The History Of Sak Yant Tattoos
The Four Elements
All across the world in the past, cultures have developed magical systems based on the four elements they thought made up the physical properties of the world. They are, earth, air, fire and water.
Cultures such as the ancient Greeks, Romans and Incas, and later the Wiccans, and mystics of the West, the idea that these four elements – earth, water, air, and fire – made up all matter was the cornerstone of philosophy, science, and medicine. The elements were “pure” but could not be found in that state on earth.
Everything was made up of some combination of earth, water, air, and fire. Indian tradition follows this belief before the ancient Greeks and later influenced the Khmer empire. The empire was dissolved into what is now known as Thailand and Cambodia. As Buddhism made its way into the Khmer empire, a fifth element was added that of spirit or Buddha.
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.
Since the days of King Nareswon, in the golden era of Ayuttaya, Thai soldiers not only sought protection in the power of Sak Yant and also the wearing and praying of amulets. In World World 2, Korean and Vietnam war, Thai soldiers were nicknamed “Taharn Phee” (ghost soldiers) by the allied forces because of their Sak Yant tattoos and amulets. Many Muay Thai Boxers (”Nak Muay”) seek the magical powers said to be afforded them by Sak Yant tattoos.