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1. A Buddhist monk or Bhikku    2. A Ruesi    3. A Prahm (Brahmin Lay Master)

Prahm is a lay person who dresses all in white clothing and keeps from 5 – 10 precepts. He may have a wife and children too. Some Prahm will only wear white and follow the precepts when they are inside their Sam Nak, allowing them to dress normally when they go out. These Ruesi are able to practice because they can reach a very high meditative state and this is used whenever they perform a task.
Another type of Ruesi is a Choke Ruesi. This Ruesi is highly skilled in orthopedic medicine, healing with magical potions and expert massage. Martin, the owner of Bangkok ink, had an encounter with one such Ruesi, Ajarn Morsoman. Martin was unfortunate to have a serious motorcycle accident which left him fighting for his life in ICU. After a few days he regained consciousness and discharged himself from the hospital. He fractured his skull from ear to ear, had serious fractures in his shoulder, three broken ribs and a punctured lung. Basically his entire right side impacted the road heavily leaving him in a lot of pain. Bangkok Ink was in its infancy then and Martin knew he had to get back to being healthy as soon as he could. His assistant, Paeng, found a Choke Ruesi and Martin began to visit this man. Martin described the experience as something magical, using his herbal oils, Ajarn Morsoman expertly worked on Martin’s body, easing the pain while repairing joints and he even reset his toes, which gave him instant relief.

Martin with Ajarn Morsoman

Ajarn Morsoman worked on Marin’s foot which was infected with gangrene while in the hospital. The skin had gone from a large piece of his instep and this was very painful as well as being susceptible to infection.

Martin’s infected foot

The worst thing for Martin was the broken ribs, apart from being very painful, this restricted his movements severely. Ajarn Morsoman checked the area out and found where the break in the bones were. He moved them and listened to the grinding of the bone ends. When he was happy with what he had discovered he carefully but forcefully realigned the ribs. He did a good job, 3 months later there is no more pain and the bones have set straight. Initially Martin visited the Ruesi every three days, he noticed there were many people coming to see Ajarn Morsoman. Ordinary people of all ages, with bone or joint problems, would fill the waiting room, a testament to his ability. His arms were very powerful and sometimes Martin hurt for a few hours after the sessions but then a raw feeling of power surged through him and he stood taller and his back straightened. Martin is convinced of Ajarn Morsoman’s powers. He was no stranger to Thai massage and said that Ajarn Morsoman takes it to another level. He is sure that visiting this Ruesi really sped up the healing process.


He had many kinds of pastes and potions made from leaves and roots, in fact he used to chew one regularly saying it helped him to get through the long working day. The first time he met Martin he told him to stop taking the Tramadol pain killers and start using his natural potions. Martin complied, thinking it would be a very painful experience but much to his delight it actually worked and he was mostly pain free from that day on. Sak Yant and the Ruesi are still an integral part of Thai daily life. I constantly witness people coming to Ajarn’s Sam Nak for ailments, instruction or just advice regarding a personal problem. So a Ruesi is much more than just a person who tattoos Yants. He plays an active role within the community, presiding over different ceremonies such as removing unwanted spirits or protecting a house in some way. In ancient times the Ruesi had a lot more involvement within the local community often acting a mediator / judge presiding over small conflicts between the locals as well as being the medicine man with potions and items found deep in the forest. I have seen Ajarn’s ancient scriptures, written on old parchment by his grandfather in Ayuthaya Province, detailing all kinds of ailments and the cures for them. These parchments are already being copied by a disciple of the Ajarn’s Fu to ensure they are not lost forever.

Ruesi Mask (Siarn Ruesi)
A Ruesi will have many items that he uses during his practice. The Ruesi mask is perhaps the most important. All Ruesi will have at least one and they are life-size full head masks depicting an ancient Ruesi. The face has two buck teeth, long hair, eyebrows with a beard and a moustache. He also possesses a third eye, located in the center of his forehead.


Ruesi Por Gae is said to be the Master of Masters and is the head of all Sam Naks in Thailand. When someone receives a Yant from a master, they are continuing the lineage from thousands of years ago by becoming a disciple or follower. During the white magic ritual, the devotee has this mask placed upon his head by the master after it he has made several large circular movements above the devotee’s head.

The Sak Yant Master channels the energy he receives into the tattoo and many silently chant khatas while tattooing the Yant. The stick used to make the tattoo was once made from a sliver of bamboo and was called “Mai Sak” Nowadays it is a stainless steel rod “Khem Sak” with a screw attachment at both ends. One is for the tip, the fine needles that will penetrate your skin, while the other end is for various weights that can be added giving the rod a different feel for the master. I see the Masters changing this weight quite often in the middle of a tattoo. It could be that for shading it requires a slightly more powerful poke than with a fine line. I think each Master has their own personal preference much like a golf player and his clubs. Some favour a heavier rod while others prefer the finer detail that can be produced from a lighter and finer tip.

Khem Sak

This is the sacred water bowl filled with blessed water. The Master uses this to spray over devotees during the white magic ceremony while chanting a Khata. There can be many different things added to this water, depending only on the creativity and imagination of the Master. The water is used for other things and is sometimes drunk to cure illnesses.

Khan Nam Mont

This knife has a Khata engraved down the centre, it is used to rid unwanted spirits and stirring the holy water. Many of them are small pocket knives and can easily be carried.

Meed Mhor (Doctor’s knife)

The Pan Kroo is used for devotees to place their offering to the Master. Traditionally this would be adorned with Betel nuts, tobacco and Ploo leaves. Flowers and garlands are often used and this is optional.

Pan Kroo (offering tray)

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