Tattoos of Thailand
During the last twenty years, tattooing has experienced a real renaissance in
modern societies. For hundreds of years before this, however, Buddhist monks,
using magical incantations and spells, have been covering people’s bodies with
indelible ink in the belief that the markings will bring luck, wealth, and blessings.
People remain convinced that tattoos provide protection against evil spirits and
can render the bearer invulnerable, even to stab wounds and bullets.
Known in Thailand as Sak Yant, these ancient tattoos are today experiencing a revival in popularity, both in their countries of origin and beyond. Fashion or social phenomenon, the demand for magical tattoos keeps rising. Hollywood stars, Singaporean businessmen, people from all walks of life flock to Thai Sak Yant Masters to have these powerful designs inked onto their bodies.
Why do these sacred tattoos provoke such passion? Who are these men who perform Sak Yant, and who are those who get tattooed? Do these tattoos really have magical powers?
“Thai Magic Tattoos – The Art and Inf luence of Sak Yant” attempts to provide some understanding of the mechanisms by which a tattoo may actually change the life of the bearer. The book is based on extensive fieldwork over a period of three years in Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos. Using their own photographs, field notes and in-depth interviews of Masters and Sak Yant believers, the authors provide a unique insight into the world of sacred tattoos and in doing so illustrate one of the last living examples of authentic traditional tattooing.
“Not one great country can be named, from the polar regions in the north to the New Zealand in the south, in which the aborigines do not tattoo themselves. ”(Charles Darwin, Voyage of the Beagle (1831-1836))
“It\'s funny to note that when we change our look, if only by a tattoo, we also feel different inside ourselves.”( see Russel Banks, Sous Le Règne de Bone, Actes Sud, 1995)
“Rituals transform citizens into presidents and princesses into queens. They transform sick persons into healthy ones, and public space into prohibited sanctuary. Shamanic rituals heal, legal rituals bind, political rituals ratify, and religious rituals sanctify”. William Sax , The problem of ritual efficacy, Oxford University Press, 2010
“The addition of artifices, jewelry, tattoos...amplifies the body, extends it. This expansion gives him an extra energy. Only the hope to get this energy makes him the endure pain or discomfort. The ornament arouses the feeling of power. ” France Borel, Le vêtement incarné, les métamorphoses du corps, Ed. Calmann-Lévy, 1992, -personal translation)