All You Need To Know Before Getting A Sak Yant Tattoo in Thailand: Traditional Tattoos By Buddhist Monks

Intricate, spiritual, and steeped in tradition – Sak Yant tattoos offer a truly unique experience for visitors to Thailand.

Wondering why you should keep reading? Well, this guide will cover everything you need to know before getting a Sak Yant tattoo in Thailand.

By the end of this article, you’ll be a mini-expert on Sak Yant tattoos, ready to share fascinating tales with friends or even consider getting one yourself!

Sak Yant tattoo on the chest

Sak Yant Meaning: So-Called “The Magic Tattoos”

Believed to have magical power, Sak Yant tattoos are a traditional hand-poked style of tattoo originating from Southeast Asia. The term “Sak Yant” comes from the Thai language:

Sak – Meaning to “tap” or “tattoo”

Yant – Derived from the Sanskrit word “Yantra” meaning a geometric diagram 

So Sak Yant literally translates to “sacred tapping” or “blessed tattoo.” 

These tattoos often feature intricate geometrical designs, spiritual symbols, and Buddhist imagery. They are tattooed by monks, ascetics, and masters using a bamboo or steel needle tipped with black ink. 

The designs are not just body art but believed to impart mystical powers and magic onto the wearer. Sak Yants provide protection, luck, charisma, and other blessings when properly created and blessed.

Tracing the Origins of Thai Buddhist Tattoo

The earliest known origins of Sak Yant-style tattoos date back over 1,000 years to the Khmer Empire in what is now Cambodia. During this time, warriors received Yant tattoos and shirts believing they held protective powers in battle.

As Buddhism spread, the tattooing practice took on greater spiritual significance. Monks blessed each design with mantras and sacred spells to activate their magical properties. By the 17th century, Sak Yants became ingrained into Thai culture and faith.

Drawings of sak yant tattoo

Over time, styles and techniques evolved through various Buddhist lineages. But the animistic belief in their supernatural qualities has remained to this day.

For Thais and visitors alike, Sak Yants represents a profound, lasting spiritual symbol.

Why Do People Get Sak Yant Tattoos?

Ever heard of Angelina Jolie’s famous tiger-looking back tattoo? Yes, that’s a Sak Yant!

angelina jolie sak yant tattoo

These tattoos have been a part of Thai culture for ages, but their popularity skyrocketed internationally thanks to celebrities and travelers sharing their Sak Yant experiences. 

For Thai people and travelers in Thailand, the reasons for getting a Sak Yant may include:

  • Spiritual Connection – Sak Yants inked by monks strengthen one’s Buddhist faith and principles. They create an intimate ritual experience.
  • Protection – Commonly believed to shield against harm, misfortune, enemies, and weapons. This offered solace to ancient warriors. 
  • Power and Luck – Different Yant designs provide specific blessings. For example, improved charisma, wisdom, fortune, karma, and more.
  • Cultural Experience – An iconic part of backpacking Southeast Asia is receiving a traditional bamboo tattoo from a monk.
  • Souvenir – The Yant represents one’s spiritual journey and time spent in Thailand.
  • Body Art – Sak Yants are beautiful pieces of art even beyond their cultural significance. Intricate patterns crafted freehand.

No matter the motivation, Sak Yants holds a deeper meaning than ordinary tattoos. They bond you to Thailand’s mystical heritage

How Authentic Sak Yant is Performed

True Sak Yant masters undergo years of training in tattooing techniques and Buddhist magic rituals. Here is how they create each blessed tattoo:

  • Bamboo or Needle Poke – The ink is tapped into the skin using a long bamboo stick tipped with a metal spike, or steel needle attached to a long stick.
  • Freehand Style – No stencils or tracing – Each design is drawn on entirely freehand. This takes great skill and concentration. 
  • Prayer Recitation – Buddhist chants and Khata mantras are recited during the process to sanctify the tattoo.
  • Ceremonial Rituals – Offerings like flowers and incense open the experience. Blessings finalize the tattoo’s energizing.
  • Perfect Point Concentration – The meditative process creates perfect dot patterns flowing smoothly across the skin.

True masters (“Ajarn” in Thai) have devoted their life to this sacred technique passed down through generations.

Gao Yord? Hah Taew? Exploring Popular Sak Yant Design and Meanings

Sak Yant tattoos are rich in Buddhist symbolism, with various designs for different blessings.

different styles of sak yant design

Common Sak Yant design:

Yant Hah Taew

Five vertical lines act as five Buddhas blessing the wearer with charisma, power and protection.

Yant Paed Tidt

Eight spires ward off dangers from eight directions. Commonly protects travelers.  

Yant Gao Yord

Nine-spired design granting luck, good fortune, and protection against physical and spiritual harm. 

Yant Hanuman

Depicts the Monkey God endowing courage, strength, and confidence.

Tigers

Fierce tigers looking back represent power, authority, invincibility, and safeguard against demons and black magic.

Garuda

This mythical bird creates a spiritual link to Buddhist teachings and principles.

Buddha

Connects the wearer to the wisdom of lord Buddha, virtue, and enlightenment.

Research the meanings to choose a design that resonates with you. Your master will tailor it to your intentions.

