What is a Traditional Thai Bamboo Tattoo?

Sak Yant Tattoo Explained

What is a Traditional Thai Tattoo? Magic Bamboo Tattoo Explained

The Traditional Thai Tattoo is a magical talisman applied by a holy man, while chanting prayers usually using a Steal Needle (some Masters prefer the Tattoo Machine) in either Ink (visible) or oil (invisible). After the Tattoo has been applied a ritual Blessing Ceremony is used to Bless the person and magically charge the design.

The correct term is a 'Sak Yant Tattoo' but it is also incorrectly known and promoted by Tattoo Studios as 'Bamboo Tattoo' 'Bamboo Needle Tattoo' or 'Magic Tattoo' sometimes 'Monk Tattoo'. The Sak Yant Tattoo offers Spiritual and Magical protection to the wearer and serves as a Talisman for changing qualities of a persons life.

Sak Yant Pai- What is a Traditional Thai Bamboo Tattoo

What is a Traditional Thai Bamboo Tattoo?

What is a Traditional Thai Bamboo Tattoo

The Sak Yant Tattoo Explained

Traditional Thai Tattoos and often incorrectly referred to as ‘Bamboo Tattoos’ (really called Sak Yant Tattoos) are ancient and traditional magical emblems of power tattooed onto a person to bestow protection and good fortune. “Sak Yant” Tattoos have to be created by a Sak Yant Master; either a Monk or an Ajarn who has been trained in the magical arts and specialized blessing of protection.

This means you can not get a Traditional Thai Tattoo from a tattoo studio artist. Tattoo Studios and Artists offering Bamboo Tattoo’s, using a Bamboo Needle provide only a replica that has no Traditional or Spiritual meaning; and therefore can not be Blessed. 

Sak in Thai means Tattoo, and Yant is the Thai pronunciation for the Sanskrit word Yantra – a mystical diagram used in meditation.  Yantra is common in the “Dharmic religions”, such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism.

The practice of Traditional Thai Tattoo Sak Yant originated over 2,000 years ago amongst the Tai tribes of Southwestern China and northwest Vietnam.   For hundreds of years, Thai and Khmer warriors where renowned and feared for the magical markings tattooed on their skin. These markings were a mix of Buddhist psalms and prayers, and shamanistic spells and sorcery that had survived the Religious transition from the pre-Buddhist, Hindu era and had been incorporated in the belief system of the newly born Buddhist countries.

Traditional Thai Tattoo as the name “bamboo hand poked style” implies, these tattoos are made by hand. With the help of a long stick, the Sak Yant Masters pierce the needles in the skin. Once made from a sliver of bamboo the tattoo stick along with the Bamboo Needle  was called “Mai Sak”. Nowadays the stick is a stainless steel rod called “Khem Sak” while other Ajarns prefer using a Tattoo Machine. The rod has a screw attachment at both ends. One is for the disposable tips (the fine needles that will penetrate your skin) while the other end is for various weights that can be added giving the rod a different feel for the Master. 

What is a Thai Bamboo Tattoo used for?

Traditional Thai Bamboo Tattoo’s or Sak Yant Tattoo’s consists of sacred geometrical, animal, or deity designs, which are accompanied by Magical phrases that offer the bearer of the tattoo magical benefits, such as:

  • Power
  • Protection
  • Fortune
  • Charisma

A traditional Thai Tattoo Sak Yant consists of three different components:

  • The Yantra
  • The Magic Text
  • The Associated Prayers and Blessings

Protection Against

Dangers
Illness
Unwanted Spirits
Bad Luck
Physical Harm
Black Magic
Spells & Curses

Sak Yant Ajarn Naruphat Tom Chiang Mai

Personal Qualities

Invincibility
Good fortune and Luck
Avoid bad Habits
Attraction and Charisma
Power and Authority
Overcome Opponents
Comparison and Kindness

About the Traditional Thai Tattoo  - Sak Yant Tattoos

The History of Sak Yant Tattoos

For a detailed description of the history of Sak Yants you can read an in-depth article at Sak Yant Chiang Mai’s “What is a Sak Yant Tattoo”What is a Thai Bamboo Needle Tattoo?

What is a the difference between a Traditional Thai Tattoo and a Bamboo Needle Tattoo?

bamboo tattoo pai

Years ago, the Traditional Thai Sak Yant Tattoo was made with a Bamboo stick sharpened into a bamboo needle using the poke method.  This was extremely painful as the bamboo tattoo stick was light and required additional force by the Sak Yant Master to penetrate the skin. While Sak Yant Masters gave up using Bamboo perhaps 30 years ago, the term “Bamboo Tattoo” remained in use.

