If the back of your left shoulder is free or you have room on your neck, down your forearm or at the small of your back, you could surprise a partner with a love pledge or a statement of virility. Be it a conspicuous centipede or discreet twin-tailed gecko. Turkeys bestow charisma. Other animal motifs accord kindness and bring prosperity. And will improve your love life and business prospects.
The services of Sak Yant Master, Ajarn (Master) Neng Onnut are now available at the Anantara Siam Hotel, Bangkok. It is the world’s first five- star luxury bespoke tattooing service. You don’t have to queue at a temple or book months ahead for an appointment to get your personal anatomical amulet in the form of a foot-long King of Tigers (Phaya Suakrong) from Noo Kampai, the ex-monk who gave Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie their personalized Thai tattoos.
Onnut will come to your hotel room and turn it into a “samnak” (tattoo studio). The revered skin engraver and “learned scholar of the skin” brings his own background music and the tools of his trade. Like a traditional Khem Sak” – a handcrafted metal rod designed to replicate the shape of a bamboo stick. Yants are magical ancient geometric and deity symbols etched into the body to the accompaniment of Buddhist prayers and holy spells. The tattoos are sacred blessings believed to impart magical powers.
The Yantmaster has inked Hollywood’s Ryan Phillippe, Jesse Bradford, Brooke Shields and Steven Seagal. His is a sacred art and a vocation.
“Being an Ajarn in Sak Yant was not something I planned, but when I realised it was what I must do, it was as if everything before had been leading me to that moment.”
Tattoos were the original travel protection and all-over, comprehensive travel insurance. They warded off evil. Thailand’s yantra tattoo designs are similar to Indian kolam ones. In Cambodia and central Thailand, “Khmer” script is used. In northern Thailand, it’s “Shan” or “Tai Lu” and in Laos, “Laos Tham”. The tattoo only confers its powers if the bearer observes certain rules. Like honouring others. And not swearing at elders. Tattoos have to be topped up and re-empowered at a Wai Khru (pay homage to one’s guru) ritual. Thailand’s most famous tattooing temple is Wat Bang Phra in Nakhom Pathom Province.
Popular yants include “Ong Phra” (Buddha’s body), “Ha-thaeo” five lines and “Suea”(tiger). To bring popularity among peers you can order from your yant menu, a “Maetthaa Mahajiyom”. For charm, “Mahaa Sanaeh”. For power and strength “Amnaj” and, for all-round protection, “Klaew Klaad”. Your own personal tattoo guru (“reishi”) gives you a life-changing mantra and words to live by. Immediately after your inking and “belling” blessing, you must not eat green lentils, dog, funeral food, cuttlefish, have an affair or let someone walk over your head.
Your flesh will be left latent with grace. And good luck energized. As long as you don’t drink soup or alcohol which will make you sweat and the ink run. To help you to start living the life of a dutiful Buddhist and generate positive karma, your in-room in-house “ruesi” wears a special mask during the inking ceremony. The face has two buck teeth, long hair, eyebrows with a beard and a moustache. He also possesses a third eye in the centre of his forehead. He covers the skin punctures with gold leaf.
The Sak Yant Master channels energy into the tattoo while chanting “Khatas”. Sak Yants are written in Khata or Akara language. The Khata comes from the Pali word Ghata which means “speech”. Essentially, it is a prayer or mantra in Khom script which is older than Khmer language. There are thousands of designs and chants. Yants were cribbed onto cloth (Pha Yant) and displayed in the home, or rolled up in a small glass tube (Takrut) and worn around the neck. Soldiers favoured this and went into battle wearing yant vests (Seu Yant).
There are various shapes of yants. All are carefully selected. A round yant denotes the face of Lord Buddha. A four sided or square yant signifies the four elements, earth, wind, fire and water. Usually, Yants are of pictures and they represent various mythical figures and animal types. Decreasing spirals as in Gao Yod (nine spirals) signify the wavering that this earthly life bestows upon us. To spiritually suit a Tiger Looking Right Back, the yant recipient must be a responsible and caring person and use their authority in a positive way. In the Phraha Ya Suea Klong – a Single Tiger Looking Down yant, the tiger represents power, strength and authority. It represents stealth and speed and bestows on the bearer a fearful aura.
This yant is said to be helpful in business negotiations, man-managing and helps develop communication skills. A turkey is meant to eliminate emotional suffering. It offers the best physical protection, has a long life and is very independent. It is also known for tenacity and resourcefulness.
The ancient Egyptians also indulged in tattooing. A tattooed body, called “Otzi”, was discovered preserved in glacial ice in the Alps. It is thought to date back to 3250BC. In ancient China, facial tattoos were employed as a punishment for certain crimes or to mark prisoners or slaves. The Roman tattooed gladiators and their slaves with “tax paid” or “runaway” on their foreheads. Emperor Constantine 1 banned face-tattooing around AD 330.
Banned in 1963, tattooing was only legalized in Oklahoma in 2006. Tattoos have been banned for employees of the city of Osaka in Japan because of their association with organized crime, the “yakuza.” The word tattoo, probably originates from the Samoan word, “tatau”, meaning “to strike”. The Japanese word “irezumi” means “insertion of ink”. Maoris wear moko tattoos to indicate lineage and status. The tattoo stores one’s “tapu”, or spiritual being, in the afterlife.
Tattooed people were famous long before professional footballers started experimenting with them. In the seventeenth century, heavily-tattooed Inuits and Filipinos were put on display in London. Captain Cook’s crew members came back from their first voyage in 1768 with impressive tattoos. So tattoos could be celebrating their 250th birthday.
The UK’s first professional tattooist was probably Sutherland Macdonald who opened his parlour in London’s Jermyn Street in 1894. German immigrant, Martin Hildebrandt opened a tattoo shop in New York City in 1846. He popularized tattoos among the armed services. In the City of Angels, a consultation by the Ajarn takes place the day before when the master meets and learns about the guest’s life and life goals and decides on a fitting Yant. Prices for a private Sak Yant tattoo session start from $800 (R11 500) for a small symbol called Na and $1,000 USD (R14 500) (for a one-line Yant, to $3,000 USD (R43 000) per hour for a Twin Tiger design. All done in the privacy of your room. Staying in one of Thailand’s top hotels offers the chance to lie on your stomach and get a better deal in the after-life.