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Sak Yant Tattoo

Updated on July 12, 2011

Sak Yant Tattoo

The Sak Yant tattoo is a tattoo which is done by monks in Buddhist temples in Southeast Asia. A genuine Sak Yant tattoo must be applied by a genuine monk. It is not something which can be applied in a tattoo shop.

In Thailand the word for Tattoo is Sak and the word Yant means Sacred. So Sak Yant is Sacred Tattoo.

The reason why is that the Sak Yant tattoo is holy and said to pass on some magical properties to the person who has the tattoo. There are a number of traditional designs. The inks themselves are made up of special ingredients and said to contain oils from the fats of certain animals as well as distillations of various plants. The Sak Yant Tattoo is not applied by the familiar electric needles seen in a traditional tattoo shop. In the temple the Sak is applied with a bamboo cane. The monk will usually chant a spell whilst the Sak is applied. The design is written in Khmer and not normally in Thai.


The sacred tattoo has many beliefs and legends surrounding it and its tradition is lost in the mists of time. Some people today believe it will help protect against illness and disease, impart strength or irresistibility to the opposite sex. They are also believed to give protection from bullets and help prevent injury in traffic accidents.

Although there are many designs of Sak Yant tattoos there are two types. There is the visible and the invisible.

Though the invisible is popular with all it is especially the case with Thai ladies who, in the main, do not like to have tattoos as they have a degree of social stigma attached. They do though wish to have the magical properties which the Sak Yant Tattoo bestows. This causes just a few complications because monks are not allowed to touch women. Certain specialist monks can do these tattoos without body contact. Although visible when first applied they disappear in a few days.

Due to a wish to imitate some pop and Hollywood stars there is popular demand for the Sak Yant tattoo and those monks who are especially good at the design are said to command quite a high price for the work.

Sak Yant Tattoo being applied



Submit a Comment

  • Peter Dickinson profile imageAUTHOR

    Peter Dickinson 

    7 years ago from South East Asia

    Edwin - Perhaps it was not the monk but that the guy with the tattoo did not have enough faith. My Sak Yant Tattoo is invisible and in a rather private place...sorry but no pictures permitted ;-)

  • Edwin Clark profile image

    Edwin Clark 

    7 years ago from Thailand by way of New York

    There was a Thai news/show I saw on TV a while back where a Thai volunteered to put his Sak Yant tattoo to the test. The tattoo was supposed to protect him from physical harm. So he volunteered to have someone slash him in the leg with a machete. Needless to say he bleed. What happened next was he started making excuses that the magic tattoo wasn't strong enough or the monk who made the tattoo was a fraud. Talk about saving face.

    Peter any chance you can show a picture of your Sak Yant tattoo?? :D

  • Peter Dickinson profile imageAUTHOR

    Peter Dickinson 

    7 years ago from South East Asia

    sord87 - It is all about tradition and old fashioned values I suppose. I have heard of holy bones being used in part of the process. I daresay there is a magical effect in the traditional which the modern lacks.

  • profile image


    7 years ago

    it was an amazing design of tatoos!high in price and very unique!I just wonder why the tatoos equipment looks so different from what we can easily seen on media.

  • Peter Dickinson profile imageAUTHOR

    Peter Dickinson 

    7 years ago from South East Asia

    travel_man1971 - Yes I agree. It is available in some tattoo parlours and a few 'fake' monks do them too but it is not the same if it is not for real. Rather like eating a lemon when what you really want is a sweet orange.

  • travel_man1971 profile image

    Ireno Alcala 

    7 years ago from Bicol, Philippines

    The design is unique and it's like a henna tattoo which disappear in a few days. The only difference is its sacredness as chant but can be commercially available if you want it.


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