Today those who preform real Thai Sak Yant Tattoos use a magical tool called a ‘Kem’ which is a long metal rod that is either taper at the end into a point or has a slot for disposable needles.  The Kem can be thought along the lines of a magic wand is heavier and less painful as well as being more hygienic

What is a Thai Bamboo Tattoo?

While Sak Yant Masters no longer refer to Sak Yants as ‘Bamboo Tattoo’s’ The term is widely used and promoted by Tattoo shops and artists as a method of referring to how traditional Thai Tattoos used to be done.  This tradition was long before modern tattooing was adopted in Thailand, and is now primarily used as a marketing tool to distinguish tattoo’s done in Thailand for tourists.

The bamboo tattoos used today by tattoo shops are a light weight (almost like a chop stick) with a machine needle attached to the end.  The Bamboo Tattoo poke method has developed into a popular industry with artists getting some amazing results using the hand poke method.  Most Tattoo Artists would however prefer to use a machine gun if given the choice – but the demand for Bamboo tattoos has become it’s own part of the modern tattoo culture in Thailand.

Without a doubt the quality and skill of tattoo artists in Thailand using the old school style of poke method (as opposed to the tattoo machine) is truly remarkable.  This is often promoted as Traditional Thai Bamboo Tattoo’s and refers to how Thailand used to make tattoos before the modern era of quality inks, needles and machines.  These promotional terms often leads to confusion with the Sak Yant Tattoo which is also usually done using the poke method, but requires a person trained and dedicated to living a spiritual lifestyle.  Tattoo artists generally do not mind this confusion as it allows them to also provide Sak Yant Designs to tourists who do not understand the difference.

About Thai Bamboo Tattoo  - Thai Sak Yant Tattoos

Who can give Thai Bamboo Tattoos? - What Makes Sak Yant Real?

The Sak Yant is a combination of Tattoo design, Prayers administered as the tattoo is being made, and a final blessing to charge and activate it with the power of the Sak Yant Masters.  It takes Sak Yant Masters years of training in the magical art’s and living a good and Spiritual life to gain the knowledge and power to create these personal charms. For a Sak Yant to be real they must be done by a spiritual trained and qualified Sak Yant Master.

Qualified Sak Yant Masters are either Buddhist Monks, or Sak Yant Ajarns (Ajarn means Master Teacher).  Almost all Sak Yant Ajarns learned to administer the Thai Tattoos while they were Monks at a Temple.  Not everyone wants to be a Monk their whole life, and those men who want to still be a holy man, (shaman) without the restrictions of Monk-hood, become Ajarns.

Sak Yant Monks and Sak Yant Ajarn Masters both command the same level of respect in Thai society.  Many Monks from Temples who do not have a Sak Yant Master will happily go and visit an Ajarn for their Sak Yants.  Ajarns are able to develop their artistic skills, and learn different magical systems, making them generally more flexible and relaxed in their approach to giving a Magical Thai Tattoo.

Sak yant Pai Sak yant Masters
Almost all Sak Yant Ajarns learned their skill as Monks

The components of a Traditional Thai Bamboo Tattoo

When asking yourself what is a Thai Tattoo? It is important to understand that there are 3 components of a Real Traditional Thai Tattoo, using the Poke method performed by a Sak Yant Master.  They are the Design itself, The magical script (Khata or kata) and the final blessing.  Each needs to be present in order for it to be a genuine Sak Yant Tattoo Experience.

You can read here Meanings of the Thai Tattoo Designs for more details

1) The Sak Yant tattoo Design

This is the picture or design of the Sak Yant Tattoo. While all Sak Yants come with their own meaning implicit to the design, if you like a certain design, it might be able to be used but changed to include the Kata and Blessing elements into the final meaning.

This makes each Sak Yant Tattoo made by a Master as Unique and special.

2) The Sak Yant Tattoo Khata (Spells)

The writing of magic spells within the Sak Yant Design.  This text is usually presented incorrectly in images you find online and are corrected by the Master.

Incorrect Spells in designs was originally designed to keep those without the knowledge from giving Sak Yants.

3) The Sak Yant tattoo Blessing

The final blessing given at the end of the Sak Yant Process. Special intentions, motivations  and desires can be requested for the final Blessing.

The Power of the Magic of a Sak Yant Tattoo is directly related to the Spiritual strength of the Master. So every Ajarn and Monk follow over 200 rules for living a Spiritual pure life.

Want to a Sak Yant and Magic Blessing from a Monk?

Sak Yant Chiang Mai is Thailand’s leading Sak Yant provider – Over 10 Independent Sak Yant Masters working in Hygienic and comfortable Samnaks