Our Cultural Adventure Sak Yant: Traditional Thai Tattooing
It’s a topic that interested the three of us as a group.
The Sak Yant designs naturally compelled us to get started as soon as possible.
It helped us to possibly research a tattoo of our own and have a better understanding of the Thai culture.
What is Sak Yant
Sak Yant is a traditional Thai tattoo art that displays “magical” powers on the body.
If one believes in Sak Yant to a high extent the tattoos will provide them with powers of protection and safety of the soul
Sak Yant dates back to ancient times and originated in the Khemer period about 3,000 years ago.
How Sak Yant Works… “ Tattoo is an ancient science but no one can state its origins or beginning.”
Sak Yant has been used for many years as a protective body art
Sak Yant is composed of many different numbers and symbols which, when placed together in certain orders, have magic powers
These symbols come from the Khmer alphabet.
1. Identifying official position. Young men had Saklaek to show they were registered soldiers and identifying with their particular departments. Those wearing no tattoo were called W h ite handed men. They had no commander or subordinates.
2. Showing evidence of punishment. The mark on shoulder meant being punished not as badly as if it was on the face. The tattoo spot on face not only proclaimed him a very bad prisoner and also prohibited him from ordination as a monk.
3. Showing beauty, such as flower designs or pictures of animals. Some tribes believe that wearing tattoo with animals transfers the animal’s beauty to them. Ancient Lao people preferred piercing tattoos on legs. This value was essential to them all. As one of their poems says, A woman without any tattoo on top of her thighs did not have any sex appeal and could not attract any man. Another poem says, c o vering with ten or twenty blankets does not seem as warm as having your tattooed legs across my body.
4. Identifying tribes. Thai Aai Lao tribe traditionally let the group wear body tattoos of dragons or snakes. Some Laotians had them on belly, then the group was called L a o Poong Dum, or a Laotians with black bellies. The others without any tattoo on that spot were called L a o Poong Kaow or a Laotian with white bellies.
5. Being invulnerable. A great work of Thai literature K h unchang Khunphan, tells that Treepetkla, the Burmese commander wore magical tattoos all over his body to protect himself in wars.