Monday, March 31, 2014

Wat Kham Chanot






Standing Buddha: Left arm is in the Abhaya Mudra position while the left hand is in the Vitarka Mudra (thumb and forefinger brought together) - Buddha is appealing to reason - an appeal for peace

Earlier this month as part of our journey ith our grandson to observe salt production in the Ban Dung area, we made a return visit to a special Buddhist temple, Wat Kham Chanot.

We had first visited Wat Kham Chanot four years ago in May 2009 to watch Duang's brother Mahlam Lao show that was part of a large festival being held at the Wat.  That first visit was subject of the following blog entry:

http://hale-worldphotography.blogspot.com/2009/05/go-go-girls-at-door-to-water-underworld.html


Wat Kham Chanot is considered a very special place to the ethnic Lao, Lao Loum, a people that Duang is a member of.  Wat Kham Chanot, which is not too far from the Mekong River, is considered to be the gate to the water underworld which is ruled by the King of the Nagas.  Nagas are a mythological deity that takes the form a a very great snake.  Nagas are found in the traditions and legends of Hinduism as well as in Buddhism.  I have written before about the amalgamation of Animist, Hindu and Buddhist beliefs and traditions here in Isaan.  The area was once Animist before Hindu and then Buddhist believers arrived.  Today in Isaan traditions and beliefs from all three remain a very strong part of not only the culture but of individual daily life.

It is believed that a Naga lives in the area around Wat Kham Chanot and that an entrance to the under waterworld where the nagas reign is on the property of the Wat.  Many people go to the Wat to make offerings, and to pay homage to the Nagas.

One of two Nagas guarding the entrance to the causeway at Wat Kham Chanot

Wat Kham Chanot is a very developed temple.  Many changes and "improvements" have been completed since our visit there four years ago.  There is now a formal organized rural market set up on the edge of the property as well as a well established paved parking area on the other side of the property.  There is no need to worry about going hungry or even thirsty when visiting the Wat.

There are actually two parts of the Wat.  The first part they I have alluded to above is situated along the main road.  The second part of the facility is situated on a small island out in a floodplain. The island is heavily covered with vegetation and many large palm and coconut trees.  The origins of the first Wat are on the island. A well constructed causeway connects the island to the main complex.

Shrine located on the island at Wat Kham Chanot
There are several shrines located along the paved walkway on the island where devotees can pay homage to the Naga deity. The causeway is considered sacred ground so people remove their shoes and flip flops before crossing the bridge to the island.

Devotee cleanses her face with sacred water from the Naga well
There is also a pool of sacred water on the island from the under water world where devotees can splash on their face, pour on their head and fill containers to bring back to their homes.  Some people toss water, to make merit, from the pool on the large Naga rising above one end of the pool.


Making an offering of water to the Naga
Besides a heavy concentration of Chanot trees on the island as well as other native vegetation on the island there are many birds along with squirrel's scampering through the vegetation.


Children climb amongst the roots of a Chanot tree


Little boy has spotted a squirrel
I noticed that the trees, especially the roots were very smooth and had a sort of whitish sheen to them.  It was not long before I saw the reason why - people were rubbing baby powder on them.  Why?  Protection from insects?  Animist worship?  Nope - the people rub the powder on the bark to hopefully reveal numbers that they will use for the upcoming lotteries!

Offerings to Naga

The island received a constant flow of visitors during our visit.  Besides making offerings at the several shrines to the Nagas, and receiving blessings at the Naga well, people also make merit, or try to make merit. at several gongs.  People try to make the gongs hum loudly by rubbing their hands over or inside of protrusions on the gong.  I would estimate that about 1/3 of the people were able to make them hum.  Everywhere that we go, Duang is able to make the gongs hum very loudly.  Her ability impresses the other people and she often spends time teaching the others how to do it - to no avail.  I am not able to do it ... perhaps because I do not know what prayer to say before doing it, I am not a Buddhist or perhaps more telling I may not have a "good heart" (good, kind, generous).  I ended up telling the people that Duang was "Pii mer mai"- old lady witch.

