The Bizarre Wat Bang Phra Tattoo Festival

Every March, the Wat Bang Phra temple of Nakhom Pathom, Thailand, becomes the scene of a weird celebration, known as  the Wat Bang Phra Tattoo Festival.

While in most western countries tattoos are viewed as an art form, in Thailand, a country with a culture deeply rooted in superstition and spirituality, tattoos are considered more than just skin deep artworks. The traditional Thai tattoos, known as “Sak Yant”, are believed to have magical powers, and people get them done at temples, for protection against evil spirits, and as good luck charms. Many members of Thai police, army, and the underworld think some tattoos have the power to stop bullets and blades from piercing their skin.

Photo by Paula Bronstein/Getty Images AsiaPac

Each year, tattooed devotees come to Wat Bang Phra temple, a place famous for its tattoo masters, to pay their respects to the art of Sak Yant, in a special ceremony known as Wai Khru. Attended by tens of thousands of people, the event becomes quite a spectacle when the animal spirit possessions begin.

Photo by Paula Bronstein/Getty Images AsiaPac

At one point, a loud and frightening growl is heard from somewhere in that sea of people, but only foreigners seem to react to it. Then monkey sounds are heard, and people start running towards the temple -  specifically towards the shrine of Luang Poh Pern, a respected tattoo artist who served at Wat Bang Phra – waving their arms in the air and yelling like crazy.  They are in fact being possessed by the animals tattooed on their bodies. If they have a tiger tattoo, they start growling, if it’s a snake, they start crawling on the ground, but eventually they all start running like crazy toward the shrine.

Photo by Paula Bronstein/Getty Images AsiaPac

At first, it’s just weird, but as more and more devotees become possessed, the festival becomes quite dangerous. In their uncontrolled rage, devotees just run into the other participants, and unless they are calmed down, they end up being stopped by a line of soldiers surrounding the shrine. There is a way to stop the animal possession, and it’s as weird as the rest of the Wat Bang Phra festival – other devotees have to rub the ears of the possessed to end the trance.

Photo by Paula Bronstein/Getty Images AsiaPac

 

Photo by Paula Bronstein/Getty Images AsiaPac

 

Photo by Paula Bronstein/Getty Images AsiaPac

 

Photo by Paula Bronstein/Getty Images AsiaPac

 

Photo by Paula Bronstein/Getty Images AsiaPac

 

Photo by Paula Bronstein/Getty Images AsiaPac

 

Photo by Paula Bronstein/Getty Images AsiaPac

via Zimbio

 


   

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