Buddhists Say Angelina Jolie Doesn’t Deserve to Wear One of Their Tattoos

Buddhists are upset about Angelina Jolie's 12-year-old tattoo that she received in Bangkok shortly after adopted her first son, Maddox. Just above her left shoulder blade, the traditional Thai tattoo is five lines of ancient Khmer script, which is supposed to ward off bad luck from the mother and child.


The thing is, Angie may have had the best and purest intentions in getting inked, but she's a trend-setting westerner, and in the dozen years since she got the tattoo, more and more people are following suit, without understanding the spiritual meaning of the markings.

In the western world, body art is just that -- art. By and large, most people who get tattoos these days do so for decorative or sentimental reasons. In other words, it's not exactly a religious experience.

In contrast, many Buddhists believe that tattoos can give their wearers magical powers, protect them from evil, and even make them bullet proof. They feel that westerners who copy their sacred markings don't appreciate their significance.

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The spiritual and superstitious markings are called sak yant, and usually consist of lines of script, geometric patterns, and animal shapes. Not only have the actual tattoos on "outsiders" caused upset, but even their placement on the body.

The Thai culture considers the head the most sacred part of the body, so many have been grieved to see foreigners with tattoos of their religious symbols on their lower bodies. As a general rule, the god Ganesh should never be placed disgracefully below the waist.

OK, I can appreciate why Buddhists would be upset over westerners taking their sacred markings and using them just because they thought they were pretty or cool. But I don't think they should be grieved by it. If the wearer isn't a believer, the magic obviously won't work, right? Doesn't it have to be both? But then again, I may just be applying my western reasoning to the issue.

Just be warned -- If you have traditional Thai tattoos and you're planning a trip to Bangkok soon, you might want to cover them up.

Do you think it's OK for westerners to get traditional Buddhist tattoos?


Image via Francois Durand/Stringer/Getty Images

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