Sak Yant Myths and Misinformation

Clearing up Sak Yant Myths and Misinformation Made by Travel Bloggers

Travel Blog articles and even some Tattoo Parlors that write articles about Sak Yant usually rank highly in search engines. While this is great to get an idea of the Sak Yant Experience - many often copy and paste incorrect Sak Yant information from each others Blog Posts - creating Myths and Expectations that have no Basis in the Real Sak Yant Tattoo.

Sak Yant Myths and Misinformation. Get the Truth - Sak Yant Information Guide Expert and Real Information Vs Misinformation

Sak Yant Information Guide

One of the biggest reasons that there are so many Sak Yant Myths and mis-information created by Travel Bloggers is that they choose to go and get a ‘cool tattoo’ for their Blogs.  The lack of any knowledge about the tradition, the inability to speak Thai makes it difficult to write a Blog Post about Sak Yants with accuracy.

Most have to guess about the meanings and traditions behind the experience they just had.

Sak Yant myths

Almost all of them guessed wrong, and/or copied incorrect information which includes being disrespectful and cheating Monks.  Many had no idea how to choose the design and understand the meanings of their tattoo, or actually just went to a Tattoo shop and got a normal Tattoo.

Many of these people will attempt to justify this with comments like “The difficulty/adventure is part of the rewards of the experience”.  However often their ‘adventure’ would horrify the Thai people with the amount of social taboos they committed and then wrote about concerning what is considered a highly spiritual and religious event.

There is of course nothing wrong with getting a Sak Yant Tattoo on your own, it just pays to have done the research and acquire the knowledge to do it respectfully.

The biggest issues real Sak Yant practitioners face giving westerners a Traditional Tattoo.

The Sak Yant is a highly regarded spiritual practice, that the Sak Yant master takes years to learn and keeps a pure lifestyle to generate the personal power to give the magical blessing. The Sak Yant consists of two parts

1) The Design
2) The magical incantation and blessing

So unless you speak Thai, you

1) Can not tell the Ajarn what you desire
2) Run the risk of insulting traditional Thai customs associated with holy men

For this reason many Ajarns prefer that the westerners who come to them do so with the help of a guide who is able to teach and translate in English. Not many Sak Yant Masters speak English, and feel uncomfortable when a person turns up without the ability to Speak Thai.

Incorrect Information that you should avoid thinking before getting a Sak Yant

While getting the Sak Yant Experience might be a cool adventure for you, for the Sak Yant Master it is a precious gift and blessing that is sacred and holy to them. You should ensure that you understand much of the information you may think you know is wrong, including but not limited too.

* A Sak Yant is by donation of whatever you think appropriate
* The Inks contain ingredients like henna that makes allergic reactions a possibility
* A real Monk can not touch a women so females can not get Sak Yants from Monks
* Sak Yants are done with a Bamboo Needle
* You need to follow strict rules after getting a Sak Yant
* The same ink and needles are repeatedly used
* The Monk or Ajarn chooses the design
* Monks can read Auras

While you may not use the services at Sak Yant Chiang Mai, nether-the-less the information provided in our Sak Yant frequently asked questions holds true throughout Thailand and will clear up these myths and provide you with real facts from the Sak Yant Master’s themselves.

Sak Yant Blogger Misinformation
The Number one blogpost responsible for the majority of misinformation about the Sak Yant

Why Travel Blogs about Sak Yant Tattoos are getting it Wrong

So you want to get a real Sak Yant Tattoo in Thailand? If you are reading this now then this is probably just one of the many blog posts and articles in your search for gaining some information.

Sadly much of the information you read online is just plain wrong, as travel bloggers try to explain things using their preconceived beliefs and culture.  As bloggers try to complete as many blogs as they can.  There simply is no time to really learn about the Sak Yant so they search and copy information they find in other articles.

Most of the Sak Yant Myths and mis-information can be traced back to a single top ranking article.  A few years ago the Expert Vagabond website wrote an article Blessed By A Monk: How I Got My Magic Sak Yant Tattoo which was full of Sak Yant myths and misunderstandings about the Tradition.

Since this reference article is usually ranked in the top 3 results on Google, other travel writers, copy and paste the incorrect information and over the last few years the Sak Yant Myths and Misconceptions have become the knowledge a person brings with them to Thailand when getting a Sak Yant Tattoo.  The following article is going to highlight the reasons why these mistakes are made, and then provide a list of corrections so that you can learn the real facts. At Sak Yant Chiang Mai we are in a position to actually ask the Sak Yant Masters who understand the Sak Yant tradition and get the real facts.

