Polynesian Tattoos

Polynesian Tattoos Polynesian Tattoos History

The history of tattoo art in Polynesia dates back over 2000 years. Polynesian culture elevated the tattoo art to the highest levels in the ancient world. They believed that a person’s life force is displayed through the tattoo on their body. The whole art form is woven into their songs, legends and rituals. The early Spanish explorer Mendaña “discovered” the Fenua Enana Islands in 1595 and baptized this archipelago Marquises Islands.

But the first descriptions of Polynesian tattooing were written almost 2 centuries later by English Captain Samuel Wallis, French explorer Bougainville and English Captain Cook. In 1767, Wallis had noticed that it was a “universal custom among men and women to get their buttocks and the back of their thighs painted with thin black lines representing different figures”.

The next year (1768) Bougainville reported in that “the women of Tahiti dye their loins and buttocks a deep blue”.
Height year later (1774), Captain Cook returning from his trip to the Marquises Islands, wrote in his diary “they print signs on people’s body and call this tattow”. Ma’i (called by the English Omai), the first Tahitian to travel to Europe (with Captain Cook) became rapidly famous partly because of his tattoos.

Polynesian Tattoos Meaning

There are two different types of Polynesian (or Tahitian, words we’ll use interchangeably) tattoo. The first is Enata. Enata designs are natural designs that come to symbolize a person’s life history, island of origin, social level, type of work done, etc.Another type of Polynesian tattoo is the Etua. This form has a much stronger spiritual, magical or religious meaning to it. These symbols might show particular honor to one or more people in a tribe, or offer protection from (as in, “by”) the gods against natural and evil spirits.

While each one of the Polynesian islands has its own reasons, customs and meanings to attach to their tattoos, there are some similarities between them as well. These can include the meanings of:

  • Courage
  • Rite of passage
  • Rank
  • Sexual attractiveness
  • A talisman

Types of Polynesian Tattoos are the FF:

Hawaiian Polynesian Tattoos – Hawaiian Polynesian tattoo designs would be tattoos specific to all things Hawaiian. Of course this would refer specifically to the Hawaiian culture before it was assimilated with other cultures. So look to tikis, native flowers, Gods, housing, transportation, native creatures, and the Hawaiian language for your Hawaiian Polynesian tattoos.

Tribal Polynesian Tattoos – Tribal Polynesian tattoos are highly requested. The problem is that Polynesia as explained above covers a huge area and each island developed their own tribal art. Hawaiian tribal art is very different from Maori for instance. So either choose a style, or blend them all. Talk to your tattoo artist to help with this design.

Traditional Polynesian Tattoos – Traditional Polynesian Tattoos are really nonexistent. This is not meant to disappoint for there is some hope. Like many native cultures, much of the unwritten history was lost. The most true to traditional that is recorded is the Maori. With this culture we have some drawings that were made by the Spaniards that survived and descriptions of what the placement of tattoos meant.

Polynesian Flower Tattoos – For Polynesian Flower Tattoos go with any native flower to your island. For instance, Hawaiian’s would typically use the beautiful Hibiscus flower.

Ancient Polynesian Tattoos – Ancient Polynesian tattoos would be designed from anything left of the ancient Polynesian culture. These ancient Polynesian tattoos would then need to be designed from the glyph art that remains on Easter Island and possibly the statuary that remains there as well.

Polynesian Tattoo for Women – Polynesian tattoos for women could be any of the native flowers from all islands in the triangle or the island of your ancestry. In addition consider the goddesses of the Polynesian culture. If considering the Maori Polynesian tattoos for women, keep it to the chin or below the knees. Traditionally it was only the chin but later drawings depicted some women of royalty with tattoos on the lower part of their legs, as well, in the form of a lower leg sleeve. Both legs were tattooed.

Full Sleeve Polynesian Tattoos – Full sleeve Polynesian tattoos are more of a modern version of the ancient culture and are very popular today. Encouragement by Polynesian tattoo artists is given to design your sleeve based on the importance of certain symbols. This presents a problem because we do not know all of the symbols. We do know this; great importance was placed upon all the creatures of the sea as well as the sea itself. The sleeve is something similar to a totem pole, if you will. Each piece that you add represents a totem, aspect, guardian, or your desire in life.

Polynesian Tiki Tattoos – Polynesian Tiki gods are most recognized as originating from the Hawaiian Islands although we cannot be sure of this. They are still Polynesian as Hawaii belongs to the Polynesian Triangle. Study of the Tiki Gods and their meaning will help with this tattoo design.

Polynesian Armband Tattoos – Polynesian armband tattoos are a smaller version of the sleeve described above and are worn by both men and women today. You can choose the tribal art from whichever island you admire or from which you descend and then add the totems that apply to your life.

Polynesian Gecko Tattoos – Polynesian gecko tattoos are stunning in the tribal art of the islands. Interestingly enough if you study the images of gecko Polynesian tribal gecko art you will notice that the gecko is sometimes fully tattooed in the Maori circular tribal style with some Hawaiian thrown in as well. This guy looks great on his own or in an armband.

Polynesian Stingray Tattoos – Polynesian stingray tattoos are fabulous pieces of body art. It appears that most stingray images if studied closely are designed in the Hawaiian tribal art style. This is not to say that is inappropriate to design a stingray in another of the island styles. It will require a large amount of skin though to do it justice for the awesome creature that it is.

Polynesian Tattoos Designs

Polynesian tattoos have very bold dark shapes and dark patches. But the finesse comes in the filling of thin lines within those large shapes. Every line is perfectly parallel making Polynesian tattoos a masterpiece among tattoo art. The geometric shapes like circles, semi circles, triangles, hexagons, etc are freely used to make a complete and cohesive pattern. These tattoos have strong lines and are meant for a splash without needing any other color except black and gray.The most popular and appreciated designs are the turtle, the ray, the shark, the dolphin, as well as a lot of abstract symbolic designs.

Polynesian Tattoos Ideas

Placement of Polynesian tattoos down their entire legs with strands, or backs with animal symbols. Women are also wearing armbands as well as men. The most modern phenomenon and the most popular by far is the creation of the arm sleeve that covers a man’s entire arm and goes up onto his shoulder.