Learn more about Thailand’s sacred skin art – and maybe even get a tattoo yourself!
Get Under the Skin of Thailand's Sacred Tattoos
In Thailand, sak yant tattoos are like a magical second skin, shrouded in sacred spells and seen as talismans believed to bring strength and courage and protect against evil. It’s a very mystical old practice, widespread in the kingdom, especially among monks, Buddhist philosophers, Muay Thai boxers, young women who use them as love charms to attract better partners, and even by gangsters to protect themselves against rivals.
Sak yant is part of a syncretic religion stemming from animist, Brahmanist and Buddhist beliefs. Angelina Jolie, among other famous people, helped popularise the practice in the western world.
“Sak” means to “to hit”; the “yant” or “yantra” are mystical symbols. Wat Bang Phra in Kahon Pathom is THE temple of sak yant, where travelers can get tattooed with a prior appointment with a tattoo master artist who will decide on the design. 10,000 people go there every year for the Sak Yant festival (held in March every year).
For those who can’t attend the festival or don’t have the time to get to the temple (located 50km west of Bangkok), Khiri Thailand organizes a meeting with well known photographer Aroon Thaewchatturat (published in Reise-Know-How, GEO, The Far Eastern Economic Review amongst others, and awarded an Emmy for her production work for CBS News 60 Minutes) In 2011, Aroon published the book Sacred Skin, a complete photographic guide to the art of Sak Yant.
“With its stunning photos and exuberant writing, Sacred Skin will further popularize a centuries-old tradition. In Thailand, Sak Yant have survived decades of economic development and Western influence” – Andrew Marshall, TIME Magazine (Asia Edition), May 23, 2011
Khun Aroon will showcase a few of her most iconic artworks and give further explanations of the art of Sak Yant, not only from an artistic perspective but also from a philosophical angle. “When a tattoo master applies a sak yant, he also establishes a set of rules that his tattooed disciples are expected to follow for the rest of their lives, usually starting with Buddhism’s first precepts” she tells us.
The presentation will be followed by a visit to a sak yant tattoo studio, and – for the bravest ones – a tattoo session with a renowned local tattoo master!
For more information, contact us on [email protected]
All images on this page (except banner) courtesy of Aroon Thaewchatturat