The Polynesian tattoo, also known as Maori tattoo is a trendy tribal tattoo for a while now. But what does it mean and where does it originate from? To discover in the lines that follow …
Polynesian tattoo for men and women: meanings, ideas and more than 30 inspiring photos
We have devoted many publications to tattoos , their history and meanings. Here we are again back on this subject, but this time we will be interested in one of the most trendy tattoo models at the moment: the Polynesian tattoo, often also called Maori tattoo. Indeed, it is our third publication devoted to this interesting topic.
The tattoo originates from indigenous peoples living in Polynesia.
Tattooing was used as a symbol that not only served to embellish the bodies and faces of men and women, but also to demonstrate their membership in a social group and their status. In the following lines, we will give you some information on the history, meanings and symbols of Polynesian tattoos as well as inspiring drawings and photos. We have tried to collect the best male and female Maori tattoo ideas on the net for you.
Polynesian tattoo: the first tattoo in history?
There is still a debate about the definitive origins of Polynesian culture and the notion of tattooing. One thing is certain, the term “Polynesian” incorporates many tribes: Marques, Samoans, Niuens, Tongans, Cook Islanders, Hawaiians, Tahitians and Maori. All these tribes are genetically related to indigenous peoples in parts of Southeast Asia. Speaking of the Polynesian or Maori tattoo, we often refer to all the indigenous peoples living in Polynesia.
Southeast Asia and, in turn, Polynesia is a sub-region of Oceania, consisting of a large group of more than 1000 islands scattered over the central and southern Pacific Ocean, in a triangle that encompasses the New Zealand, the island of Hawaii and Easter Island.
The people who inhabit the islands of Polynesia are called Polynesians and they share many of similar traits, including language, culture and beliefs. Hence, tattoos come together. The common feature of all Polynesian peoples is that they all live near the ocean. The ocean is associated with the divine, with the previous and spiritual life.
The Polynesian tattoo is also known as Maori tattoo and tribal tattoo.
Polynesian tattoo: list of meanings and origin
Among the most common symbols of Polynesian tattoos are the turtle, the shark, the shells, the lizard, the sun, and the spear points. The ocean plays a major role in the Polynesian culture which is quite logical knowing that they live nearby. We tried to make a list of the most common Polynesian tattoo symbols and their meaning.
As we have already mentioned, the ocean and its inhabitants are very present in all Polynesian cultures. Here’s why Polynesian tattoos often have shark teeth . Do you know why ? Indeed, the shark teeth, called niho man in Polynesian, symbolize strength, security and adaptation . The God of the Polynesian peoples is often pictured as a shark. This symbol and its interpretation are closely linked to the behavior of sharks – very strong and resistant fish. Sharks or shark teeth are perfect for a Maori tattoo arm or forearm man or woman.
Another animal that has inspired many Polynesian tattoos is the tortoise . The turtle represents wisdom, eternity, fertility, harmony and family. It is well seen as a tattoo back woman or man. Indeed, the turtle is a symbol found in many different cultures. As you probably already know, the turtle is a very old animal and lives very long time. Here’s why the turtle is a highly respected animal and always associated with wisdom.
The inhabitants of the ocean inspire almost all models of Polynesian tattoos.
Polynesians believe that the sea (the ocean) represents the previous life . This is where the soul goes after death. The turtles on their side live at sea and at the same time. This is why Polynesians believe that turtles are a kind of spiritual guide and can show them the way to inner peace.
The lizard or Gecko
The lizard is also a symbol very present in the Polynesian culture and often tattoo object. In Polynesian language “lizard” translates “gecko” . For indigenous peoples in Polynesia, the lizard represents a kind of God. Just like the turtle, the lizard lives between the ocean and the land. He is a very old animal and of long life. Maori believe that the lizard has a protective force. We like the little tattoo maori lizard in the photo below. This model is perfect for a wrist tattoo or ankle.
Another symbol that is very present in Polynesian tattoo is spear points . They are incorporated in almost all Polynesian tattoo designs. For the Polynesians, the spear points represent the force, the daring and the courage. You can integrate them in different ways into your tattoo model. Spear points are also the main weapon of Polynesians. This is a multi-function tool that is very present in the lives of Polynesian men.
The sun: wealth and splendor
The sun is a symbol found in almost every culture. It represents warmth, strength, light and wealth … Polynesian culture represents magnificence, majesty and fortune. Indeed, the sun can be integrated into a tattoo in many different ways and depending on that, it changes meaning. This symbol is perfect for those who want a small tattoo arm or forearm.
Have you ever heard of Enata?
The Enata is one of the most classic motifs in Polynesian tattooing. It symbolizes masculinity, energy and strength. Depending on its location, orientation and combination with other symbols, it changes meaning. Enata can also represent family, friendship, completeness and others.
You can create your own original and personalized Polynesian tattoo template. It is possible to integrate several symbols to bring a unique meaning to your tattoo.
As you have already understood, the meanings of the most common symbols of Maori tattoos are simple and logical. Polynesians are inspired by what surrounds them: the ocean, the sun, animals and nature. All these symbols are found in almost all ancient and modern cultures.
What is Polynesian culture really?
However, Polynesian languages may vary slightly from each other and in some cases they differ significantly. There are words that are basically the same in all Polynesian languages, reflecting the deepest core of all Polynesian cultures. Moana (ocean) and mana (spiritual strength and energy) are two terms that transcend all Polynesian cultures. These words are quite similar and reflect the proximity of Polynesian cultures to the ocean, as they believe that the ocean represents life.
Moana and mana or the force of the ocean
The origins of tattoo art in Polynesia: a question of statue and belonging
Historically, the Polynesian culture had no writing. The art of tattooing was therefore used by Polynesians to express their identity and their personality. Tattoos indicated social status, as well as sexual maturity and genealogy. Almost everyone in ancient Polynesian society was tattooed. Tattooing was a way of distinguishing oneself and attesting to one’s belonging to one’s original tribe.
Tattoos arrive in Europe thanks to Captain James Cook and his travels in Polynesia.
Captain James Cook was the first navigator to try to explore the Polynesian triangle. In 1771, when James Cook returned to Tahiti and New Zealand. He was the first to introduce “tattooing” in Europe. In his stories, James Cook describes the Polynesian people’s behavior of his trip, which he calls tattaw . He also brought a Tahitian named Ma’i to Europe. Thanks to Ma’i, the first tattoos were born in Europe.
Nowadays, many people are tattooed without hesitation. This trend is becoming more and more prevalent, which was not the case 30 years ago, for example. We at Designmag say “yes” to any tattoo idea. Our advice is to simply think carefully before choosing a new tattoo especially if it is permanent.
Maori tattoos are usually large, but it is quite possible to opt for a small Polynesian tattoo. And if you are not 100% sure or you change your mind often – there are temporary tattoos !
The Maori tattoo arm and forearm is a great classic in tattooing man.
We like the Polynesian tattoo design below. You can opt for a mini version.
Maori tattoo idea complex man and woman