Text on Lek Yan
The text on Lek Yan - Tamra Lek Yan - is a legacy of the belief in the ancient cosmological chart or design, which includes the constellations and the signs of the zodiac, the four elements - earth, water, air, and fire, combined with the meditation practice or Kasinayadana. Kasinayadana is the part of the Buddhist’s yogic exercises called the 40 Kammatthāna, which leads to the practice of Kasin-sanggraha-dhatu or Kan Hung That - the creation of magical talismans, charms and weapons.
Lek Yan means the magical geometrical motifs that include alphabets, numbers, icons, ideograms or symbolic images that may be surrounded or framed by the geometrical motifs or may lie outside them, depending on the designer’s belief or the specified formulaic model to be followed.
The knowledge of Lek Yan has been transmitted in the oral tradition and only important passages are written down - the motifs and the mantras, which are left to us today. The texts on Lek Yan found in the central region are: Khamphi Patthamang, Khamphi Itthache, Khamphi Tri-ni-sing-he, Khamphi Maharat, and Khamphi Phuttha-khun. The Lek Yan motifs from these five texts serve as the prototypes for all the Lek Yan texts found in the central and southern regions of Thailand.
The magical motifs from the five texts on Lek Yan are applied to the creation of talismans, amulets and charms such as Prachiad (Yan cloth), Sue Yan (Yan jacket) , Takrut (amulet), Phirot, Prakham (magical rosary), Mit Mo (magical knife of the shaman), Thian (magical candle), Phra Kring (the Buddha’s amulet that is hollow and contains a small metal ball inside), Phra Mai Pho Ham Samut, metal coin, and Phra Phong Somdet (a highly sought-after series of the Buddha’s amulets made of consecrated materials). It is believed that these charms have the magical power according to the kind of Yan that is used with it. The motifs from the five texts are also used in the art of war - to bless the weapons and vehicles as well as to design battle formations and army marches.
In the northern and northeastern regions of Thailand in the past, young men were keen on having animal motifs or Yan motifs tattooed on their body with the belief that this would protect them from dangers. The tattoo practice also serves as a test of their bravery and endurance. People in the central and southern regions are not keen to have their body tattooed.
Today, the “tattoo culture” is on the rise again and people bring to the tattoo artists/shamans the magical motifs - such as Yan Kro Phet and Yan Kao Yot, which are found in various books and they ask the Yan artists to tattoo them on their body in oil or in ink. They believe that these magical motifs would protect them from dangers or magically earn them special favor and kindness from people or make them sexually irresistible to the opposite sex.