Back to (#1)My fellow traveller the German professor is here to study the one aspect of the vegetarian festival which happens once a year here in Phuket based around Chinese Tao philosophy. When I asked him why he was here he talked about the festival and pain. I couldn’t work out where the study of pain came into a vegetarian festival other than the obvious loss of the meat experience for us carnivores.
However by the end of our tour I was enlightened. The vegetarian thing is actually part of a cleansing process because the Gods come down to earth once a year and stay here for ten days to observe what’s going on. Everyone is on their best behaviour and the eating of meat is stopped. Restaurants stop serving meat or close to allow staff to head home. If you want the meat experience in Phuket don’t come from the 14th October. Changes every year according to the Chinese calendar.
The highlight of the festival is where selected people are taken over by the Gods, literally. It’s a sort of possession. There is a moment where the possession actually happens and from then on for the next few hours they become the Gods. Each God has a different character so you get child Gods, monkey God or warriors etc. during this time the people involved, called Marsung (spelt wrong I think) can only talk to each other in Mandarin even though these are simple Thai people. The guide said she has a friend who is a Marsung and they have never been to Chinese lessons and have no idea afterwards what they have done.
Back to pain. Part of the demonstration of inhabitation by the Gods is that they push large needles through their cheeks or tongues or flog their backs with small but heavy axes. Why the Gods feel this is necessary is beyond me but there you go. The wounds heal up just fine as long as the Marsung have followed the ten days of pure eating and living (no women).
Back to the professor. He travels the world studying the use of pain in spiritual ceremonies such as this one as a way of centring and moving into other realms. He has a six month stay in Thailand and is conducting interviews with Marsung before and after the ceremony.
Travel broadens the mind in unexpected ways.
Because this only happens once a year it was recommended that I attend. For those of you who know my weakness for blood related activities or display this may not have been one of the most useful travel recommendations.
To mansions. I asked why some of the big houses were empty and run down. The answer is that there is no clear transfer of title on the death of one generation to the next. Children are born and inhabit the house and they have children etc. Each person gains a share of the property along the way. So older houses may have 200 owners all of whom have equal ownership. To do anything all parties have to agree. The senior descendant male or female becomes the ” manager” and runs a sort of body corporate. It must be hell. So much equity tied up in assets that can’t be realised. Thai property title deeds have the property details on the front and the list all 200 owners on the back. Try arranging to sell that Mr Hooker.
Today it rained so the power crashed. If you saw the way the pole polls were set up you’d understand. I am having a quiet time ready for a weekend when I have two tours, one each day.
I will make some observations on my vast experience of bar girls in my next newsletter plus let you know how the first tour went if I can find where it leaves from. Have better map now so looking good.