Duang making a gong hum loudly
Devotees arrive to worship

At one of the shrines on the island, people made offerings and paid homage to the Nagas.  They also make requests for good luck, good fortune and happiness. However at Wat Kham Chanot there is a different part of the ritual than offering some flowers, candles, and incense along with the prayers.  As I have seen at only two or three other Wats, the devotee can get an indication as to how effective their requests were.  By attempting to lift a sacred relic above their head, a devotee can determine the likelihood that their wishes will be granted.  At the shrine there were two heavy stones which appeared to me to be relics of a stone column perhaps Khmer in origin.  Two by two the devotees knelt before the Naga shrine and attempted to lift a stone relic twice above their head.  Duang was successful.  I asked her about it and she told me that "if you could do it twice it was very good, if you could only do it once that was good, if you can not lift it - it's OK you may still be granted your wishes."

Duang lifts a sacred relic
Naga Shrine
Our recent visit to Wat Kham Chanot was just as interesting as our first visit four years previously.  Like is the circumstances of all return visits to a location, we were better able to understand as well as to appreciate the details of the place.

Worker collects offerings from shrines, making room for more offerings
Quite often people do not visit or appreciate the special places that are close to their home; often planning on visiting them some other day; a day that often does not come.  Wherever you may live there is something unique in your area perhaps something that people from far away may travel to experience and see.  Often an adventure or enlightening experience is not half a world away but merely a few kilometers or miles from your home.

We are fortunate that Wat Kham Chanot is one of those places a few kilometers from our home.


Saturday, March 29, 2014

2 March 2014 Theravada Buddhist Funeral Ritual






A new gallery on my personal photography website is now available for viewing

This 17 photograph gallery is created from selected photographs that I took at a Theravada Buddhist funeral out in the countryside earlier this month.

http://www.hale-worldphotography.com/Other/2-March-2014-Buddhist-Funeral/38126809_89DVf6

Friday, March 28, 2014

New Gallery Available - Phra Maha Chedi Mongkol






http://www.hale-worldphotography.com/Thailand/Phra-Maha-Chedi-Mongkol/38104200_r997FK




My latest photography gallery is now available for viewing.  This 42 photograph gallery is about our visit to Phra Maha Chedi Mongkol earlier this month.

Although Phra Maha Chedi Mongkol is undergoing extensive construction and renovation its beauty rivals that of the various attractions in Bangkok.

New Photo Gallery Available - Bun Phawet Jataka Performance







A new gallery of 27 selected photographs from our recent journey to Roi-Et is now available for viewing at my photography website.

http://www.hale-worldphotography.com/Thailand/Isaan/Bun-Phawet-Jakata-Performance/38103436_gqtBTf

These photographs are from a night time performance of the Buddhist epic "Vessantara Jataka" by students of the local university in Roi-Et as part of the Bun Phawet Festival - another unique cultural event here in Isaan.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Wat Srisa Thong, Wat Srisathong





Offerings Placed Before Phra Rahu

All my life I have created plans, often alternative contingency plans, and scheduled vacations as well.  Planning and scheduling have served my family and me very well.  When the children were young, our vacations typically consisted of driving to and through several US National Parks each early summer.

Due to the nature of my work there were also many relocations during that time period.  We often took advantage of company paid travel days to extend our vacations.

By planning each day be it strictly traveling or sightseeing, we ensured that we were able to see and do all that we hoped to on each trip.  Having a plan and a schedule associated with the schedule also allowed us to evaluate impacts due to unexpected conditions or events.  Sometimes because of fatigue we would stop driving an hour or two early knowing fully well that our arrival at our intended destination the next day would be 11:00 A.M. or Noon rather than the original plan of 10:00 A.M.  We never had to drive an unplanned amount of time on the last day in order to get home for work or school for the children.  Another benefit of planning and scheduling was that we always saw and did what we had hoped for.  Often we were able to take full advantage of unexpected opportunities along the way because we knew the impact that would have on our plan.

True to form, I had planned and scheduled our recent journey to Nakhon Phathom.  Once again planning and scheduling ensured that we saw and did all that we wanted to.  Once again we were able to enjoy some unexpected opportunities during our trip.

Driving from Udonthani to Nakhon Phatom is roughly 8 hours along several different roads.  I believe that I could have driven it, but I knew that I did not want to be driving the roads of Nakhon Phatom - the narrow back roads often bordered on both sides by canals were bad enough but the "main" roads are feeders into the Bangkok traffic madness and then there would be the issue of finding parking at each of the locations.  We ended up flying down to Bangkok (1 hour) and hiring a vehicle and driver - Duang's ex-husband.  He drives Thai people around the country for a living.  He actually lives in the area so he is familiar with the roads as well as local attractions.  It was a wise decision.

