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The Thai Buddhist Tattoos.

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Sak Yant - The Thai Buddhist Tattoos.

Firstly, I am a northern Thai, that is to say, I was born in Northern Thailand, Chiang Mai in fact, some forty years ago when Chiang Mai was no more than a village itself. Thai Tattoos ( Sak Yant ) were the norm for all men of ages. They were not a fashion statement, but a physical manifestation of a mystical belief in the power of such tattoos. Unlike today when many young men and some girls of questionable social standing, have western style tattoos brazenly displayed for all to see. When I was young all men would be tattooed as a symbol of our spiritual and religious belief. Not as art to be shown but a tool to achieve or change things in their life.

So when I was asked by Tyler, a London taxi driver, if Khun Luang a former monk, who now tends my orchards, could be convinced to tattoo a traditional Thai tattoo design on Tylers back. I was not too sure what to make of it. I know he is getting married in Thailand next year, in a Buddhist wedding ceremony, but was not sure if he really understands, what he was asking for.

It seemed that he did, and had even tried to get a traditional Thai tattoo in the south a few years earlier and what he got was a beautiful tattoo but really just a piece of artwork that had no spiritual or religious significance with Thai culture or Buddhism at all, that I could see. In fact, it had more to do with Bali art, a Thai artwork. But it is beautiful artwork

So I translated with Khun Luang, what Tyler had wanted and it was agreed to have Tyler return in two days time. In order to let him be sure he really wanted this "primitive style " tattoo with all its religious meanings and bestows powers on him, for the rest of his life.

The thought of the painful process of having a tattoo done by hand, not with a modern machine, but a long bamboo stick, with no more than four pins attached to the end, to mark him for life, seemed a little scary to me, but a date was set.

 



At the appointed time, we picked  Khun Tyler and his beautiful bride to be (Khun Donna) up from their western high rise hotel and we drove through the rain, a warm and wet rain as it is in Chiang Mai. It started to lift as we arrived in Doi Saket, a small rural village, just out of Chiang Mai, a mere 18 kilometres. We drove through the village, up to my orchard. Where Khun Luang had being preparing the spirit offerings to be given at spirit house before the tattooing could begin. As Tyler prepared Khun Luang did a small ceremony and centred himself for the coming tattooing.

 

The design was discussed, as far as the spiritual and religious aspects of the design and to a minor aspect, how it would artistically fit within his existing tattoos on his back. The design was penned onto his back and with the aid of modern digital phones, photos he could see the design before the new bamboo tattoo stick was put to use affixing the symbols forever.

 



The actual tattooing took no more than 3 and half hours, during that time the rains returned and it became the local entertainment as the orchard workers had also headed to under the house to get out of the rain and socialize a little and they showed off their tattoos to Khun Tyler and explained to Khun Tyler the meanings and powers of each. . .

Nine levels of the Buddha

 

Khun Tyler mentioned to my husband, he had been in night Bazaar the night before and had seen a shop that now does traditional Thai designs with a machine but confessed he believed it was so much more meaningful to him, to be done properly, in spite or because it was done with simple materials and a rough primitive beauty that only a Thai artisan can create. It may not be as clean and sharp as could be done by professional a tattoo artist with a modern machine in a street front shop, pumping them out between doing wizards and fairies on tourists butts however, that is what makes it so special, the unique spiritual experience that comes with a lifelong reminder.

 

Thank you for being interest enough to read till the end!  -  Jit
 
if you want a proper traditional Thai Tattoo done by a Monk in Chiang Mai click here for assistance
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 

An Etiquette guide to Sak Yant - read here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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