Long-lost spirits were welcomed back into the Karen community as part of its annual wrist-tying ceremony on Saturday.
The cultural event, which connects a person to a spirit via a thread, pre-dates the Buddhist or Christian religions’ association with the ethnic group.
The Karen people suffered untold hardship in their initial journey from Mongolia.
Starvation, illness and harsh conditions forced the spirits to leave the Karen community, according to Sei Sei Mu Thein, member of the Karen Organisation of Bendigo.
The wrist-tying welcomes the spirits back to the people.
“Uniting the spirits back into our bodies makes us healthy and happy,” Ms Thein said.
Karen communities from across Victoria attend the event, Community leader Venerable Ashin Moonieinda said.
Around 500 people attended the event at Bendigo South East College, including deputy mayor Rod Fyffe.
Dancing, music and traditional Karen food – including banana, water, flour, tea, coconut, rice and sugarcane – was part of the occasion.
The food also has a symbolic meaning, representing a way of binding people together, and comes in sevens.