One day we had some extra time, he decided to take us to a special temple - Wat Srisa Thong also spelled as Wat Srisathong - This Is Thailand - there are often several spellings for locations.  I will just refer to it as "Wat Srisathong" and save a keystroke each time.



Wat Srisathong is dedicated to the worship of Rahu, the God of Darkness.  In Thai folklore and legends, Pra Rahu is an immortal giant that periodically eats his brothers the sun and the moon.  Because he is considered to cause eclipses, black is the color associated with Rahu.   In Hinduism Rahu is a malicious planet that if not favourably placed in your astrological chart can cause problems.  Rahu is also able to give financial blessings, power over others, and success in legal matters.  Amulets can give protection from Rahu's bad effects and making offerings to him can appease him and solicit his blessings.  In Thailand his devotees venerate him for financial success, good luck, and protection.

Offerings To Rahu

Because the number "8" is associated with Phra Rahu, offerings to him are in packages of eight items.

Because "black" is Phra Rahu's color, the eight items are black.



The eight items comprising an offering are:  Black Grapes, Black Liquor, Black Coffee, Black Jelly, Black Beans, Black Sticky Rice, Black Thai Cake, and Black Fermented Eggs.  The Wat sells prepared offering packages to devotees.

Like the large sign at the entrance to the new hexagon shaped sala says:

Black Grapes mean good business
Black Liquor means courage to risk of investing
Black Coffee means you will get whatever you wish for
Black Jelly or Shoa Guay means patience and careful thought
Black Beans mean progress
Black Sticky Rice means wealth and love from family
Black thai Cake means rewards, success and good luck
Black Fermented Eggs mean successful contact or errands

Besides making the standard package offerings to Rahu, devotees and at least one falang (foreigner) pay dancers to perform as an offering to Rahu.  The dancers perform Lakhon Chatri - a traditional dance drama with very graceful, and sensual movements.  The hands and the upper body are used extensively to express emotions.

Lakhon Chatri Dancers Performing

I have seen Lakhon Chatri dancers at Wat Sothon and we hired dancers at Bangkok's Erawan Shrine in appreciation for Duang being approved for a US Green Card.

Dancing In Front of Phra Rahu
I occupied myself photographing the dancers while Duang was elsewhere in the sala making offerings to the 8 statues of Buddha.

Nakhon Chatri Dancers

Duang joined me after completing her worship and together we enjoyed the grace and beauty of the Lakhon Chatri.  Life is often punctuated by unexpected moments that touch our soul.  Watching traditional Thai dancing is such a moment for us.

The Night Before ... Wai Khru Wat Bang Phra







Installing A Sak Yant

One of the main reasons for our journey to Nakhon Pathom, a region west of Bangkok, was to attend the annual Wat Bang Phra Tattoo Festival.

There are many temples in Thailand where you can receive a yantric tattoo (magical tattoo) from either a Monk or from a highly trained lay person called, according to my wife, "Tapawkao".  A Tapawkao is one step below a Monk and one step above a Brahman.  Duang's deceased uncle was a Brahman and led the laypeople in all the merit making rituals at the village wat.  He acted as a priest type leader for the people - leading the chants, making the offerings, and interacting with the Monks who served their own role and had their own chants in the rituals.  Duang's uncle also performed Animist rituals such as Baii Sii ceremony, spirit house installations, our wedding ritual, and house blessings.

Tapawkaos receive much longer and more intense training for Bikkhus (ordained Buddhist monastics, "Monks") than Brahmans.

Prior to embarking on our trip to Nakhon Pathom, I did quite a bit of research on the Internet.  I even watched an episode of "The Tattoo Hunter" related to the Wat Bang Phra Tattoo Festival.  There was a great deal of information ot there about Sak Yant and the festival.  Much of the information appears to have come from a single source.

I have often written that my purpose in this blog effort is to share what I have seen, and experienced regarding the different aspects of culture here in southeast asia.  I know that there are times when what I write contradicts other sources of information.  Often I attribute this to the juxtaposition of  "The way things are supposed to be and the way they actually are"

To ensure that I accurately describe what I have observed, I often verify with my wife, Duangchan, to verify the accuracy and content of my writings.  What I eventually share on my blog is an accurate rendition of my obsevations of the events.