Why How to Spot an Sak Yant Blog Post that got it WRONG and Why

Blog posts are great for obtaining information of other peoples experiences, and learning about Sak Yant Tattoos.   But there a few problems with many Blog posts about the Sak Yant Experience.   ….. most noticeable

With over 20 Sak Yant Masters available - 95% of travel blogs are about the one they can get commission from

1) Lack of Time to Research Correctly

 In an attempt to make a Sak Yant Tattoo blog post rank in search engines, the writer has to come up with a better article than those that have come before.  Most bloggers make money from their websites by selling advertising or sponsored articles.  The more articles they write the more money they can make.  It is very difficult for a travel blogger who makes money from their blogs to spend the time and energy required to understand a Sak Yant fully.  When they have to write about Elephant camps the next day, and Top 10 places to eat the day after, little time is available for any in depth understanding.  So they tend to search the internet for other blog posts and copy the information presented before or make an assumption and report it as a fact.  Some of the misinformation that these articles present are:

If a Blog Post about a Sak Yant contains any of the following claims … It is a inaccurate article

* A Sak Yant is by donation of whatever you think appropriate
* The Inks contain ingredients like henna or snake parts that makes allergic reactions a possibility
* There is only ONE place to get a Sak Yant in a given city
* A real Monk can not touch a women so females can not get Sak Yants from Monks
* Sak Yants are done with a Bamboo Needle
* Needles and Ink is reused for many people
* You need to follow strict rules after getting a Sak Yant
* The Monk or Ajarn chooses the design
* Monks can read Auras

There are many more mistakes and errors in what people present in their blogs, which will be covered and corrected below.  The Author of this Blog Post got their information by asking Monks and Ajarns.  We did not copy what a travel blogger has posted, or tried to make sense of the experience through our personal bias. For a fully detailed list of common Questions about Sak Yant and the real answer you can visit our FAQ Page.

2) Sak Yant Blogs are often written for Affiliate Commission

There is nothing wrong with Affiliate articles written by Travel Bloggers to help pay their way around the world.  Affiliate marketing or paying for articles with commissions is standard business practice around the world.    At Sak Yant Chiang Mai, we feel that the purity of a spiritual service (an audience with a Monk or Ajarn) should not be promoted by paying bloggers to write about it.  Our Monks and Ajarns themselves have said they do not approve – so we do not offer affiliate commissions for blog-posts.  We wish we could! It would be great to have so many articles written about the Sak Yant experience we provided bloggers actually refer to us, and not to other companies who pays the writer to link to them.

Affiliate Blog Posts for Sak Yant tattoos
What a Sak Yant? Just press here and pay 2-3 times as much as you need too

If a Blog Post about a Sak Yant contains any of the following … It is written for making money and will link you to a more expensive service.

* There will be links to book spread throughout the article

* Often refer to bit’s of ‘secret information’ only they had access to by having insider knowledge from the company Owner (because now they are friends they have exclusive information to share with readers)
* There will often be precaution information to avoid ‘other’ companies operating in the same city as they are less than trustworthy or less authentic as the higher priced companies paying them to promote a spiritual experiencing.

Sak Yant Blog for comission

Case in point is this blogpost by Finding Beyond website about “Where to get a real Sak Yant”, which includes the usual tell tale reference every few paragraphs to the booking page for their commission. In an attempt to suggest that the company paying for the article is more legitimate than the local Thai tour guides they highlight how ‘wonderful it is to go to a real Sak Yant Master’. Examples like  …

“Unfortunately, we know of other companies in Chiang Mai who offer the experience but it’s on a more commercial level where clients are rushed in and out to get a quick tattoo out of a book and do not allow any quality time with the Ajarn. We even read reviews about one company stating that they had a monk in their central Chiang Mai office where tourists can get a “Sak Yant” tattoo the same way they’d go to the barbers to get a haircut!”

There is nothing wrong with pointing out that a company you used offers a wonderful and legitimate service, but no need to do it by using misleading  tales about other places offering the same service.  In this case, the Monk that the author says is ‘Authentic’ and not commercial is the same Monk used by many Sak Yant services, for 1/3rd of the price of the service she promotes to her readers.

To suggest it is better to follow her recommendations the titbit like a barber getting a haircut is used to discredit using the same Monk through a different service.  Either the author has done very little research and simply did not know, or they intentionally are making things up to gain commissions.  Either way, it betrays trying to present their readers with representing their bests interests because of a spiritual calling as is done in this article.

