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CAMBODIA –  Cambodian tattoo artists are inking magical designs on customers.

Phnom Penh tattooist Chan Tra, 47,  is one of the few Cambodian artists still able to ink magical designs on customers.

These tattoos bring the customers great luck, health and well-being.

Before taking to the needle, the magical tattoo artist prays in the ancient Pali language, the traditional language of Theravada Buddhist scripts across much of southeast Asia.

“It depends on our belief. If we believe that a tattoo is magical, it will have a supernatural force to protect us. But if we don’t believe that it has magic, it won’t show us its mysterious power at all,” says Chan Tra, whose customers also include foreigners.

However, his overseas clients tend to prefer decorative images such as temples, buildings or flags, he explains, while his main clientele for magic tattoos are Cambodian.

These normally feature pictures of animals such as tigers, along with scripts written in Pali, an ancient cousin of Sanskrit often used to communicate Buddhist texts.

First Chan Tra prays and calls for magic to be transferred to the skin of his customer, before taking out his needles. Many people believe that magic tattoos will help protect them from harm such as disease, snake bites or bullets, he says.