Subject: infantry commander
Setting: Ayutthaya kingdom, Siam 17th-18thc
Context (Event Photos, Primary Sources, Secondary Sources, Field Notes)
* Caron/Schouten 1986 p134 (Joost Schouten 1636, "A description of Siam")
"His [the king's] foot are in reasonable good order, though meerly armed with Bows and Arrows, Shields, Swords, Pikes, and a few Guns" ....
* Thompson 2007 p44
"Protective amulets to a certain extent had magical properties. They ... could take many forms and shapes: some were made as items of jewellery, others as textile objects, or worn in battle to protect the warrior, both as magical objects, mystical symbols, written spells or inscriptions -- all thought to be equally effective."
* Maliszewski 1996 p110
"In the past, Thai warriors wore the praciat around their arms or their heads to ward off dangers encountered on the battlefield."
* Gittinger/Lefferts 1992 p118 f3.20
"[A] small cloth called phaa prachet, embellished with yantra, [was] once worn at the neck or arm, and [is] today often seen in Thai businesses displayed for luck."
* Tanjaworn 1975 p6
"The traditional lustral thread around their head and the ring of charms around his [sic] bicep serve to protect him from injury and to give him the strength and courage he needs ...."
* Kemp 2019 p59
"In historical times, Thai soldiers wore jackets imprinted with sacred symbols meant to provide protection in battle. The belief in the efficacy of magic spells originated in ancient India and arrived in Thailand via the Khmer Empire, Southeast Asia's most powerful kingdom between the 9th and 15th centuries AD."
* Maliszewski 1996 p110
"Old drawings also depicted these warriors wearing shirts with magical letters and symbols, sashes with magical numbers and designs, and possessing tattoos on their bodies."
* Guelden 1995 p145-146
"The magical shirts, worn by military commanders in war, were made in seven different colors to correspond to the lucky colors for each day of the week. The colors related to the seven known planets, which were thought to have a strong influence over people's lives. Thus, warriors wore yellow yan shirts on Monday because they guaranteed long life, or donned a black shirt on Saturday to strike terror in the heart of the enemy. According to another account, the commanders selected the color that represented the best day to enter battle based on their horoscopes.
"A Siamese embassy expedition to France in the late 17th century is reputed to have impressed King Louis XIV with the power of these cabalistic shirts, according to a report by a Thai abbot that was widely believed in Thailand. A Thai envoy boasted to the French king that Thai soldiers were invulnerable to bullets or knives. To test the claim, 500 French military men were said to have shot at 70 Thai soldiers, who were protected by yan shirts and by cloths blessed by spells, the abbot wrote. In the first round, the bullets could not pierce Thai flesh. In the second round, the bullets dropped from the guns to the ground, according to the account."
* Gittinger/Lefferts 1992 p118 f3.29, 3.20
"Such shirts were worn as a defense against weapons or from malignant spirits.
"Commoners and royalty alike employed such garments. Those belonging to the court, called chalong phra ong long raja (royal jacket inscribed with raja [yantra]) were each in one of the seven colors assigned to the seven days of the week.
"[...] Such jackets ... would have been made with invocations to Buddhism, Hinduism, and holy seers by a person religiously empowered."
* Kemp 2019 p59
"Jackets and amulets could be lost ..., so instead it became customary to tattoo the symbols onto the believer's skin. Only revered masters, laymen or monks, could imbue the tattoo with supernatural power, using sacred ink, prepared by following a secret recipe, sometimes containing an esoteric mixture of snake venom, herbs and ash."
* Reid 1988 p78
"[I]n seventeenth-century Siam the characteristic 'trouser' covering of hips and legs with tattoo appeared to be reserved for the upper classes." [references omitted]
* Guelden 1995 p145
"A German doctor in 1690 ... shed some light on the tattoo designs. He wrote that the drawings were 'black checkered figures painted in the manner as they do with the images of the holy sepulcher of Jerusalem.' The drawings appear to have resembled cabalistic geometric designs of Brahmanical origin, called yan or yantra, that look like a square divided into smaller boxes containing magical numbers or letters. These patterns are commonly used today in tattoos. At one point in Thai history, they were transferred to shirts, which provided supernatural protection in war but had the advantage of not requiring the application of painful tattoos."