Ma Song

Phuket Thailand, October 2013

Some images are very strong and may be shocking.

Phuket's Vegetarian festival began in 1825, when the govenor of Thalang, Praya Jerm, moved the island's principal town from Ta Reua in Thalang District to Get-Hoe in Kathu District, where were tin mines and Chinese miners. Kathu was then still covered by jungle and fever was rife. It happened that a traveling opera company came from China to perform for the miners.

When the whole company grew sick from an unnamed malady, they kept to a vegetarian diet to honor two of the emperor gods, Kiew Ong Tai Teh and Yok Ong Sone Teh. The sickness afflicting the opera troupe then disappeared. This greatly interested the people of Kathu, who asked how it was done. The answer came that ritual vegetarianism with its attendant ceremonies had been the cause, with the result that people embraced the faith enthusiastically. Thus the festival began: starting the first evening of the ninth lunar month, it continued until the ninth evening; the aim was to bring good luck to individuals as well as to the community. From that moment, the festival takes place every year, and only the Ma Song can take part, that is pure people, those who follow very strict and precise rules. Ma Song are devotees whom the gods enter during the fest. They manifest supernatural powers and perform self-tortures in order to shift evil from individuals onto themselves, and to bring the community good luck.