- Museum number
Body stamp made of wood. Used to mark out a tattoo design. Traces of red ink can still be seen around the magic squares which form part of the design on the bottom left. The design also features a spirit (nat in Burmese)
- Production date
Weight: 21 grammes
Thickness: 0.90 centimetres
Width: 8.20 centimetres
Depth: 5.20 centimetres
- Curator's comments
Register says: "Collected from a Burmese on the Irawaddy River."
Burmese men frequently sported tattoos from their thighs all the way up to the tops of their heads. Tattoos were used as part of the technology of invulnerability, to protect against spirits, bring strength, resist and cure disease. Red ink tattoos would only last about five years, whereas lamp-black tattoos would last much longer. The well known anthropologist and Theravada specialist Baas Terwiel has reported that tattoos in Thailand were carried out using sesame oil, such tattoos could not be seen at all but were magically efficacious nonetheless. Body stamps such as this are now made of rubber. They help the tattooing master execute fine design and magical inscription. Shan / Tai peoples across the region are particularly known for their tattoos.
The magic square in the bottom left is empty but would be filled in by the tattooer. Standing on the magic square there is a dove like bird, which is associated with love. The 'nat' spirit figure is flying upwards. All of these designs are symbols of the positive facilties that are imminent in the tattoo itself, or that will be impregnated by the tattoo into the body. From comments made by Baas Terwiel on 25/03/2008.
Such a stamp may also have been used for cloth decoration. From comments made by Susan Conway 6/ 05/2008
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2014 2 Oct – 2015 11 Jan, London, BM, Pilgrims, healers and wizards: Buddhism and religious practices in Burma and Thailand.
- Acquisition date
- Registration number