I’d always wanted to get a tattoo but until this day I hadn’t found the right design. Recently, I heard about Thai monks visiting the Philippines and offering Sak Yant tattooing so I told Hali about it and we agreed to go together.
So here’s my experience about getting a Sak Yant tattoo from a Thai monk.
- Our Sak Yant tattoo experience
- Everything you need to know about Sak Yant tattoos
- What to read next:
Our Sak Yant tattoo experience
A Sak Yant is basically a “magical” tattoo done by a monk or ajarn (master or teacher). It consists of geometric lines or patterns or deity art.
Where we got our tattoo
You can get a Sak Yant tattoo in temples in Thailand.
In our case, I happened to learn about Thai monks visiting the Philippines and offering various types of services including tattooing. There are a handful of places that welcome Thai monks for this type of visit, and the place we went to is called The Crystal Diva, which is located in GMA Kamuning. The Sak Yant tattoo rate was P6500 per person.
Our tatoo designs
Hali and I did research and we decided to get a Hah Taew, which is the most popular type of Sak Yant tattoo. A Hah Taew features 5 lines corresponding to 5 yants or magical spells which are essentially for protection, success & fortune, and charisma.
When we arrived in The Crystal Diva, the attendant showed us books with Sak Yant designs.
We told her we wanted to get a Hah Taew. She asked what our purpose is on getting a tattoo, and I didn’t know what to answer. Should we have other reasons other than wanting one?
The attendant explained that there are different types of Sak Yant tattoos.
For instance, there are Sak Yant tattoos specifically beneficial for artists and musicians, writers, politicians and other people working in the public sphere, and so forth.
The Hah Taew also has variations. The original design features 5 lines — this is considered the pure form, and it corresponds to 5 yants or spells as mentioned above. There is also a Hah Taew with a crisscross pattern, which is ideal for protection. Moreoever, a “charm” or additional symbol can be added in the middle of Hah Taew tattoo. There are different charms to choose from — a phoenix is for communication, a lotus for manifestation or wishes, and so on.
I opted to get a Hah Taew design with lotus on my upper-right area of my back. Hali a Hah Taew with crisscross pattern on his right arm, which complements the Karangyan tattoo he got from Apo Whang-od on his left arm.
Hali and I got ours done at the same time.
The Thai monk who did my tattoo is named Ajarn Kom. He doesn’t speak English, so the woman from earlier would speak for us. I indicated where I wanted a tattoo.
I was wearing a shirt. I took it off, unhooked my bra strap, and covered myself with a towel with the back kept open.
Before we started, my hands got clammy because I was thinking about my pain tolerance. (Hali agrees that it’s ridiculously low. I’m like that guy in Dead Pool. I stub my toe, I’m done for the day.)
Anyway, I sat on a floor pillow and the tattooing began.
Ajarn Kom put cleansing cream on my back. Then he used a tracing paper to create an outline of the tattoo. He proceeded to tap the tattoo on my back using a metal rod. To me it felt like being repeatedly pricked by a ballpen. The pain was tolerable and I daresay less painful than I imagined, but I admit I was also wincing the entire time.
I could tell that Hali had an easier time that I did. Mine bled in several parts, while his was clean.
After the tattoo was done, I was asked to put my palms together as if in prayer. Ajarn Kom activated the tattoo by placing a gold foil over it and chanting. Then he retrieved a plate full of offerings (flowers, cigarettes, etc.) and asked me to hold it with him. He said a few words and then we were done.
The whole process took about 1.5 hours or less.
All in all, I was satisfied with my experience getting a Sak Yant tattoo. For me it’s not just about body aesthetics but wearing something that is culturally and spiritually significant.
In my experience, minimal aftercare is needed after the tattoo process.
At first, my tattoo was red and swollen. On the 2nd week, the tattoo started to itch but it was tolerable. By the 3rd week, there was very minimal peeling. After that, the tattoo flattened and looked normal.
Everything you need to know about Sak Yant tattoos
I’ve put a little guide so you have a basic idea on what a Sak Yant tattoo is, where to get it, tips, and more.
What is a Sak Yant Tattoo
Sak Yant came from the words “sak” (to tap/to jab) and “yantra” (a type of mystical diagram). A Sak Yant tattoo is a type of tattoo that originated from Thailand. It features sacred geometric designs, animals, or deities accompanied by Pali phrases that imbues the tattoo with magic for specific purposes such as protection, success & fortune, and many others.