Duang Making An Offering and Receiving Blessing From the Abbott
You can obtain a Yak Sant tattoo daily at Wat Bang Phra.  However during the night before the Tattoo Festival, many people make a pilgrimage to the temple to be tattooed prior to the ceremony the next morning.  The Monks and Tapawkaos tattoo people throughout the night.  I have found that here in Thailand it is always best to be on site the day before the official scheduled start of any festival.  A good example of this is the Poi Sang Long Festival in Maehongson - we always arrive the day before the "start" of the festival to witness the ritual involving the shaving of the young boy's heads in the late afternoon.  I suspected that the same would be true for the tattoo festival.

After checking into our hotel and making a visit to Wat Sawang Arom, we arrived at Wat Bang Phra around 4 P.M.

The Wat is a fairly large complex with many buildings.  Many people were busy setting up booths and stalls.  Other people were occupied with preparing and cooking food in makeshift outdoor  kitchens.  There were many people but I would not catagorize the area as crowded.

After wandering about a little, we found a building where two people, one man and one woman, were being tattooed by two Tapawkaos.  I know that they were Tapakaos because they wore ordinary white clothing and their heads had not been shaved.  We asked one of the men that was stretching the skin for the tattoo process if I could take photographs.  He indicated that we had to talk to the Abbott about taking photographs.  We left that building and found the large building where the Abbott was.

We asked the young man who was assisting the Abbott about taking photographs of the tattooing process.  The young man suggested that we make an offering and discuss it with the Abbott.  Duang walked over to the desk where offerings of orchids, two joss sticks, and two small candles were for sale.  She returned and we knelt before the Abbott and made our offering to him.  After receiving his blessing, we inquired about taking photographs.  The Abbott's assistant asked about if the pictures were for television.  Duang explained to the assistant about how I take photographs, write stories about life in Thailand, and place them on the Internet. In very short time, I had permission to take photographs except for photographs of women being tattooed by Monks.  We placed an offering of money in an envelope and handed it to the assistant.  In return he handed me an envelope with some writing on it.

I was concerned about using a flash to take photographs.  I asked and Duang tried to explain what I was asking about.  I ended up setting up the flash with its light modifier and firing it for the Abbott to see.  He indicated that there was no problem - it was up to me.

A Tapawkao Tattoos A Young Man - The Traditional Way
We returned to the building where we first saw a person getting a tattoo. Off to the side of a stairway going up to where Luang Pi Nunn was creating Sak Yant and beneath a statue of Ruesi, the Tapawkao were still busy tattooing people - it was going to be a long night for them.

Ruesi are hermit sages who first discovered the powers of yantric tattoos (Sak Yants).  They passed on their knowledge and secrets to Monks who continue the traditions and practices today. Ruesi are sometimes depicted wearing a tiger skin because Lord Shiva, the original Great Ruesi, wore a tiger skin.  The tiger skin is also emblematic of being a hermit.

Monk With Sak Yants

Wat Bang Phra is considered to be the prime site for Sak Yants due to the work and reputation of its previous Abbott,  Luang Phor Phen.  Luang Phor Phen is well known for his use of magic to help people and the power of his Sak Yants.  During one period of his life, Luang Phor Phen was a hermit in the deep jungle known for its wild animals and evil spirits. It is said that during that period of time, he was always accompanied and protected by a large as well as very fierce tiger.  Luang Phor Phen died in 2002.  He is often depicted as riding atop a large tiger.  If you look carefully at some of the following photographs you will see depictions  of Luang Phor Phen and the tiger.  The souvenir tee-shirt, not mine - the one Duang purchased, has Luang Phor Phen and the tiger on the front and a yantra on the back.

Men Await Their Turn To Be Tattooed by Luang Pi Nunn
Today the most famous Monk for Sak Yant tattoos is Luang Pi Nunn. a Monk at Wat Bang Phra.  My goal was to witness and photograph him as well as his work.

After photographing the tattooing at the base of the stairway, we climbed the stairs and walked into a fairly large dim room.  At one end of the room, two Monks at each corner were tattooing people.  The Monk at the left hand corner of the room was Luang Pi Nunn.


Offerings in the foreground, Luang Pi Nunn in the background

The room was filled with about 40 people - roughly 20 seated upon the floor per Monk.  Each person had purchased an offering for 199 baht.  Each offering consisted of a bunch of orchids, a pack of cigarettes, two incense sticks, and two yellow candles.  The offerings were placed together on agold colored pressed ornamental bowl used throughout Thailand for presenting offerings to Monks.  The approximately 20 men bowed before the Monk as the offerings were made and received a blessing from the Monk.  As the number of people waiting dwindled, a new group was brought into the room and the offering ritual was repeated.



