In Thailand, monks tattoo holy tattoo motifs to protect the wearer. The Sak Yant tattoo experienced a Western renaissance when Angelina Jolie had tattooed her back by a Thai monk. Here you will learn the tradition behind the Sak Yant tattoo, how you get it and what the risks could be.
The meaning of the SAK Yant tattoo
The Sak Yant – (Thai “Sak” for “tattoo” and “Yant” for “sacred geometric figure”) or Yantra tattoo is a sacred form of body art. It is mainly distributed in Southeast Asia and is now practiced in Cambodia, Laos and Thailand. In doing so, a Buddhist monk or traditional healer uses a traditional tattooing instrument to engrave a script of his own choosing, which is attributed to mystical powers. The tattoo process is ritually accompanied by blessings and sprinkling with a holy liquid.
Sak Yant tattoos go back to the more than 1000 years old characters of the Khmer.Such a Yantra tattoo contains in addition to the Khmer script also elements of the Buddhist Pali script and Buddhist symbolic language similar to the Ganesha tattoo. The Yantra motif is a geometric figure that mirrors the respective axes. The tattoo usually consists of three components: the Yantra, the Pali text and an associated mantra.
Originally, only men were allowed to get the Buddhist tattoo, women were excluded from it. Warriors were given the esoteric text on the chest, back or arms to protect them from injury and defeat. In addition, the tattoo ritual to give strength and endurance.
The tattooing of a holy Sak-Yant tattoo is a very special experience, as the monks themselves decide which motive they chose and with which mantra they protect you.
Who can get a Sak Yant tattoo?
In Southeast Asia, there are a large number of monks who practice this tattoo art. Usually until a few years ago, police, security guards, soldiers or mafia supporters tattooed there. However, when Angelina Jolie was inked by the so-called “Hah Tae Sak Yant” by one of the most famous Sak Yant masters in 2003, her tattoo photos went around the world and the monks were willing to tattoo more women. Since then, bloggers and Thailand travelers worldwide report on their trips to Buddhist temples and their Sak Yant experiences.
Your path to a Yantra tattoo
You can only get a real Yantra tattoo in Thailand or Cambodia. There are already many tattoo artists who offer a Sak Yant tattoo, but traditionally it is only tattooed by Buddhist monks in sacred temples. Every year, many tourists make a pilgrimage to the most famous temple, Bang Phra, and there is a big tattoo festival where, during joint meditations and rituals, a select few are tattooed. Many tattooists and bloggers report a trance-like sensation during the session.
To get a Sak-Yant tattoo, it’s best to look for a temple near Bangkok that offers Yantra tattoos. You can not make appointments in advance. You should just drive to the temple as early as possible, have some money for a donation, and bring time. Many monks there speak English, so they have to lead you to the right place and you have to join the queue of other tourists. If you’re unlucky, you may not be able to get the tattoo that day and will have to come back again.
What you should know about the inking of the Yantra tattoo:
• The monks pick out the body spot they will tattoo.
• You can not choose which Sak Yant tattoo you want, the monk chooses it.
• The tattoo is traditionally stung with a gauzy bamboo tube. Meanwhile, many temples also use steel needles that are being disinfected.
• The tattoo ink is mostly Chinese ink.
• During tattooing, incense is burned and sacred texts and mantras are recited.
• In order for the tattoo to develop its magical effect, it is then activated by strokes by the tattoo master and ritual sprinkling.
A Sak Yant tattoo requires a moral behavior from its wearer, so that the mantra also works. You should follow these rules:
1. You can not kill.
2. You can not steal.
3. You can not take drugs.
4. You can not lie.
5. You can engage in sexual misconduct.
Costs and risks of the sacred tattoo
Most Sak-Yant tattoos cost only a few Dollars or rather Baht, because you donate something for the holy temple. However, if you want to get tattooed by the Master and Angelina tattooer, Ajarn Nootato, that costs a few hundred or more US Dollars. In the meantime, they have even set up a high-end hotel in Bangkok, where the Thai tattoo superstar primarily treats celebrity clients. However, it will be difficult to get an appointment there. You can have such a tattoo engraved in the US or Europe too, if the sacred effect is less important to you and you do not want to travel extra to Thailand. The costs vary depending on the studio.
With such a tattoo certain health risks can be connected if the tattoo artist does not work properly. The needle can transmit diseases such as HIV or hepatitis. You should bear in mind this risk if you chose a street tattoo artist, but also if you let yourself be beautified in a temple. There are no guarantees here.