Saturday, May 18, 2013

Thailand’s Magical Tattoos

Cedric Arnold was on assignment in Thailand when he first saw a shipyard worker covered head-to-toe in tattoos. This was Arnold's entry point into the yantra tattoo tradition, one that goes back hundreds of years and spans several countries in Southeast Asia. Arnold's project, “Sacred Ink,” consumed four and a half years of his life and took him all over Thailand to cover this tradition in its entirety, from the giant ceremonies for devotees to the rare tattoos that are only found in certain parts of the country. Incorporating elements of Buddhism, Animism, Brahmanism, and Hinduism, the tradition is believed to go back as far as the ninth century, and there’s even historical evidence of soldiers wearing the tattoos for protection in battle during the 16th and 17th centuries.Yantra tattoos are still believed to have mystical powers and can be worn on the skin or drawn on other surfaces. Once seen as the mark of gangsters or even assassins, the tradition has become increasingly popular—and expensive. Yantra attracted international attention when Angelina Jolie got two of the tattoos on a trip to Bangkok. Now tourists travel there specifically to get inked, and the subculture has drawn lots of media interest.
 By Jordan G. Teicher /Slate /more


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