Thailand’s rich culture is home to some incredible tattoo designs, and the traditional Sak Yant tattoos are packed with symbolism and intention. This means it’s important to understand the meaning before choosing one of these. Read on to find out more about Thai tattoos and their meanings.
Sak Yant tattoos (Sak meaning “to jab” or “to tattoo” and Yant, from the Sanskrit word Yantra, literally translating as “contraption”) are etched into the skin using a bamboo needle technique. They’re traditionally designed and given by Buddhist monks. These monks train for years to become Masters in their field and they often offer advice on which design is most relevant to you, where on your body it should be placed and also give you a blessing while tattooing you.
Of course, you may just want a Sak Yant tattoo because you like the design, but if you understand the symbolism behind it, it’s sure to bring you so much more pleasure and meaning.
Sak Yant tattoos are popular among Thai people and tourists alike and are a favorite of Muay Thai fighters. They are thought to symbolize protection, good luck, strength, and success. Each design has its own qualities and meanings which we’ll discuss below.
Regardless of which Yant you get, there are some similar features that are used in all designs. This includes “The Bones of the Yant” (the lines used), which represent the umbilical cord of the Buddha, and the Unalome, a spiral-zig-zag symbol that eventually leads to a straight line and represents the winding path to enlightenment or Nirvana.
1) Hah Taew (Five Lines)
Founded in Chiang Mai over 700 years ago, the Hah Taew tattoo comprises five lines of script that are thought to be blessings or spells cast over the receiver while getting the tattoo. These spells include protection against unwanted spirits, protection again bad horoscopes and fortune, against black magic and curses, energizing good luck, success, and fortune, and lastly boosting charisma and ultimately attraction to the opposite sex!
2) Gao Yord (Buddha Peaks or Nine Peaks)
The Gao Yord is one of the most sacred Buddhist tattoos and shouldn’t be taken lightly. It is believed to hold universal powers and represents the nine peaks of Mount Meru, the mountain of the Gods. At the top of each peak are three stacked ovals that represent the Buddha himself. The mountain shape is made up of a selection of towering squares that hold a representation of a spell or blessing bestowed upon the receiver by the Yant. These spells include: receiving loving kindness and ensuring safety as well as having strength, power, loyalty, fortune, popularity, and protection.
3) Paed Tidt (8 Direction)
The geometric Yant of Paed Tidt is circular in shape and features two rings of scripture, or mantras, as well as eight Buddhas (one for every day of the week and two on Wednesdays – it’s a Thai thing!) and eight unalomes. The circular shape of the Paed Tidt represents the protection you’ll receive no matter the direction you are heading, and also allows you to draw in luck from every direction.
For many people, getting a tattoo while on vacation is a creative way to symbolize their time away from home. It may represent spirituality, freedom, peace or fun. For others, it’s a drunken mishap that they almost instantly regret.
It’s important to think long and hard about the design that you want and to understand the meaning behind the symbol before taking the plunge and getting inked. Thai tattoos are full of meaning and if you are on board with the symbolism and scripture, having one done may just be the best decision you ever make!