The Connection Between Sak Yant and Muay Thai Fighters

Ever noticed intricate tattoos on Muay Thai fighters? Many believe their Sak Yant tattoos grant them strength, protection, and an edge over their opponents.

From the Gao Yord, symbolizing protection, to the tiger yant design, embodying power, these tattoos are more than just skin deep for fighters.

How Much Do Sak Yant Tattoos in Thailand Cost? 

Sak Yant Pricing:

Small Simple Design – 600 to 1,500 THB ($15 to $45 USD)

Medium Complex Design – 1,500 to 5,000+ THB ($45 to $150+ USD)

Large Detailed Back Piece – Up to 10,000+ THB ($300 USD)

What Impacts Pricing:

  • Design size and complexity: simpler is cheaper 
  • The skill of the monk: respected masters warrant a higher payment
  • Tourist demand: some temples inflate costs for foreigners
  • Donations: additional monks may receive donations too 

Tip: Explicitly agree on full pricing beforehand to avoid surprise charges. Polite bargaining is sometimes welcome.

Sak yant master
Source: Sak Yant Phuket Ajarn Non

Where To Get an Authentic Sak Yant From The Temples By “Phra” (Thai Monks) 

Many visitors get their Sak Yants right at Wat Bang Phra, known as the home of this sacred art. But other temples like Wat Po and Wat Tham Seua offer them too.

It’s also possible to visit traditional villages where monks do blessings. For example, Ban Tha Song Yang in Surin province.

Chiang Mai, known as northern Thailand is another hotspot, with ancient temples doing these spiritual tattoos.

Some say the most powerful magic comes from monks in more isolated temples away from big cities. Do your research to find the right fit.

For those who prefer getting inked from tattoo shops, there are many studios available in major cities like Bangkok, Phuket, and Chiang Mai.

2 sak yant tiger tattoos on a woman's back
Source: Ajan Neng Thai Sak Yant

How to Prepare for Your Sak Yant Experience

To make the most of your Sak Yant ritual, preparation is key:

  • Dress respectfully – cover shoulders and knees. Remove shoes when entering sacred rooms. 
  • Arrive clean – take a shower beforehand as cleanliness is valued. 
  • Bring cash – ensure you have enough money to provide a suitable donation.
  • Act humble – approach the experience sincerely rather than treating it like a tourist photo op.
  • Request blessings – share your personal hopes for how the Yant will guide you. 
  • Open your mind – embrace the spiritual mindset and magic of the experience.
  • Enjoy the moment – appreciate the rare opportunity to receive this ancient blessing.

With the right mindset and attitude, your Sak Yant experience will stay with you forever.

If this is your first tattoo, make sure to research how to prepare for getting a tattoo in Thailand.

Sak Yant Rules and Taboos

To maintain the power of your Sak Yant, you must live by certain rules and avoidance of taboos.

Key Rules:

  • Uphold the 5 Buddhist Precepts against killing, lying, stealing, etc. 
  • Lead a virtuous life free of intoxication and adultery
  • Do not use your Yant’s “powers” for harm
  • Show respect for the spiritual significance 
  • Follow any personal rules from your master

Taboos:

  • Placing Yants on the lower body near feet or genitals
  • Dishonoring Buddhist images and symbols 
  • Allowing someone else to touch or deface your Sak Yant
  • Showing off your tattoo to taunt or intimidate other

By following the guidance of your master, the magic of your Sak Yant will flow stronger.

Sak yant tiger tattoo with gold plates
Source: Sak Yant Phuket Ajarn Non

Final Thoughts on Getting a Sak Yant Tattoo

A Sak Yant isn’t just another tattoo – it is a profound, spiritual token of protection. Treasure it as a reminder of your time in Thailand and the Thai Buddhism wisdom your master imparted.

Let this sacred geometry guide you on your life path as a living source of magic and blessing.

FAQs: Traditional Thai Tattoo

What is the meaning behind the 5 Lines Sak Yant?

The 5 vertical lines represent the five Buddhist precepts and pillars of moral virtue – avoiding killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying, and intoxication. This Hah Taew design provides protection, luck, charisma, and confidence.

Where is the best place to get my Sak Yant tattoo?

For an authentic experience, visit a respected monk at a temple like Wat Bang Phra. You may need to take a trip outside Bangkok to find more traditional settings. Do your research to choose the right master.

What does a Real Sak Yant tattoo feel like?

The hand poke method can be more painful than a machine. But embracing the ritual mindfully makes the temporary pain worthwhile. Focus on your mantra and intention during the process.

Can I get a Sak Yant re-touched or removed?

It’s best not to alter a sacred Sak Yant blessing. Laser removal may be very disrespectful. If fading occurs, speak to your master about touch-ups respecting the original art.

How can I determine an authentic Sak Yant master?

Look for monks known for their spiritual dedication and tattoo mastery. Beware of scam artists. Ask locals for referrals. An authentic master will focus on your blessing, not just money.

What is the deep meaning behind the Nine Peaks Sak Yant?

The Gao Yord’s 9 spires represent the 9 peaks of the mythical Mount Meru, home of the gods. This design protects against dangers, black magic, and spirits. It also promotes fortune, prosperity, and fate.

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