The Variety and Fascinating Meanings of Polynesian Tribal Tattoos

The Variety and Fascinating Meanings of Polynesian Tribal Tattoos


Tribal tattoos are an independent genre. There are different types of tribal tattoos, out of which Polynesian tattoos are quite popular. The place of origin of these tattoos is the Polynesian Islands. It is very interesting to note that the number of islands goes beyond 1000. Hence, these islands cover a vast area on the Pacific Ocean. On the map, when all the islands are taken together, it forms a triangle, which is known as Polynesian Triangle. Because of so many islands, there exist several cultures with rich tribal tattoos history. And, that is why there are so many Polynesian tribal tattoos and their meanings are profound.

Hawaii Tattoos


These tattoos have elements that are typical to Hawaii. Animal tattoos like gecko, sea turtle, shark, tiki, and orchid are most popular. Each one of them has a symbolic meaning – geckos are believed to bring in illness, sea turtles are revered because of their long lifespan, sharks are respected for their underwater dominance, and tikis are ancestors of human beings with special powers. When you get any of the cool tribal tattoos, you are likely to receive either protection from that dangerous animal or be blessed with the admired feature of that creature. Hawaii also gets plenty of flowers, of which orchid and hibiscus provide the best tattoo designs. Usually, the tattoos are done in black color but flower tattoos are always made colorful.

Traditional Tattoos of Polynesia


With the arrival of early missionaries, tattoo art received a severe blow. Tattoos were banned from the islands. Nevertheless, a German explorer named Karl Von Steinen did the commendable job of sketching 400 traditional tattoo designs on paper. From those sketches, it is found that the Polynesian tribal tattoos meaning was focused on telling the life story of the person. Details like his island of origin, his social rank, his profession, and his achievements were all portrayed in the tattoo design. Some of the designs provided protection such as a fisherman would have a shark tattoo as it would save him from sharks. Many of the designs were also spiritual in nature, which talked of ancestors and were seen as blessings.

Today, traditional tattoos are sought after because they have a deep tribal tattoos meaning. They are also pure and show no foreign cultural influence. These tattoos are made using modern equipment or you could choose to get them done with traditional tools.

Tattoos for Women


Records maintained by explorers on the islands mention that Polynesian women sported tattoos on their ears, chin, and lips. They also had tattoos on both their arms and legs. As per tribal tattoos history, tattooing of girls began at the age of 12. With each tattoo, she would gain some rights and responsibilities. For instance, with the tattooing of the arms, the girl could then ready meals for the family and apply coconut oil to the dead bodies. Their tattoos were not as complex as that of the men. Most of the time native flowers were chosen as motifs. In the West, apart from Polynesian flowers, you could also get tattoos of Polynesian goddesses like Hina, Ivi, Atea, and Pani.

Full Sleeve Tattoos


Historically, Polynesian men had tattoos all over their bodies and thus, there are no records, which refer to full arm tattoos. Modern Polynesian tattooists will prepare the arm tattoo motifs using Polynesian symbols and creatures of the sea. They would show you the options and you could select which ones you would like to have on your arm. Many tattooists also view the arms as totem poles. Hence, you could choose symbols whose meanings are related directly or indirectly to your dreams and desires.