Some of the Taoist Purification Rituals performed during the Butterworth Nine Emperor Gods Festivals were spectacular and absolutely fantastic, quoting Peter.
In my quest to know more about our own Malaysian local customs and traditions, none came this close to scare me. So I found this Rituals and celebration scary though invigoratingly challenging.
9 Emperor Gods festivals to the locals are very "siah". Which means, I will try to explain simply "prophecy that come true" and not a plaything or something to laugh about.
Or in real terms, having practiced strictly to the laws of the Kow Long Ya (9 Emperor Gods), whatever feat you do in his name, you will be protected having performed the Taoist Purification Rituals.
Read what is further down the page here:
So Taoist Purification Rituals are performed as a kind of composite purification ritual. It involves everyone, from the deities, the Taoist priest, devotees and the spirit mediums.
So it is very much a community ceremony. The Taoist priest, spirit mediums and devotees are worshiper of one particular Taoist community temple and have the same idea of Taoist Purification rituals.
This is the time of the year the whole community is cleanse through various permitted Taoist purification rituals.
My euphoric state of mind was expressed in my article on the Raja Uda Butterworth Tow Boo Kong Taoist Temple as they prepared for the Nine Emperor Gods celebrations. It is going to be THE FESTIVALS of the Year.
Don't believe me, follow the many pages I wrote about the elaborate event in Butterworth Penang.
Some permitted Taoist Purification rituals are walking on swords, fire walking, skewering the body, bridge crossing, fort crossing and etc.
The bridge crossing ceremony represents calming the yin (water aspect), while the walking on swords, skewering on body, fort crossing and fire walking ceremony signifies the acceptance of yang (fire aspect).
One of the requirement to be able to perform in these Taoist Purification Rituals is, the devotee must observed a strict vegetarian diet for 3 to 9 days. One must be ritually clean and abstinence of sex and not in the mourning period.
For ladies she must be clean, free of menstruation. When performing these Taoist Purification rituals, it is best not to wear leather belts and metal objects.
For luck to maintain, luck opening rituals, koay sui or cleansing of impurities, circumambulation of temples, street processions or deity images are an integral part of Taoist purification ritual. It is also practiced in major religions too.
Before any commencement of Taoist Purification Rituals or street procession, the Spirit Mediums, Priest or Priestess are present for the circumambulation.
This welcoming ceremony of the Star Deities or The Big Dipper is unexplainable. The ceremony is performed in total secrecy as all devotees stayed bowed.
I hope to be forgiven as I stood through to snap some awesome pictures. It was a moment of greatness and reverence.
On the fifth day of Raja Uda Nine Emperor Gods Festivals, the Tai Chu's are out to "play" again. But I guarantee all of you, it is not a play thing for us humans. 9 of the Nine Emperor Gods buddies are here again to entertain their devotees.
So back by popular request, this 9 feet or 4.5 m long spear skewering act will be performed tonight, like it all the past years.
I cannot really explain to you what had happened that night. But I will to recap the sequence of event for the night. As Chandra, Peter and I arrived in the early evening of day 5, the evening had just cleared of the rain.
Every 9 Emperor Gods festivals will be cleansed by the rain, it is amazing and a fact. We see this happening every year. But the moment at around 7.30 to 8.30pm, rain will stopped for these event to be performed.
Fortunately, the rain stopped early. We had our dinner at the back of the temple when we heard the gongs and cymbals sounding. When it sounds lightly and hit only once or twice, it means the prayers by devotees is being performed.
But if it sounds rapid and loud, we rushed for the action! The Tai Chu or buddies (usually we were told they are the sub gods) were in trance like dance. The assistants wore their respective clothes for them.
They seem to know what they were here for. One by one lined up for the mouth to be skewered. In a trance like state, eyes closed, speech a little slurry like baby or child, they were right in front of us.
We heard the youngest, being 3 years old. All wanted their hair tied in a chang like hilly stalk, with puttins "baby trainers" in their mouth.
I am not for this, let me tell you. It is audacious yet not a rude thing to say. One of these Taoist Priest or Tai Chu had 36 hooks on his back and a spear rod in his mouth. He looked calm and kept walking round and round for his turn to have his mouth skewered.
First the hooks were done with him face down on the floor. I dare not see as I could feel it was like hooking a carcass in the cold room. Just hooked the flesh and for 36 times on his back.
Read more about the roles of Spirit Mediums and Taoist Purification Rituals as I share more on this absolutely spectacular event held on the third day of Butterworth Nine Emperor Gods Festival held in Tow Boo Kong Taoist Temple.
I don't know what to say. No fear factor performance stunt, I can tell you. It does show how important to performed the Taoist Purification Rituals. And this was performed live, right in front of my eyes whether I want to see it or not.
One by one, the Tai Chu got skewered in their mouth and at least 8 to 10 men has to take care of the logistic of one man's act.
Four on each side of the road to control and maneuver him. Guiding him all the way in the 5 m long procession across town from 8pm till midnight when they got back to the temple.
Peter asked me what happened in the event he went off his trance. It shocked me for a minute as I have no answer.
And later as I recalled, it never happened before that they would go off trance during the state of trance, at least not for the ones in skewered.
By this magical implications and presence, the Nine Emperor Gods are seem to be there. For they decide the fate of the people, community and the state having performed the Taoist Purification Rituals.
Same time the street procession cannot proceed first without the clearing and cleansing from the Gods. For this to happened, one Tai Chu has to "OPEN UP" lead the way.
Part of the Taoist Purification Rituals entails whipping and hopping in the zig zag manner, he cleared the streets. We ran after him, trying to keep up to his next move.
