In an act to metaphorically “carry the sins of their community” by injuring themselves, Taoist religious devotees kicked off Thailand’s annual Vegetarian Festival by cutting open their cheeks and putting large objects through them.



The annual nine-day festival, celebrated in Phuket, began on Oct. 8 and coincides with observances of Chinese communities across the region who refrain from meat and other indulgences such as drinking and gambling, as reported in Channel News Asia


The celebration dates back to 1825, when a visiting Chinese opera troupe fell ill. According to local folklore, the troupe are believed to have adopted a vegetarian diet and carried out Taoist rituals in an effort to improve their health.


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In addition to piercing cheeks and tongues with items such as blades, spikes, skewers and even guns, participants are expected to refrain from eating meat during the festival. Devotees believe the more pain they feel during this event, the more success they will enjoy in the coming year, according the BBC. 

Thailand’s cheek-piercing vegetarian festival, also known as the “Emperor Gods Festival” began in the evening of Oct. 8 and ends on the evening of Oct. 17.