The room had no air conditioning but the whirling ceiling fans kept the room comfortable - at least for me but then again I was not about to be stuck hundreds if of times by a needle.  Four large cloth posters were hung on the walls on each side of the Masters.  The posters showed many of the yantras that were possible.

Various Yantras

The atmosphere of the room was somewhat somber and reverent - what you would expect in the prescence of a deeply faith based ritual.  Some of the men did talk but when they did, it was in low and hushed voices.  The men were mostly young - Sak Yants are very popular with policemen, military men, Monks, and others with dangerous but not necessarily legal professions or occupations.  Although I had started at the back of the crowd, I was upfront and next to Luang Pi Nunn in very little time.  The people knew that I was very curious and only interested in taking photographs with no intention to cut in line to get a tattoo of my own.

Man Waiting To Be Tattooed - I Believe That He Has A "Good Heart"

I focused my attention upon Luang Pi Nunn and the men that he was tattooing.  Two young men sat in front of the raised platform upon which Luang Pi Nunn sat.  Their duty was to stretch the skin of the person to be tattooed.  In order to make proper sized and clear lines, the skin needs to be stretched the proper consistent amount and in the proper direction.


Luang Pi Nunn Orientates A Young Monk

The person to be tattooed sits on the floor with his back to Luang Pi Nunn.  Often a triangular pillow is placed on his lap to help support his torso.  The person is then orientated so that Luang Pi Nunn can read the person's aura.  Based upon the person's aura, the Monk determines what yantra and where it will be applied to the skin.

The Master Often Smokes As He Reads Auras

After he determines which yantra he will create and where, the Master immediately commences to tattoo the person.  Downstairs some Tapawkaos used stencils to mark the yantra on the skin before they started to tattoo.  Although there were some stencils in a basket behind him, I never saw Luang Pi Nunn utilize a stencil.

The Sak Yant was created with long metal rods which more closely resembled knitting needles than the needles that I expected to be used for tattoos.  The rods were about 24 inches long and approximately 1/8 inch in diameter. The tips of  the needles were split - remininsent of old style fountain ink pens.



After loading the needle with ink and with his assitants stretching the skin, the Master started piercing the skin with the needle to create the yantra pattern.  Periodically with the smoothest and most fluid motion he would recharge the needle with ink from the tiny reservoir at his side.

Recharging the Needle With Ink
After completing the tattoo, the needle was placed into a container of ink stained alochol - ready for the next tattoo.  At the front of the Master's work station. there were two sharpening stones - like the kind used to sharpen knives.  A sheet of sandpaper was also stored in the back of his station for sharpening the needles.  I observed Luang Pi Nunn for about two hours and he never sharpened a needle.

Luang Pi Nunn's Workstation - He Sits Cross Legged On the Table

When Luang Pi Nunn took a break, I was able to get some close up photos of his workstation.

Tattoo Needles(?) and the Master's Cigarette Butts

The Master's Tools
The ink used for applying Sak Yants are a secret recipe - unique to each Master.  It is believed to contain coconut oil, charcoal, snake venom and possiblely human remains (I suspect ashes).  In the above photograph the small bowl of golden fluid is palm or coconut oil that is used rather than black ink to create invisible Sak Yants.  Rolls of toilet paper are used to create tissue pads that are used to prevent smearing of the tattoo as it is being created, to help keep ink from getting on the master's hands, and to clean the tattoo when it is completed.  The man seated behind me was kept busy unrolling toilet paper and folding into compact absorbant pads.



When the tattoo is completed, the Master cleans the tattoo of excess ink and quietly recites a special chant.  He blows on the tattoo twice to energize the Sak Yant with its powers.

Luang Pi Nunn Energizes A Sak Yant That He Just Completed

After an hour observing Luang Pi Nunn, we went back down the stairs to explore more of the facility.

There were several areas where Tapawkaos were involved in tattooing people.  I had read that only Monks could energize the Sak Yants.  This was not my experience the night before Wai Khru at Wat Bang Phra.  Every Tapawkao that I observed, upon finishing a tattoo, would recite a Kataa and blow twice into the Sak Yant to energize it.  I questioned Duangchan about this and she told me that Tapawkaos are taught a great deal by Monks and have powers.  The Monks give them authority to recite Kataa and to energize the Sak Yants.

