Sak Yant as a Cross-Cultural Practice

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Sak Yants are spiritual tattoos that originate from Southeast Asia. Based on an Instagram sample, this article examines the popularity of Sak Yants in the so-called West, as they clearly differ from other tattoo styles, for example, often emphasize less individuality and imply rules that the tattooee must follow to keep their power. Their cross-cultural adaptation can imply the risk of copies and changes, as well as the commodification of the spiritual art and a connection to eroticism to promote their marketing. Reasons for the cross-cultural fascination these tattoos exert lie in the belief in protection or a general desire for meaningfulness, the constant indexical connection to the master, the expression of cultural openness, and the feeling of community, as well as a holistic approach to the physical and spiritual. This is expressed through the ritual and the new spiritual status tied to certain behaviors. In conclusion, the millennia-old Sak Yant seems to correspond to a specific zeitgeist, connecting body and mind and enabling self-chosen connections to times and places.