Polynesian Tattoos stem from native Polynesian tribes that include Samoans, Hawaiians, Tahitians, Tongans, Maori, Cook Islanders, and Marquesans. Hundreds of years ago, in these cultures, tattooing was considered a sacred process. And, the pain endured, a right of passage. Many of the tribal designs signified an individual's status in a hierarchical society. The different symbols and shapes common in Polynesian Tattoos represented the lineage of their ancestors and even protection from spiritual elements. Each tribe from the Pacific Islands had their own unique style and designs of tattoos making them identifiable. In 1771, the famous explorer, James Cook, introduced Europe to Polynesian Tattoos after he visited New Zealand and Hawaii. These artistic tribal designs caught on and spread throughout the world.
Today, Polynesian Tattoos are extremely popular. The distinct features and symbols found in tribal patterns continue to hold significant meaning. The designs, symbols and placement on the body represent certain cultural and spiritual beliefs. Our tattoo artists at Hart & Huntington are experts in Polynesian Tattoos and can tell you more about the rich history and meaning behind each of the tribal patterns and where to place them on the body.
Many Polynesian Tattoos use symbols consistent across all tribes. Scroll down for some of the most common elements found in Polynesian Tattoos and learn about their meaning.
The turtle, or honu, for Maori people, signifies fertility, longevity, and travel. In Hawaiian culture, the turtle symbolizes luck, endurance, and long life.
Usually, spearheads are placed in a row or paired with another symbol. Spearheads represent masculinity, bravery, and warrior-like wisdom.
The beauty of the waves or ocean represents the life-giving source for Polynesians. Ocean tattoos represent eternity, community, life, and fertility.
Often the flower is used in Samoan Polynesian tattoos to represent femininity, beauty, life, and nature. A spiral shape, or koru, signifies a sprouting fern symbolizing new beginnings.
The sun means eternal life, brightness, energy, and happiness in Hawaiian culture.
The shark takes on different meanings in various tribes and cultures. For example, sharks are considered protectors or guardian spirits in Maori culture. They can also signify intelligence, strength, and power in other cultures.
The tiki can represent deified ancestors, chiefs, and priests who became semi-gods. They are known to bring fertility and act as protection.
Here’s a look at a few of the Polynesian Tattoos that our artists at Hart & Huntington have created.
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