Laytu Chin Medical Tattoo

February 2011: On my last Chin exploration tour in Western Rakhine, I visited a fairly remote Laytu Chin village located on the banks of a Lemro tributary. Around twenty Laytu Chin women between their early 50s and 80s live in the village, all with facial tattoos. None of them wore traditional hand woven tunicas or any traditional earrings (drum shape, made of silver sheet) though.

One woman though had a very particular tattoo on her neck: a circle with a cross and four dots in each field. She explained that the shaman did the tattoo to safe her life as she feared that the goitre (or struma [medical]) which developed would kill her. Therefore, a circle was tattooed around the area concerned and the round field marked on the skin was then criss-crossed and dotted to symbolically and visually destroy the malady. So far, I have seen these type of tattoos on hands, forearms and the back but never on the neck or throat. Tatttoos for medical purposes and/or to protect from evil spirits seem to have been quite common.