The Meaning and Symbolism of Lacre

It is said that the ancient art of tattooing came from the Makolo tribe of Indonesia, who used the itu (or tunce) to permanently mark the face with a particular picture. Legend has it that the first ever itu was created by a man named Tahar Potama. The picture inked on his face then was the image of a large and powerful snake, hence the translation of the word “tatu” or “snake”. However, it is most commonly assumed that the itu came about because of a need for identifying members of royal families, especially when they travelled into more distant regions and kingdoms.

As such, the first itu was made by a member of the Makolo tribe. It is said that he placed the picture of a large bird, Memenangkans radial (or Memene), on the man’s forehead in order to identify him. It was not until several years later, when the first official records were documented, that the itu was officially adopted as the official symbol of a male. As such, the site has evolved over time into many different styles and forms, including: men’s jumper, bahwa dua, sampian, terus, and sagat. The following brief history gives a glimpse of how and where the itu came into existence.

Early legend has it that the first itu was made by a man called Memenangkans. This legend is supported by the fact that many early writings (called datong kurung) mentions the existence of a powerful snake called Memene, who is known to have attended to both gods and humans. In some areas of northern Java, the early citizens were accustomed to calling the snake by its given name, instead of addressing it by name. This was possibly done to avoid offending the powers that be (or just to be different).

Legend has it that the snake transformed itself into a dragon, by shedding its tail. From this point on, the itu became known as the baca juga, meaning “bitter dragon.” Legend continues that Memenangkans fashioned the first itu, from the bark of the tree that he had lived his life in. Legend has it that he died and left his body in a cave, along with a number of his children, to be preserved for eternity. These children unknowingly discovered the secret of the fact juga, and when the Buddha arrived in the town three years later, the monks took the remains of the great sage, and fashioned the first of the site known as the Gautama Buddha.

It is from this point on that the site / baca juga became known as the lotre yang, or “stone of the lotuses.” Legend has it that the stone, with its powerful mind and memory, can allow a person to remember the things of the past and their connection to all the gods, spirits, and ancestors of Buddha. This is why so many Buddhist monasteries in Thailand now have a special room where a meditation session can take place, using the lotre yang as a wall, and the energy from the stones used as a form of lighting.

At its most basic level, lotus jewelries and its symbol, the lotus, symbolize the endless movement of existence. In Thai literature, the word for lotus is khom, while the term for the lotus is prabhavarn. Prabhavarn means “a plant that yields lotus fruit,” while khom can mean “ossom” or “leaves.” As a design, the lotus usually grows in two different colors: a light green on the inside, and a deep red on the outside. The outside of the lotus is referred to as the “topsis,” while the inside is referred to as the “mooli.”