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Devotees attend Thailand Vegetarian Festival

Devotees to the Chinese Shrine of Ban Tha Rue walk in a street procession in Phuket, Thailand, Sunday, Oc. 18, 2015. The annual Vegetarian Festival and its accompanying sacred rituals are believed to bestow good fortune on those who practice the religious rites. During the 9 day festival in Phuket Town and surrounding communities which are made up mainly of Chinese desendants, residents observe a strict vegetarian or vegan diet that is suppose to cleanse and grant merit. Sacred rituals where men and women devotees known as "Mah Song" or "Spirit Horses", work themselves into trances to have all manner of knives, daggers, swords or other items pierced through their cheeks. It is believed that they experience no pain while in the trance. This gruesome from of mortification is what most westerners know of the festival. Devotees also walk barefooted over massive mounds of burring coals and climb ladders that have bladed rungs, all with no effect. (AP Photo/David Longstreath/str)

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David Longstreath
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Vegetarian Festival 2015
Devotees to the Chinese Shrine of Ban Tha Rue walk in a street procession in Phuket, Thailand, Sunday, Oc. 18, 2015.  The annual Vegetarian Festival and its accompanying sacred rituals are believed to bestow good fortune on those who practice the religious rites. During the 9 day festival in Phuket Town and surrounding communities which are made up mainly of Chinese desendants, residents observe a strict vegetarian or vegan diet that is suppose to cleanse and grant merit. Sacred rituals where men and women devotees known as "Mah Song" or "Spirit Horses", work themselves into trances to have all manner of knives, daggers, swords or other items pierced through their cheeks. It is believed that they experience no pain while in the trance. This gruesome from of mortification is what most westerners know of the festival. Devotees also walk barefooted over massive mounds of burring coals and climb ladders that have bladed rungs, all with no effect.  (AP Photo/David Longstreath/str)