Over the last few decades, Polynesian tattoo designs have become very fashionable among men and women equally, and more and more people are searching for new ideas and designs for their tattoo.
All tattoo lovers would want their tattoo to be unique and attractive so that it is noticeable. Well, this has motivated artists into creating newer, trendier and more beautiful and versatile designs to satisfy the needs of tattoo lovers. Polynesian tattoo designs are very much in vogue for its symbolism and because they are mainly tribal tattoos and represents travel back to our roots. They have a historical value attached to the tattoo designs and if you wish you can modify a Polynesian tattoo to give it a more modern look.
Table of Contents
History of Polynesian Tattoos
According to this myth, “Ta’aroa,” their God of Creation, had two sons who introduced this body art that included designs with deep meanings, and also the technical features of these tats to human beings.
The term “tattoo” was taken from the Samoan word for “strike twice” or “mark.” This term signifies the old tattooing method that is not the same as the tattooing process of today. During that ancient era, the tools utilized to engrave Polynesian tats on the body were made of bamboo, bird bone, turtle shell, etc.
With the use of these natural tools, cuts were pierced into the body, and inks from natural extracts were used to fill the cuts. The engraving of tats with great Polynesian tattoos meanings was treated with utmost significance and was usually performed with music, songs, and rituals, among others.
It took a lot of time to complete the process of tattooing, and it was so painful for the person being tattooed. Even the healing process took time, but it was considered necessary as a symbolism of power and courage. During those times, people also believed that tattoo designs were beautiful ornaments that made human bodies more attractive to the opposite sex.
Each tat design shown on the body of an individual represented unique Polynesian tattoos meanings. It portrayed the status and rank of a person in the community, a particular stage in his life, or a type of personal achievement. Usually, when a child becomes 12 years old, he gets a tat on his body as a symbol of his transformation from adolescence to adulthood.
As the individual reaches some progress in his life, more tats were engraved on his body. Tat designs also signified the prestige and social status of a person, and if one had so many tats etched on his body, he was looked up with deep admiration and respect. On the other hand, the natives who had nothing on their bodies or those who had incomplete tats were looked down in the community.
The Polynesian tattoos meanings associated with people having unfinished tats mean that they were not able to endure the painful process that goes with tattooing. For women, tats were engraved on their arms, chin, hands, and lips. While Polynesian tat designs have gained immense popularity even today, several other traditional tats are also popular.
3 Major Categories of Polynesian Tattoo
You may be aware that each of the islands of Polynesia has its style of body art, and the three most popular Polynesian tattoo designs in the world include Samoan, Hawaiian, and Maori. Among these 3, the Maori tats are the most famous and also most different. Being the cultural minority group of New Zealand, the Maori people are said to have taken the tattooing idea from the Eastern Polynesian islands.
1) Samoan Tattoo
Samoan tat or “Tatau” is made of abstract, intricate and significant motifs as well as patterns that cover a big portion of your body. The purposes of tats for Samoans include showing the essence of their cultural pride, denoting their status and rank, and identifying their ancestors.
The Samoan tats were recognized as a status symbol, and people who had incomplete tats on their skins due to their failure to endure the painful process were looked down with disgrace. The Samoan’s called their tats for men as “pe’a” while the tats inked on women were called, “malu.” What makes Polynesian tattoo designs very famous even today is their traditional and cultural significance.
2) Hawaiian Tattoo
However, the Hawaiian tats do not possess any religious significance, but only for personal identification purposes. They were used for mourning of a loved one, but most often, they were only utilized for ornamental reasons.
Among the various kinds of Hawaiian tats that have traces of Polynesian tattoo designs, the most popular images are the floral tattoos. While most of the Hawaiian women prefer to have flower tats on their skins due to their feminine appeal, these designs were also worn by men. One of the most Hawaiian flower tats is hibiscus that also happens to be the State Flower.
They are created in different colors such as white, pink purple, yellow and red. Orchid flowers are also very popular Hawaiian floral tat designs. You can also select from other well-known Hawaiian floral tat designs bearing the images of lizards, sea turtle, dolphins, and arrows, among others. The best description of Samoan tat designs is the intricate and detailed designs that they possess.
3) Maori Tattoo
The complex patterns that are made of spirals and curved shapes are one of the fantastic features of Maori tat designs that make them more attractive and highly-distinguished from other kinds of Polynesian tats. The Maoris engraved their tats with the use of a chisel formed by the male tattoo artist. The tattooing process was performed with chanting, music, fasting and sacred rituals.
This kind of Polynesian tattoo designs was engraved on the entire faces of men, as
well as on the buttocks and legs, while, in the case of women, they had their tats on their chin, back, neck and lips. Among other Polynesian tat designs, the biggest and the most significant tattoos are the Hawaiian tat designs.
They were formed by sharp and pointed parts of animals such as bird’s beaks and claws, and they were usually done in full black color.
It is amazing to know that the most complex this type of Polynesian tattoo designs is, their meaning becomes more complicated. One important thing that you should know how these tats were crafted in the past is that the tattooist used a pig or a shark’s tooth to engrave the tattoo, and the tattooing process was extremely painful.
Polynesian Tattoo Design Ideas
1) Polynesian Animal Tattoos
Any tribal tattoo would be connected to the forces of nature and all living organisms. Many animals were worshiped, and many hunted for food. The cave paintings of Lascaux depicted pictures of animals and carving done by people of the bygone era represented animals in different ways. One example is the totem animal of the old American tribes. The tribal people used animals designs as tattoos on their body to represent emotion, expression, and sheer animal power and as a sign of respect and worship. The cats of the jungle showed their patience and stealth; the turtle represented calmness and carefree style of living, the bear represented power and so on. So, depending on what you want to portray you can choose an animal Polynesian tattoo design.
One of these interesting designs is the “Gecko” which is a kind of lizard believed by the Polynesians to possess supernatural powers. This Gecko was well-respected by the Polynesian people. Next is the shark that was considered a powerful and sacred animal.
If you have this tat on your skin, it means that you’re protected against your enemies. Even the shark’s teeth were also believed to denote protection. Other popular tattoo images with deep Polynesian tattoos meanings were the shells that served as their currency, “Tiki” design that depicted the first human being, and the turtle which symbolized fertility and long life.
2) Patterned Tattoo Designs
Another typical tattoo design in Polynesian tattoos are the tribal patterns depicting the rugs and clothing and the kind of textile they used.
Hawaiian floral patterns, woven rug patterns, tribal designs used in textile are all incorporated in tattoo designs as a sort of respect to that culture and to showcase the traditions of the tribal people.
3) Nature’s Bounty Tattoos
Remember that tribal people in Polynesian tribe are nature lovers and worshipers of the five elements. They found a meaning for every tree and every flower beside respecting the sun, the moon and the stars beside the animals.
They found a method of using all things natural for their livelihood, and this was represented in their carvings too. Hence, such designs would look good for a tribal tattoo.
4) Symbols of Different Cultures
There are many tribes that existed the world over. So, while getting a tattoo done, choose your specific tribal tattoo that you want. Remember that what may be a tattoo design to you will mean something real and valuable and traditional for people of that culture, and it would be courteous on your part to depict the design in a proper manner so that you do not hurt their sensibilities. Some of the prominent tribes were the Samoan, the Maori, the Hawaiian, etc. Each tribe has its intrinsic fundamental character that can be depicted on a tattoo design, and Polynesian tattoo designs are a good way of representing tribal tattoos.