Friday, May 1, 2015

About Traditional Thai Sak Yant (Tatoo)

An old Sak Yant manuscript.

Traditional Thai Sak Yant techniques are normally inherited from a master, and of course; there are those who self-taught ones too. Be it that one inherited from his father or guru, Sak Yant techniques are normally transmitted internally and only men were allowed to learn Sak Yant.

Whoever wishes to learn Sak Yant must first go through a Wai Kru (teacher’s) ritual and that normally the teacher’s ritual is accompanied with hefty fees too (nothing is free). In the past, Sak Yant masters would worship the grandmaster of Sak Yant, Pohuwuputcha.

It was said that the face of this grandmaster looks quite hideous as he has erected hairs with a pair of bulging round eyes; and a pair of protruding fangs. In addition the grandmaster’s body is also covered with thick hairs. He is said to hold a piece of magic stick called ‘ang’. In short this person is comparable to today’s notion of ‘devil’.

The best time for performing Sak Yant is on a cooler day though now days, there are no hard and fast rule over when and where to make a Sak Yant. Traditionally, however; there were some preferences on where to perform a tattoo:

Traditionally, there about 4 to 5 places suitable for performing Sak Yant. However, it is still the best to perform a Sak Yant in a secluded place such as in a jungle, on a river bank, in a padi field far away from crowd. This is to enable that the power of the Master Pohuwuputcha can enter into the tattooed body more readily.

The second preferred place is in part of a temple keeping Buddhist sutras.

The third place is in the house of the person who wishes to have a tattoo done.

The fourth preferred place is in the house of the local Sak Yant master.

The fifth preferred location is that one should visit Thailand, Laos or Myanmar to have a tattoo done; if one can afford the travelling price of course.

Where ever one chooses to have Sak Yant done, the preparation procedure is the same: preparations, praying, anaesthesia, drawing/printing pattern, piercing, scab off. One should also observe taboos before and after a Sak Yant is performed:

·         One should observe the 5 precepts: no killing, stealing, telling lies, no flirting around and no alcohol (or not getting drunk).
·         One should not consume foods that was eaten by others including of the food being eaten by a mouse.
·         One should not pass under a bridge for it is a taboo for someone to walk on the person’s head or the Sak Yant would lose its power.
·         One should not pass under a woman’s skirt.
·         One should not eat dog meat or mutton.
·         One should not consume fish, sour food, onion etc.

It is believed that if a taboo is broken, then the Sak Yant would lose its power; if the person consumed food that is forbidden, and then his body would rot.

Of course, no one would pay any attentions to the above taboo now days. Are they real? Only those who have tried would know.

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