple really did walk and this was met by cheers from the audience.

Yes I do believe that technically this can be done but I would not personally do this - but I could imagine doing it if I was chosen.

Then a number of predetermined  people were lined up and were all asked to cross the burning coals - I do not know what this was for but it was a lot of fun BUT very hot. The person in the picture above is carrying an effigy which we usually see in the Shrines or is carried in the Tai Pans (sedan) in the parade.

NOTE: next year I really must know how I should take photographs in this low light.

Body Piercing at Bang Neow Shrine - Phuket Vegetarian Festival 2014

Body piercing is something which seems to be one of the activities which draws the most photographers from outside Thailand to the Chinese Shrines early in the morning.

At 5 am Bang Neow Shrine was really quite peaceful - children were waiting at the front of the Shrine between the Tai Pian (sedans) playing with single firecrackers.

Some of the Tai Pan had an effigy already prepared in it,

some were empty and these were protected.

On approaching the Shrine it had only two Mai Song being pierced and this was the decorative piercing - the pins...

This was obviously started early because of the time that this must take for them to complete!

There was a child siting lonely whilst others prepared themselves.

At about 6:30am the Shrine was now busy with people watching the ritual of piercing. The parade started quietly with a number of Tai Pan leaving the Shrine.

People lined the road from Phuket Town to Sapan Hin and firecrackers were thrown at the carried Tai Pan - here were children practicing - only one firecracker was thrown! Returning to the Shrine it was immediately clear that there was a great number of people being pierced!

I believed that the standard way of piercing is with the effigy needles that are on display throughout the year in the Chinese Shrines.

Watching very carefully I saw this gentleman bless his needles before he used them, with the same yellow paper under the feet of the furniture in the shrine and put in the 'Lustral Waters'.

I wanted to focus on these but the morbid attraction of the 'modern way'
 I could not resist...

The guns, the garden clippers and so much more.

Of course there were the possessed cutting their tongues.

In the front of the shrine there was a very competent person piercing the Mah Song - even giving advice to people who asked.

Something was not quite right when this Mah Song who was pierced with a large knife and he was immediately asked to help.

He swiftly moved to the Mah Song - he covered him with the black flag and said words for a minute and then released him... ?

This man was reciting words.

This gentleman reflected a Chinese Spirit with his action

The rituals continued and more people were pierced - the only way to experience this is to make an actual visit OR get a serious video camera so that you understand the environment - but no 'smell-ovision' yet!

The piercings came to a close and the pierced joined the parade to Sapan Hin and then to Jui Tui Shrine - when the last ones left the parade which had left previously were back to Bang Neow Shrine!

People all dressed in white were lining the streets to watch this parade walk past - a fantastic experience.

But I really do think that the tourists coming to watch should wear white and take their shoes off when they enter into the shrine.

Lustral hot water bathing ritual - Phuket Vegetarian Festival

Lustral hot water bathing ritual was something which I had tried to visit last year at Choor Su Gong Naka Shrine but unfortunately it was began to rain!

On arrival there were two bowls of different liquids in front of the Shrine bubbling whilst people sat around the outside - some performing a ceremony in the Shrine and some simply waiting.

At an appointed time the drum began to be hit at an ever increasing rate. 

What looked like the Head Mah Song was taken into a trance and possessed, flags put on his back and then more drums were hit and cymbals crashed.

Meanwhile a white powder was poured into both bowls and then crumpled up blessed paper added - this is the same papers which are put under the legs of the 'furniture' in the shrines.

The Ma Song are all brought under possession and are brought into the front of the shrine.

It is at this point where there are a number of collection of branches are placed on the table between the tables - I do not know whether this is important?

At a prescribed time some of the Ma Song pick up the branches, put them in the boiling water and then splash the drips over their own backs and over people watching.

At this point I was aware that Female Mah Song were present, they did not take part but simply watched the activities.

This continued for about 15 minutes and then one of the Mah Song dipped his hand into the water - it was clearly hot - and removed orange threads which he gave to the people surrounding the shrine.

Focus was then turned to the second boiling liquid - which was not the same. It was boiling and had branches in it as well and was clearly much a much heavier liquid.

At this point I watched some of the liquid being removed - it was oil? - and poured onto a saucer. It was clear that there were some people sitting in chairs surrounding the ceremony and were there for something.

A Mah Song then proceeded to communicate in actions with the person. He then poured the oil on his hands and the body and began to massage it over the body. The people in the chairs were waiting to be touched by the Mah Song - wow this certainly was different - almost a religious thing? I could find nothing about this ceremony.

After about 10 people were taken care of I chose to leave - whilst many people were waiting for their turn - certainly something believed in.