Sak Yant (Thailand) : The Blessed Traditional Tattoos in Southeast Asia


( Thailand has a very rich and ancient culture, still much alive to this day. To preserve traditional knowledge and rituals on such a grand scale in this globalized world is no small feat, and perhaps it’s one of the reasons that Thailand is such a popular tourist destination.

Although it’s a Southeast Asian tradition that still can be found in other countries, Thailand is the center of this traditional knowledge and where it’s most popular and present. That being said, in the past years the offering of Thai Tattoo courses has been growing – as the offering for many other Thai Healing Arts courses. In these courses you can learn the hand poked tattooing techniques, be it with the traditional bamboo stick or metal rod, but surely to learn the magical and spiritual aspect of it is something else entirely.





Traditional Thai Tattoos, much like the Thai Amulets, are a very good example of the manifestation of Thai culture, and its emblematic syncretism between Buddhist, Animist, Brahman and Hindu beliefs. Sacred or magic tattoos that are thought to offer protection or bring some kind of benefit or power for the recipient have been recorded in many countries of Southeast Asia over the centuries. There is no definite starting date for the beginning of this tradition, but it’s believed to be between one to two thousand years old.





In Thai language Sak means “tattoo” and Yant means “yantra,” a sacred geometry design found in Dharmic religions. Part of the beautiful patterns of the yantras, there are also magical incantations/mantras (called kata), written in the Khmer version of Pali Sanskrit (called Khom).





Historically, Thai soldiers would get Sak Yant tattoos to give them power and make them invincible. This is very popular until today among Muay Thai fighters. The Tiger Sak Yant Tattoo design, specially, is very used because the tiger symbolizes strength, power and fearlessness – plus, it helps drive evil spirits away. All qualities desired by Thai boxing fighters, no doubt.





The tattoo is also used for self-protection. They believe a Sak Yant has magical powers that ward off evil and hardship. The tattoo is particularly popular amongst military personnel. The tattoo supposedly guarantees that the person cannot receive any physical harm as long as they follow certain conditions. Another alternative is to follow the five Buddhist precepts which are you cannot kill, steal, cheat, be intoxicated by alcohol or lust over women.





Sak Yant designs are also applied to many other mediums, such as cloth or metal, and placed in one’s house, place of worship, or vehicle as a means of protection from all kinds of dangers, or against illness, to increase wealth or attract lovers.


Deluna Nguyen (Collect and Nominate for the Asean Record) - (Source of photos: internet)

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