Tom Vater

Tom Vater

Irreverent, informed and downright eclectic crime fiction and reportage from Southeast Asia and beyond

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Sacred Skin in Bangkok 101 Magazine

Bangkok 101, the Thai capital’s city magazine features Sacred Skin in its December issue.

Writer Tom Vater and photographer Aroon Thaewchatturat spent a year researching the history and practices behind sak yant, Thailand’s centuries old sacred tattoo tradition. The result was Sacred Skin: a 200-page book packed with over 170 colour photos and insightful text. Thaewchatturat’s stark studio shots compellingly capture these arcane scrawls of Khmer script, geometric forms and obscure mythical creatures. And Vater’s words are just as revealing, delineating the origins of sak yant and belief of those who wear them. Sacred Skin’s most lasting contribution to the tradition, though, will likely be its dispelling of a modern myth: that they appeal only to criminals. Devotees who wear them are given a set of rules by their masters, Vater explains, which they must follow if the tattoo is to work. Or, as one devotee puts it, “the sak yant is a powerful reminder for us to stay on the right path.”

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