3) Sak Yant Information provided by Thai Tattoo Parlors

A recent development in Sak Yant Information found online is the ever growing number of Tattoo shops creating pages about Sak Yant Tattoos in the hopes of gaining customers.  The Sak Yant Information provided by a Tattoo Business trying to cash in on the Traditional Thai tattoos is purposely filled with misinformation.  The bottom-line is you can not get a Real Sak Yant from a Tattoo Shop, you can only get a design that is full of errors, and and obvious fake to those who appreciate and follow the Sak Yant Traditions.  You can find out more information in the article Why you can not get a Sak Yant from a Tattoo Shop.

As Tattoo shops can not actually provide you with a Real Sak Yant Tattoo, they have to find a way to convince you that paying them 3-10 times the price of a Traditional Thai Tattoo with Magical Blessing from a Real Sak Yant Master.  They do this by claiming.

  • You don’t really need the magic aspect of the Sak Yant
  • They make prettier looking designs
  • They have Air-conditioned rooms
  • Real Sak Yants are unhygienic using old needles and ink
  • Thai People will praise you for having fakes because they look good
  • Real Sak Yant Masters can’t accept Money
  • They have no ethical issues going against Thai Culture – so why should you?
  • Specialized services (such as Sak Yant Chiang Mai) accept money – so why not just get a Fake instead
  • Real Sak Yants are not available in the areas they operate in
  • and so on and so on

It does not take much thought to figure out that these are not exactly valid reasons for much of anything; let alone good Sak Yant Information.   Some Tattoo shops will straight out tell you they are only providing a good looking fake that has no meaning. Others will straight out lie and tell you their Sak Yant’s are the same as the real thing.

Take Away Points

Blogposts about Sak Yants are great for getting an idea of other peoples experience, but also run the risk of pointing you in the direction of a higher cost service.  Check out Google and Facebook reviews of all local providers of Sak Yant services – these are done without receiving payments and tend to be more honest representation than a commissioned article.

Tattoo Parlors can not give real Sak Yant Tattoos. It doesn’t matter how they try to justify it – they are not qualified

Got Sak Yant Questions?

We have the Answer at our Sak Yant FAQ

Sak Yant Myths and Misinformation : Corrected!

Fixing the incorrect Sak Yant Information found in Travel Blogs

Sak Yant Tattoo Rules

Since most of the Sak Yant Myths and Misinformation are created and copied from the Expert Vagabond websites article ‘Blessed By A Monk: How I Got My Magic Sak Yant Tattoo’, this article will list and correct the misconceptions. Some are important, others are just a result of insufficient knowledge or research.  The author himself acknowledges how he learned about the Sak Yant .. Traveling around Southeast Asia while living out of my backpack, I learned about these tatoos from some fellow travelers and thought it sounded like a cool experience.  It is not really the best source to learn about traditional and sacred rituals of a country from someone promoting budget experiences he learns from backpackers.


1) Sak Yant Origins

Misconception:  “Buddhist monks originally engraved Sak Yant into warriors seeking protection and strength in battle. Often covering their entire bodies from head to toe in magic symbols to prevent knives and arrows from piercing their skin”

Reality: The history of Sak Yant’s is much deeper and richer.  Holy Shaman not Monks originally created them, and then later more Monks started doing Sak Yants as Temples were the schools in Thailand.  In order to learn to read and write, you had to first become a Monk. Sak Yant began to be taught to Monks even though it is not part of the Buddhist tradition because Monks were able to read the magical scripts.

2) Poke method Vs Machine Tattoo

Misconception: “No machines are used to create a Sak Yant design. These traditional Thai tattoos are engraved into the skin with a long metal spike or bamboo sharpened to a point”.

Reality: Many Monks and Sak Yant Ajarns use modern tattoo machines in addition to the poke method.  Bamboo has not really been used for 30 years since it takes half a day to make, they are very light and cause much more pain.  Now days most Sak Yants are done with a stainless steel Kem (rod) with replaceable needles.

3) The Monk chooses the design based on Auras?

Misconception: “Monks will often choose a sacred design, as well as the location of your tattoo based on your aura“.

Reality: This is perhaps one of the most inaccurate Sak Yant myths around.  Monks do not see Aura’s! Monks do not know about Auras – they are not part of Buddhist teachings. Aura’s are part of the western new age movement and have nothing to do with Buddhism or Sak Yant traditions.  A Sak Yant master can help you chose a design if you want them too.  But all this does is show the Sak Yant Master you have no idea about Sak Yants, or why you are getting one. 

