Vegetarian Festival - Thailand

'The Nine Emperor Gods (Or Vegetarian Festival as it is more commonly known as) is a Taoist event, celebrated during the 9th month of the lunar calendar every year throughout Southeast Asia. It is widely honoured throughout Phuket in Thailand and is known as Tesagan Gin Je.

 Legend has it that whilst occupying this parts in the past, a Chinese group fell prey to a deadly epidemic. Upon adopting a vegetarian diet and praying to the nine gods, they were cured. To commemorate the occasion, the vegetarian festival developed. Aside from adopting a vegetarian diet, they also adopt a total of ten principles that they adhere to during the festival, including: abstinence from sex, alcohol and only dressing in white clothing.

But what does this have to do with impaling oneself you might ask? The  common belief is that it assists the individual in obtaining pure peace of mind and good health. However, according to locals I met along the way, the inflicting of pain on onself takes away the sins of the community and transfers to the individual. An altruistic act if you will.

Masong (Those who invite the spirits of the gods to possess their bodies) are rewarded by the nine gods by leaving few scars and drawing little blood despite the gruesome administered body modification.  A variety of rituals are performed at the temple so the gods can inhibit their bodies and they can practice the cheek, tongue and body piercings with little pain.'


Photographer: Giselle Natassia - /

Published by Vice Magazine and World Photography Organisation