Polynesian Tattoo

Polynesian tattoo designs have become very popular in the last two decades, however, the start of tattoo culture in the Polynesian Islands started some thousand years ago. In the Polynesian culture a tattoo is looked upon as an art form. Scroll down for more information...
Polynesia is a beautiful group of islands, which includes islands of Samoa, The Cook Islands, Easter Island, Tonga, French Polynesia, Tahiti, Hawaii, etc. They are a favorite tourist destination across the United States and also all over the world. According to some, the word tattoo originated in the Polynesia. The word tattoo comes from the Polynesian word tatao, which means to tap. The word tatu was used by the Tahitians, which means to mark something. The word tattoo is said to be coined by Captain Cook, when he explored the Polynesian Islands.

Polynesian Tattoo Designs

In the Polynesian islands, men as well as women got themselves tattoos. The tattoo designs for women were called malu. The designs used for male and female tattoos were more or less similar. The only difference was that women tattoos did not have large black areas, which were common in tattoo designs for men. There are two types of Polynesian tattoo designs. They are Enata designs and Etua designs. Let's see in detail about both these tattoo designs.

Enata Tattoo Designs
These designs are natural designs, which are used to symbolize personal details about the person. The details which can be depicted using this design form are the person's life history, island of origin, social standing in the society, type of work done, etc.

Etua Tattoo Designs
These designs have more stronger spiritual, magical, and religious meaning attached to them. These symbols indicate the honor given to the person in the tribe as well as an offering for protection from the Gods.

Polynesian Tattoo Meanings

The tiki, turtle, gecko, ray, dolphin and a lot of abstract symbolic designs are very popular amongst the tattoo lovers. Let's see the meanings attached to traditional Polynesian designs.

Tiki Tattoos
The word tiki refers to the mystical ancestor or the first human on earth. In Polynesia there are statues and carvings which depict a human figure. This art is known as tiki art. Tiki is also depicted as a God, who most often is shown with his eyes closed. The eyes of the tiki are closed because the Tiki is said to be able to smell danger before he sees it. There are thousands of Tiki gods and goddesses, and all of them have different symbolisms attached to them.

There is a possibility that shells were used as currency. Hence shells stand for wealth and prosperity in Polynesian culture.

Sharks and Shark Teeth
Sharks were considered to be sacred animals by the Polynesians. At the same time, they were seen as powerful and mighty creatures. Shark teeth were used as a talisman for protection from enemies. Hence shark teeth are a very popular tattoo design in Polynesia.

The gecko is said to possess supernatural powers. Therefore, the gecko is regarded with fear and awe by the Polynesians. According to Polynesian belief, if a green gecko laughs at a person, it is said to be an omen of illness and bad fortune.

Turtles are seen as symbols of fertility and long life by the Polynesians. Hence, most of the Polynesians favor this design.

Although the Polynesian islands are spread away from one another and the cultures have developed over thousands of years, what is fascinating about these cultures is the glaring similarities in tattoo designs. In today's world, where tattoos are a form of self expression, Polynesian tattoo designs are famous and favored by many people.
By Bhakti Satalkar
Published: 1/19/2010
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