It is much better to explain to the Sak Yant Monk, I want a Sak Yant for this reason, and I choose this design to represent it.  The Sak Yant location is based on the design. Certain designs have certain locations, others can go where the person wants.

4) Best Place to get a Sak Yant Tattoo

Misconception: “The best place in Thailand to receive a Sak Yant tattoo is a Buddhist temple called Wat Bang Phra. It’s located about 40 minutes West of Bangkok.”

Reality: Wat Bang Phra is without a doubt the classic and most traditional place to get a Sak Yant tattoo. But there is no best place, as each Sak Yant Master has different skills, different traditions, different rules to follow and different blend of traditional and modern. 

Many people who have Sak Yants will say ‘abc is the best’ or ‘abc is the only’.  It is very difficult to offer accurate opinion of where to get a Sak Yant if you only been to one place.  How can you compare with a grand total of one experience? You can not, so anyone person or service claiming to be the best is doing it to present themselves as an expert or are doing it for commission.

5) The Ink - made of snake venom and human parts?

Misconception: “Each monk concocts his own special blend of magic tattoo ink too. The recipe is secret, but is thought to contain Chinese charcoal, snake venom, palm oil, and even human remains!”.

Reality: The ink used by the vast majority of Sak Yant masters is brought from the local tattoo supply shop. Just like no one spends 4 hours making a bamboo needle anymore, no one spends days making special ink.  Maybe a few hundred years ago, ink was made with what was available out in the jungle, but it is just incorrect to make assumptions that because the Sak Yant is a century old tradition, they still do it the way it was first started. 

A starter Ink that has been made using some additional herbs and prayed over is often added in small quantities. But seriously? Monks are digging up bodies to give tattoos?  give me a break!

6) The Sak Yant Hygiene?

Misconception: “The safety of Sak Yant is debatable. It can be a risky practice. The needle itself is usually wiped with an alcohol pad after each tattoo. Or it might be placed in a bottle of alcohol while a separate needle is used for the next person. But the same pot of ink is used with everyone, and blood can mix with the ink”.

Reality:  This can be the case at Wat Bang Phra in Bangkok, where thanks to the author, people go to get a Sak Yant tattoo and give less than the cost of ink containers, gloves or needles. 

It is not the case from any other Sak Yant Master in Thailand, who all use new Ink and Needles for each guest.  Even at Wat Bang Phra you can request all of these things and give a donation will almost always ensure you get them.

7) Cigarettes As Payment? How much does a Sak Yant Cost?

Misconception:“Outside the entrance, I purchased a temple offering consisting of orchid flowers, incense sticks, and menthol cigarettes for 75 baht ($2.40 US) before removing my shoes and heading inside.  Everyone is expected to present these simple gifts to the monk as payment for a Sak Yant tattoo”.

Reality: This myth is the most prevalent and has been used incorrectly to gauge if the Sak Yant is genuine – because it is done for $2-3! Even the author edit on his article makes the comment that it now cost more than he gave, making him question the new commercialization of Wat Bang Phra (then refers you to a much more expensive tour alternative as a remedy to this).  Sak Yant tattoos have NEVER been done for a few dollars, this is the offering you make to the temple (via Sak Yant Master) to show respect.  THEN you give a donation for the service you are about to receive.

Let’s examine this with the reality and a little common sense.  First Thai people who belong to the Temple and have been giving donations for years, STILL give a day or two wages as a donation to the Monk in addition to the offering to support the Temple for a Sak Yant.  Thais who have not spent years supporting the Temple with donations give a little more.  Yet somehow talking with his backpacker friends, the author decided that the Sak Yant Master has dedicated his life to providing his skill and knowledge for the price of $2 in the form of cigarettes?  Seriously? someone who dedicates their life to being spiritual, has decided to support the temple that is their home by selling a packet of cigarettes?  This is just plain wrong, a combination of not understanding the way things work and the desire to travel the world on as little money as possible.

Sak Yants like any form of spiritual practice have a cost.  Every form of spiritual advancement requires sacrifice, this is one of the fundamental underpinnings of spirituality.  In the situation where a westerner is coming from a position of earning 4-5 times the salary of a Thai person – that cost is money.   If Thai people make a donation of around a days salary, why would a tourist think that 20 minutes of salary is a sufficient payment? Especially when they have not being (or continue to) give donations to their local Temple for years as the Thai people are doing?

Want to Get a Real Sak Yant?

Sak Yant Chiang Mai is Thailand’s leading Sak Yant provider – Over 10 Independent Sak Yant Masters working in Hygienic and comfortable Samnaks