On five corners of the street and towns, he stopped and instructed the Presiding Lor Chu Girlie to stamp her protection mark.
If you are more into inner peace, tranquility and serenity, one temple in Penang celebrating the Nine Emperor Gods festival is the Cheng Kon Sze Taoist Temple. This temple is unexplored, old and real.
No live Taoist Purification Rituals can be seen. So, if you're looking for a place to meditate, this is THE temple! Find out more from here.
He summoned the generals to guard the post to prevent mishaps from happening. As he walked briskly to the post, I can feel he was guided in his decision making where the post should be.
Once he found where the general should be stationed for the event, a green bamboo wrapped with a pennant was pounded on the ground. He further seek protections, whipped and performed the taoist purification rituals and dance like trance three times.
The Presiding Trustee (Lor Chu) must be the first person to lay the foundation station or post for the generals.
Candles were lighted, fruits and joss paper placed by the some of the 36 managers of the event. Then Girlie, the Lor Chu started to offer her prayers, followed by the rest.
The whole team went on till the 5 generals were inaugurated for the night. Such protection was unseen and definitely needed. No accidents and mishaps were reported. For that I was glad and with full of gratitude in my heart.
With all the generals stationed, Peter and I walked back to watch the procession. What we saw was mind blowing. A few of the Tai Chu (Sub gods), with the spear skewered, some walked some ran to the to the concern of the caretakers and assistants.
Despite the roads being blocked off traffic, housing estate traffic was ongoing. So of course the assistant and care takers were worried of these cheeky Tai Chu's action.
At any point of the hour, they would jump or spin the rod. Two of them, we saw spun himself over 10 times. See the video of him in action here.
We saw lions and dragon dances, gongs and cymbals making their impact. Each trying to undo the other. Twirling and swirling the dragon, the young boys tried every effort to keep the crowd happy with their performance.
Young girls and boys walking on stilts having fun. wow to walk 5 m on stilts, quite a feat for the youngster, don't you think?
One float was full of children as one of the symbol for prosperity is bountiful of kids, making sure the generations are growing in numbers. The little angels in turn on receiving good wishes in turns threw sweets goodies to the happy crowd.
The idea to throw sweets for Chinese means "sweet beginnings and may all of you have good sweet endings and tidings too.
As the procession moved on, on parade too are the floats where statues of deities are stationed to enjoy the street procession. The "Ong Chun" or Emperor boat is the last to emerged.
It was a reminder that all good things must come to an end and prepare the devotee for the final send off.
On the 6th day, nothing much happened except in the evening, the selection of the new Lor Chu for next year was held. Out of 160 over candidates, we heard, the new Lor Chu will be a senior man.
But it does not mean that Girlie is free of her roles and responsibilities. Every Lor Chu is required to guide and assist the new Lor Chu for three years.
So, before you place your name in for selection, you must be prepared to serve the temple actively for 4 years in a row when chosen.
Some devotees knowing the amount of blessing and protections, one can received when he or she become a Presiding Lor Chu, hopes to be chosen by the Nine Emperors Gods.
Making the Fire Pit
The fire walking ceremony was held on the evening of the seventh day of the festival. Approximately 150 sacks of charcoal were used to prepare the fire walking pit.
The size of the fire walking pit I guessed was 4m in length and 1.5m in width and half meter in height. Approximately one would walk 20 steps in the hot fire pit.
We saw 10 men prepared the pit early in the evening. By 8.30pm, the charcoal had burned and matured.
It requires strong able men to prepared the pit. The central fire path must be solidly packed. Man tossed and scrapped the charcoal inwards to the center.
The charcoal has to burned out. Once ashes started to form, the fire was right for walking.
As the fire got more settled, two men used a long plank started to flatten the path by banging the plank on the charcoal. It was hard job as each banging and lifting took a lot of the men.
Minutes later, the whole fire walking area turned smoky and blazed up. Sparkle and crackle of charcoal were heard. What happened was, we saw men throwing something whitish into the blazing pit.
Not surprisingly, don' get bored reading so many articles about Nine Emperor Gods, but vegetarian food is this new temple in Kepala Batas is highly recommended if you are looking for good food. Ahhh, food, did I say food?
Fire Walking Ceremony
A large amount of sea salt, uncooked rice and tea leaves were thrown in to smother the embers. The sparkle and crackle sounds comes from the tea leaves and uncooked rice as they burst into harmless sparks.
The fire walking procession commences with the entrance medium walking over the fire pit. He perform the Taoist Purification rituals, whipped and hand writing in the air.
The next person was the Presiding Lor Chu Girlie. She carried the Nine Emperor Gods Statue as she bravely walked across the fire pit. To encourage the devotees, gongs and cymbals were sounded loudly. And the cheers of the crowd was even louder.
It was truly an achievement for Girlie Chuah, a first timer walking over the hot pit. Peter, Chandra and I were so impressed with her. She has confided earlier that she was very worried she could not performed the fire walking but she did.
Over 100 devotees dressed in white and yellow walked over the fire pit, some carrying statues of deities. Some men carried their grand child across. All fire walkers are barefooted.
Spirit Mediums circumambulated the fire pit several times to ensure no harm or mishaps occurred. Some Tai Chu carried with them bundled of clothing's and precious objects of devotees.
Word of Advice
For the fire walkers, they must really be ritually clean. No persons in mourning can perform the fire walk! As explained by the devotee, they have cross over ill luck and usher in good luck.
Fire, as is understood, overcome impurity and repel evil influences. Thus the Taoist Purification Rituals provides worshipers and devotees a way to free themselves from evil influences.
It also help devotees or believer control nature so that one may have a better understanding of good and evil.