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Traditional Sak Yant tattoos are hand-etched onto the skin using geometric designs mixed with Buddhist prayers. It is believed to give the wearer magic powers associated with healing, luck, strength and protection against evil. This style has a 2000-year-old history to trace back to.
Buddhist monks originally engraved the Sak Yant into warriors who would seek protection and strength in battle. Often these covered the bodies of soldiers from head to toe in magic symbols to prevent knives and arrows from piercing their skin.
No machines are used to create these tattoos, rather they are engraved into the skin by long metal spikes or bamboo sticks sharpened to a point. The needle is dipped into ink and repeatedly jabbed through the skin, by hand, to make the design.
Monks will often choose a sacred design as well as the location of the tattoo based on the aura of the person. Imagine just walking into a monastery and the monk decides what you get, what could get more exciting!
The best location in Thailand to get a Sak Yant tattoo is a Buddhist temple called, Wat Bang Phra, located approximately 40 minutes West of Bangkok. For hundreds of years, this temple has been a pilgrimage site for the Thai people, who are willing to receive the protection of a magic tattoo. This temple is also home to the most famous Sak Yant practicing monk in Thailand, Master Luang Pi Nunn.
Outside the entrance, you can purchase a temple offering, consisting of orchid flowers, incense sticks, and menthol cigarettes before heading inside, as everyone is expected to present these simple gifts to the monk as a payment for the tattoo. The items are then recycled, so the process can be repeated with money from the sales that help upkeep the temple.
Each monk concocts his own special blend of magic tattoo ink. The recipe is a secret, but it thought to contain a mix of Chinese charcoal, snake venom, palm oil and even human remains. To complete the sacred tattoo, the monk chants a Kataa or magic spell and blows in into the design, to unleash the powers it holds.
There are a set of rules and regulations to be followed after getting this tattoo as these are traditional Buddhist practices and should be done with utmost respect to the culture and practice.