Sak Yant Tattoo | Understanding This Ancient Art
Thailand’s Coolest Tattoo
A sak yant is a form of tattoo that is very popular in Thailand. Sometimes referred to as a Buddhist tattoo or a muay thai tattoo, locals typically brand these “yantra tattoos” because they are believed to give protection and good luck. Foreigners on the other hand have fallen in love with the simplistic, symmetrical style of these cool-looking tattoos.
To learn more about sak yants, which are just one form of Thai Sacred Geometry, keep reading.
In Thai “sak” means tattoo “tattoo,” while “yant” is the Thai word for yantra.
According to sak-yant.com:
A yant is a sacred geometry design incorporating Buddhists psalms and magical formulas that invoke various elements and powers of protection and various blessings.
Thai Sacred Geometry can be found on decorative cloths, clothing and on people’s skin. A sak yant is the name given to Thai Sacred Geometry tattoos.
These tattoos are said to deliver magic to the person receiving them. The designs are made up of imagery, text or a combintation of the two. The images reveal a history of Buddhist, Brahman and Animist influences.
The text itself are magical incantations, mantras or prayers called “Kata.” These katas come from the Pali language, but are written in a Khmer form of Sanskrit.
A Thai Tattoo With Origins in India
Yantra designs go back to the days of Brahmins in India. The concept of sacred geometry stems from this Indian past, as does the use of Hindu deities such as Hanuman.
You’ll be surprised to learn the influence India has had on Thailand. Thailand’s national epic is named the Ramakien. It is a Thai re-telling of the major Sanskrit epic, the Ramayana.
The Birth of Thai Buddhist Tattoos
Sak yants are speculated to be up to 2,000 years old. Although the oldest definitive use of sak yants date back to the 1600’s. During that time Thailand was known as The Kingdom of Ayuttaya. Warriors were given yant tattoos and yant shirts in order to protect them in battle. Monks would perform the yantra tattoo using a hand-poked method, known today as bamboo tattooing.
Many of the figures depicted in sak yants come from this story: Devas (divine beings) such as Rama or the mythical “Himapant” animals, which are legendary creatures usually made up of two or three different animals.
There are hundreds of different sak yant designs, many having multiple variations. Here is a list of the 6 most-requested sak yants at our tattoo shop, Panumart Tattoo Chiang Mai:
Hah Taew – The 5 Lines Yant
The hah taew is the most popular sak yant among foreigners.
Each line of the hah taew gives a different blessing. First created centuries ago in Chiang Mai, the original blessings have been changed heavily since then. Now a days different monks or masters may each have their own unique version of the hah taew. Traditionally the five rows mean this:
- The first row prevents unjust punishment in court cases and provides protection in the place you live.
- The second row reverses and protects against bad horoscope constellations and bad fortune or karma.
- The third row protects you from the use of black magic and curses.li>
- The fourth row provides you with good luck, fortune and success.
- The fifth row is to bestows charisma and makes you attractive in finder a lover. It additionally boosts your good luck and fortune from row 4 and strengthens the protection from curses given in row 3.
Unalomes (also spelt unaalome) are representitive of the unwavering path to enlightenment.
The bottom portion is symbolic of the center crown of the head, specifically of enlightened saints called Arahants. The straight line represents their straight, unwavering path to enlightenment.
Poetic, though maybe not accurate, some say the curves and zig-zags represent the trials and tribulations of life before reaching enlightenment.
Lord BuddhaKnown as "Yant Ongk Pra" this design made up of 3 ovals represents Buddha. This yant can be tattooed by itself, but it is most often an adornment to other yants. Most people recognize seeing 9 small Buddhas incorporated into the Gao Yord design. The Yant Ongk Pra typically has an unalome placed above it.
Single Thai Tiger Tattoo and the Twin Tigers
The tiger is a strong, powerful animal that stands at the top of the food chain. Muay Thai fighters and other Thais who live dangerous lives typically get tiger yants as they hope to receive protect and to gain authority. The twin tigers is the most powerful tiger yant design.
Gao Yord – Nine Peaks Yant
Typically the first yant one receives, the gao yord is known as the master yant. It is supposed to placed atop the back along the spine.
The meaning and symbolism of this yant differs based on who you ask. The gao yord is said to give a wide range of protections, such as protection from violent attacks, other people’s bad thoughts and from harm in general. Some also said this design represents kindness and will bestow popularity upon you.
Gao means nine in Thai. Some say the 9 peaks of the gao yord are meant to represent the nine mythological peaks of Mount Neru – a sacred mountain in Hindu and Buddhist cosmology, which is considered to be the center of all of the physical, metaphysical and spiritual universes.
Others say the nine peaks the rise to enlightenment and the direct path to Nirvana.
Paed Tidt – 8 Directional Yant
This design is said to protect you during travel. The eight points of the sun symbolize the eight directions of the universe (or what I would call the eight cardinal directions). While the kata inside the circle bless you with protection on your travels.
Pali is the foundational, “sacred language” of the Theravada school of Buddhism (which is the school of Buddhism Thais practice). Centuries ago Khmers created an alphabet called “Khom Agkhara” to transcribe the Pali language.
Almost every yant has a Vedic or Buddhist mantra written within the design. Khom Agkhara, or Khmer Sanskrit, is the script that these mantras are written in. And it is said that the script itself adds Khmer sorcery to the yant.
This sacred language used exclusively for Buddhist prayers, mantras, sacred text and magic. But there is one more language that sak yants can be written in.
Lanna Sak Yants – The Northern Thai Variation
It was not until the 18th century that the area known as northern Thailand joined the Thai Kingdom. Previous to then this area was home to the Lanna Kingdom.
Known as Lanna people, northern Thais come from a distinct ethnic group with their own separate Thai language. Even today northern Thais speak this language at home and among friends, but but the historical alphabet called Lanna (which it used to be written in) has been lost.
However, some sak yants from the north are still written in the Lanna language.
For those that believe in the magic of sak yants, here are some of the supposed benefits:
- Animal Powers
The powers and characteristics of the animal yant are passed on to you. This also is the case for the mythological Himapant animals.
- Good Luck and Fortune
Known as “choke lap,” this is a selfish form of black or gray magic intended to bring higher social standing and more money to the wearer.
- Warrior’s or Gangster’s Protection
Protection from knives, guns and other weapons of battle.
- Warrior’s Paralysis
It may sound like Pokémon, but this stunning spell is said to paralyze someone’s target and make them unable to react in time to the wearer’s strike.
- Popularity and Earned Compassion
People will notice you, take interest in you and desire to help you.
- Power and Influence
Wear this yant if you wish to command respect and obedience.
- Black Magic
Known as “tam kwaam,” this sorcerer’s spell has an infinite amount of uses. It is meant to be used when you want to achieve a specific outcome.
- Protection From Danger and Fatal Accidents
- Charm and Sexual Attraction