Over the last decade the acceptance of tattoos into mainstream culture has grown vastly. Today you see stars and professionals alike donning ink. Long gone are the days where tattoos were a sign of immorality and deviance.
So it only makes sense that in the world of wanderlust, where we seek to create new experiences, travelers yearn to create permanent mementos from their time abroad.
Thailand is currently one of the most frequented tourist destinations in the world. Over 30 million tourists visit the Land of Smiles each and every year. And ever since Angelina Jolie so famously donned the “ha taew” tattoo on her shoulder blade, visitors to Thailand are eager to get a sak yant tattoo.
Thailand has a history hundreds’ of years old of performing tattoos by hand. Better known today as a “bamboo tattoo,” this hand-poking method was used by monks and other mystics to bestow magical powers and blessings onto believes. Warriors would don yantra tattoos, permanently etched into their bodies, in order to provide protection on the battlefield.
The sak yant is one form of Thai Sacred Geometry. Made up of a Brahmanistic, Buddhist and Pagan past, yantras (mystical geometric designs) were placed on clothes, shirts and even on the skin. Sak is the Thai word for tattoo, while yant means yantra, so sak yant is merely a yantra tattoo. Monks or ajarns would provide blessings to those who seek them in the form of a tattoo. The monks would transcript a sacred Pali language, with Buddhist psalms, directly into the tattoo design while chanting protections.
What to Know
For some sak yants are still holy. Many practitioners fully believe in the power sak yants bestow – and they believe those who get sak yants should act accordingly to a certain prescribed rule set. So before getting one, you should consider if you think others will find this offensive.
Alternatively, Thailand is a progressive country. Many will not take any offense in a foreigner showing appreciation for this art form. And not all Thais believe in the power of yants. Before getting one you should know that most yants should be tattooed above the waist and away from the breasts, groin or buttocks. Each yantra has its own specific meaning as well. So you may choose one that conveys a message that hits home with you or you may simply choose one that looks nice to your eye.