Man Receives Sak Yant On His Thigh From A Tapawkao
After three hours we left Wat Bang Phra eagerly anticipating the Wai Khru Ceremony the next morning.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Sak Yant Tattoos






Sak Yant Tattoos On Theravada Monk's Body

 Our just concluded four day trip to Nakom Pathom, approximately 50km outside of Bangkok, was the culmination of two serendipitous events.  About a month ago while surfing the Internet, I discovered an e-brochure, "Khlong Tour, Cruising the Majestic Waterways" created in 2007 by the Tourism Authority of Thailand.
 
The brochure describes several tours of the area including floating markets, farm and orchard visits, and some Buddhist sites.  We had visited the area for the first time in 2007 and for the second time last December.  The brochure highlighted some areas of interest that we had not visited.
 
Shortly after discovering the e-brochure, I learned from a contact on Facebook, that the annual Wat Bang Phra Tattoo Festival was scheduled for 15 March.
 
I have wanted to witness the Wat Bang Phra Tattoo Festival for at least three years.  I decided that this would be the year that we would attend the festival and also spend some time to visit some of the sites described in the e-brochure.
 
The Wat Bang Phra Tattoo Festival is a ritual where "magical tattoos" are re-energized by special chants from the Monks of the Wat.
 
Before writing and sharing our experiences at the festival, I would first like to give some background regarding the tattoos associated with Wat Bang Phra.
 
The "magical tattoos" are actually "sak yant" - Yantra tattooing. Sak yants have a long and mystical history dating back over 2,000 years ago.  Sak yant tattooing is an ancient tradition of Thailand, Cambodia, Lao People's Democratic Republic and parts of Myanmar (Burma).  Today the tradition is largely restricted to Thailand.
 
Yantra originated in India.  Yantra are symbols and geometric arrangements that are used in Eastern mysticism to focus on spiritual concepts and to balance the mind.  Wearing, creating, and concentrating on yantra was believed in Indian religions to provide spiritual benefits.  In India the yantras were typically created on cloth.
 
Thai Yant (Sak Yant) Flag Hung In Our Living Room
The use of Yantras printed on cloth is still popular today in Thailand.  Yantra flags are hung in homes and vehicles to bring good luck and fortune.  They are especially popular for posting in businesses to bring success.  We have two Yantra flags in our home - one in our living room and a second one hung above the entrance door to our bed room.  The cloths are blessed by the Monks of each specific Wat that distributes them. The cloths are believed by Theravada Buddhists to protect from evil spirits, provide good health and esure safety for the residents of the home where they are displayed.
 
Some Yants are small - similiar to soccer club pendants, and are hung from motor vehicle rear view mirrors to afford protection from accidents.  We do not have one but we do have a small plastic disk - a sort of medallion with yantric symbols on it.
 
Yantra Cloth Above the Door To Our Bedroom
 
However it was the Khmer culture that adapted the yantras into tattoos.  During the Khmer Empire period, the warriors were covered from head to toe with yantric tatoos incorporating ancient Sanskrit script.  It was believed that the power of the Yantric tattoos protected the warriors - arrows and knives were unable to penetrate their skin.  Ok - you might be wondering why if the warriors were invincible, why are we all not talking Khmer today.  Although the Sak Yant tattoos are very powerful, there are rules that the bearers must follow to maintain the powers and the tattoos have to be re-energized periodically.  Apparently the Khmer warriors did not follow the rules faithfully or keep their tattoos energized.
 
 

Today, Yantra designs for tattoos contain Animist, Hindu and Buddhist symbols.  It is yet another example of the Thai people incorporating rather than getting rid of beliefs and practices of previous religious systems into their current system.

Sak Yants are created using the "mae sak", originally a bamboo needle, but today it is a long metal pointed rod.  A trained Monk or a lay Sak Yant master uses the slotted metal pointed rod to apply special ink beneath the skin to create the selected design. The rod more closely resembles a knitting needle than any needle that I assumed would be used to create a tattoo.  After he has finished tattooing the person, the Monk or the ajan recites a prayer and blows twice onto the new tattoo to energize it.



I do not have any tattoos or have I ever considered getting tattooed,  however I know that if I were to get a tattoo it would not be "Mom", an anchor, or even a ship across my chest.  No, if I were to ever get a tattoo, it would have to be special - a tattoo that connected me with the far distant past, a unique tribal connection, a religious artifact created by traditional instruments used by a spiritual person - something like a sak yant.

Gadget

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