In a state of trance, thousands of tattooed devotees who are believed to be possessed by the creatures that are inked on them flock on the grounds of Bang Phra temple. Some crawl, jump and growl while others chant, bow their heads and are lost in the magical powers of their beliefs.
Once in a year, believers from across Thailand gather in this temple in Nakhon Pathom province on the outskirts of Bangkok for the Magic Tattoo Festival. This is to honor Buddhist monk Luang Phor Phern, the temple's late abbot, and a renowned Sak Yant tattoo master.
The annual ceremony is believed to bestow mystical powers through the art of sacred inking.
Sak Yant tattoo is common in Southeast Asia and is distinct for its monochromic and geometric patterns, passages from religious classics, and animal images. Only Sak Yant masters can perform this tattoo. They mix snake venom, herbs and cigarette ash into the ink they use.
This tattoo is believed to give its bearers holy powers which protects them from evil. However, it won't work if they don't obey certain rules – not to drink, steal, kill and perform sexual misconduct. If a devotee missed in any of these, he needs to be at the festival to renew its power.
The annual rite commences at exactly 9.39 in the morning. It's date varies from year to year but should be in early March and on a Saturday.