Fire-Walking Ceremony, Viti Levu Island, Republic of Fiji

Photograph by James L. Stanfield

The body is transcended and the soul is made pure by mortification of the flesh—including piercings with these needles—in the annual Hindu fire-walking ceremony on Viti Levu Island in Fiji. Fire walkers prepare with fasting, prayer, and bathing in the ocean. At their temple, they may walk over hot coals several times in thanks for blessings of health and long life from the fire goddess Draupathi.

(Photo shot on assignment for, but not published in, "Two Worlds of Fiji," October 1995, National Geographic magazine)