Sak Yant Tattoo Festival
12:40 PM
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Photo by Sukree Sukplang for Reuters

This past weekend, thousands of gathered at Wat Bang Phra temple (50 miles West of Bangkok) to honor the founders of the temple and "recharge" the magic of their tattoos, as reported by Reuters. Devotees believe that the sacred tattoos, Sak Yant, performed by monks in Thailand offer protection to the wearers and even bestow upon them magical powers.To maintain that magic, the tattooed must obey certain rules and abstain from lying, stealing, drinking and drug use, sexual misdeeds and killing. However, the magic is not lost forever on rule breakers as the festival allows them to reclaim those blessings.

Reuter's Annie Chenaphun describes the scene at the temple this weekend:

Crowds seethed through the temple grounds, with men roaring, hissing and screaming while imitating the creatures tattooed on their bodies, as if they had been possessed by them. One pecked towards the ground as if he was a chicken, others flung up their arms and danced.
The tattoos vary from legendary heroes from epics such as the Ramayana to mythical creatures or Pali and Sanskrit writing. In most tattoos, animals such as panthers, tigers and snakes are intricately woven into magical signs and scriptures.
You can also see video footage from the festival on MSNBC:

To learn more about Sak Yant tattoos, see Father Panik's guest blog on his quest for the magic tattoos, and also our book review of "Sacred Skin: Thailand's Spirit Tattoos" by Tom Vater and Aroon Thaewehatturat.

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