A Sak Yant tattoo can only be done by Buddhist monks or ajarns (a master or teacher). In fact, you can find Sak Yant tattoo designs in tattoo parlors in Thailand but the artists won’t refer to it as Sak Yant because an authentic Sak Yant tattoo is only made and blessed by a monk or ajarn.
The most common designs for a Sak Yant tattoo are:
- Hah Taew (5 line)
- Gao Yord (Buddha peaks)
- Paed Tidt (8 direction)
Sak Yant Hah Taew design
Hah Taew is the most popular design for a Sak Yant tattoo. This is the one that Hali and I chose.
From Sak Yant Chiangmai:
Hah Taew represents 5 yants or magical spells. Each one will be done individually and the following magical spells have been cast to do as described below.
- The first row prevents unjust punishment and leans in your favor when the area is grey, cleans out unwanted spirits and protects the place you live in.
- The second row reverses and protects against bad horoscope constellations and bad fortune.
- The third row protects you from the use of black magic and anyone who tries to put a curse on you.
- The fourth row energizes your good luck, success and fortune in your future ambitions and life style.
- The fifth row is to gain charisma and attraction to the opposite sex. It is also is a boost to the fourth row.
Sak Yant tattoo rules to follow
To keep the tattoo’s magic, one must follow a set of life rules.
From Sak Yant Magical Thai Tattoo:
- Do not kill a person with intent.
- Do not steal for your own personal gain.
- Do not lie to harm others. We all tell white lies and there is a difference.
- Do not have sexual relations with another’s partner.
- Do not spit in the toilet. The toilet should be a clean place and not to keep it so, shows disrespect to oneself and others.
- Do not swear at or disrespect your parents in any way.
- Do not speak about people behind their back in a manner likely to cause them harm.
- Do not over consume alcohol and become troublesome to others. Keep in control.
- Do not walk under sexual underwear. The reason for this is to avoid temptations and distractions that the opposite sex can bring. Monks themselves are not allowed to touch a woman’s skin for this very reason and when a monk tattoos a female, he will wear surgical gloves or place a cloth between him and her skin.
- Do not partake in evil deeds. Avoid all contact with such happenings whenever possible.
If you make a mistake, you can try to correct it and the magic will return.
Aside from this set of rules, each monk or ajarn may also prescribed other rules to follow. In our case, we were asked not to ear star fruit or gourd.
Also, if you feel that the magic is starting to wear off, you can have the tattoo re-blessed.
Where to get a Sak Yant Tattoo
You can get Sak Yant tattoos in several places in Thailand, including Bangkok and Chang Mai. Rate differs from 300 to 1000 baht. In some temples, it is even provided for free.
As an alternative, you can also get a tattoo from ajarns who have left the temple and do Sak Yant tattoos for a living.
If you’re a woman, you might face additional challenges. Generally, Thai Buddhist monks are not allowed to touch women. Some do, wearing gloves. If you find a Thai monk that accepts female clients, do not be surprise to be given restrictions such as no photos/videos of the tattooing process.
As for ourselves, I got a tattoo from a Thai monk who was on a visit to the Philippines. The price for this service is usually P7,000-15,000.
Tips for getting a Sak Yant tatoo
Here are some tips for getting a Sak Yant tattoo:
- Sak Yant tattoos offer different types of benefits. Do your research first or personally consult with the monk/ajarn on what design fits your purpose best.
- Whether you get a tattoo in Thailand or in another location with a visiting monk or ajarn, it’s best to go with a friend who can speak Thai so it’ll be easy for you to communicate what you want.
For reservations in Thailand:
- You can arrange a tattoo appointment on your own. You may need to schedule 2-3 weeks in advance due to long waiting lists.
- An alternative is to get assistance from a tour company.
Here are the basic aftercare tips for your tattoo:
- The tattoo can be washed with water after a day. It shouldn’t be washed with soap for 3 days after getting done.
- Coconut oil can be applied to the tattoo to keep it moisturized and to help in quicker healing.
- Avoid exposure to sunlight during healing.
Do you have a Sak Yant tattoo as well? Are you interested in getting one? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below!
What to read next:
Katherine Cortes is a long-time backpacker and a freelance writer/editor. She likes beaches, snorkeling trips, and relaxing staycations (preferably with bath tubs!).