Advertisement
News by VICE

In Photos: Tattoo Trances at a Buddhist Festival in Thailand

A Buddhist festival at Thailand's Wat Bang Phra temple this weekend drew thousands of people — and sent many into wild, tattoo-induced trances.

by VICE News
Mar 9 2015, 7:29pm

Photos de Antonio Zambardino

Buddhist monks at Thailand's Wat Bang Phra temple give Sak Yant tattoos to anyone who gives an appropriate offering at the temple. In addition to being painful — monks use a forked needle to manually penetrate the skin thousands of times for a typical tattoo — the tattoos are said to protect people from harm. And every March, thousands of people converge on the temple about 30 miles west of Bangkok to renew the power of their tattoos and get new ones.

Many also fall into trance-like states, imitate the animals tattooed on their bodies, and rush security personnel guarding the temple.

This year's festival, which took place over the weekend, was no different. Entranced men began acting like animals ranging from tigers to monkeys to swans before hurtling themselves toward the temple's statue of monk Luang Por Phern. Security stopped them and purged the spirits in part by pinching and cupping the mens' ears. Though women also get the tattoos, they don't tend to become entranced. It's said they're mentally stronger, and therefore better able to contain the power of the tattoos.

VICE News sent photographer Antonio Zambardino to the festival.

Thousands of people gather early in the morning at Wat Bang Phra. A path forms in front of the statue of Luang Por Phern in preparation for those who will charge it while entranced.

*

A man in a trance imitates a monkey.

*

A man races toward the statue of Luang Por Phern.

*

Sak Yant tattoos

*

A man hoping to get another tattoo approaches a monk in the temple.

*

Entranced men race toward the statue.

*

Though not common, women do enter trances.

*

A man imitates a tiger.

*

Security personnel and others try to restrain and calm a man in a trance.

*

Pinching and rubbing the ears of those in trances is said to help them relax.

*

Security personnel link arms in preparation for an onslaught. 

*

Another man fails to reach the statue. 

*

The festival also attracts Western tourists. 

*

A man entranced and mimicking a tiger.

*

The square begins to clear as the day's festivities wind down.

Follow Antonio Zambardino on Twitter: @a_zambardino