Photo Essay: Wat Bang Phra Tattoo Festival 2014

Thousands of devotees and tourists made the pilgrimage to Wat Bang Phra temple outside of Bangkok this weekend to witness the fervent and fascinating rituals of the annual Sak Yant Tattoo Festival. 

In Thailand “Sak Yant” tattooes are widely believed to possess magical powers and arguably the best time to see this magic on display is at the famous Wai Khru gathering, which is as renowned for its spirit possessions as it is for its tattoos.

As in years past, the event took a dramatic turn when many of the freshly tattooed men suddenly became possessed by the spirits of their tattoos and began to yell, run and jump at invisible enemies. These transformations were often violent with the possessed blindly charging into other people in the crowd. The possessions seemed to occur in waves, with dozens of men seemingly taken by their spirits within seconds of one another. 

It made for a chaotic and often dangerous atmosphere in which this cameraman’s camera was routinely slammed into without so much as an apology. He believes he speaks for other journalists as well when he asks that all spirits please take the high price of lenses into account next year. 

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