Thailand Vegetarians Pierce Themselves To Extremes (WARNING: Graphic Photos)

This event is truly cutting-edge

PHUKET, Thailand (AP) — Thailand's Vegetarian Festival is more than sprouts and tofu — it's an assault on the senses, and for the most devout, on the body itself.

The most striking element of the nine-day Taoist celebration has little to do with food.

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In sacred rituals, devotees known as "Mah Song" or "Spirit Horses" work themselves into trances to have all manner of items pierced through their cheeks, from daggers and swords to a bicycle. Then they dance as massive strings of fireworks explode all around them. (AP Photo/David Longstreath)
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The annual festival in Phuket has become a tourist attraction, with several large, noisy processions complete with fireworks, gongs and drums passing through the streets. (AP Photo/David Longstreath)
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Many Phuket residents have Chinese ancestors, and devotees to the many Chinese temples on the island parade their shrines' emperor gods on hand-carried carriages. (AP Photo/David Longstreath)
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The Vegetarian Festival begins on the eve of the ninth lunar month of the Chinese calendar and is observed primarily in Southeast Asian countries, including Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and Myanmar. (AP Photo/David Longstreath)
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It traces its origins to the early 1800s, when a troupe of Chinese actors on tour in Phuket fell ill. (AP Photo/David Longstreath)
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It was decided that they should abstain from eating meat and soon all were well again. (AP Photo/David Longstreath)
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The festival and its sacred rituals are believed to bestow good fortune. (AP Photo/David Longstreath)
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Devotees observe a strict vegetarian or vegan diet that is believed to cleanse the body and grant merit. (AP Photo/David Longstreath)
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Devotees observe a strict vegetarian or vegan diet that is believed to cleanse the body and grant merit. (AP Photo/David Longstreath)
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