The Polynesian form of tattoo designed grew further into a popular kind of artform since it was produced in nations like Samoa and Tonga. In Tonga, especially, the warriors embellished themselves with these kinds of tattoo patterns from their knees to the waist. This tattoo art was mostly done in tribal or geometrical patterns which includes various shapes, like bands, triangles and circles and the spaces in between them filled with black ink. Obviously, black ink was the most common type of ink used. Unlike the modern-day tattoo artists, at that time, it was the priests who got trained for years and obeyed rituals who were responsible for this tattooing process. Regarding the rich symbolism, in the Togan culture, it held a significant implication for the people.
Polynesian tattoo, for a lot of people, stands for vitality and vigor, however, these are only the parts of what it actually stands for In case your tattoo artists are knowledgeable enough, he can guide you with the various designs and its symbolism, otherwise, everything is pretty much available on the internet and you can infer from the information given here. We have created this list exactly for this purpose, to help you guide through this. Since these are mosaics and geometrical pattern which includes various small symbols to make a whole, there are many micro symbols incorporated too.
The usual association of these tattoos is with determination, strength, and will-power of a person. But a further association is with dominance too, since you can find a lot of spears, shark teeth, and other sharp objects on the tattoos too. They stand for fierceness and versatility. If you delve more into this topic, you will find that a lot of symbols are associated with the surroundings including nature and god. There is the utilization of objects like turtle shells etc. Each symbol stands for various different things which might overlap with each other sometimes. They basically stand for thing slike peace, shelter, and wellness in addition to which is also potency and breeding.
Since various elements work together to form one masterpiece, we will show some of the most popular ones on this list. Besides, we will give a brief description of individual Polynesian symbols that form the whole. So, read on!
The turtle is one of the most famous symbols of Polynesian tattoo designs. The reflect immortality and equanimity in life. They thus, also represent family and resourcefulness. It is also known as ‘honu’ in their language, and it an important creature in the Polynesian culture which is associated with virility. The turtles stand for vitality, potency, endurance, support, and unity. It is the most significant symbol of unity as a tribe and as a family.
This is the symbol for turtle and contrary to what the regular notion is, the turtles drawn upwards don not imply that they are carrying the soul of a deceased one to the heavens. To represent such a commotion, a human figure must be placed near the turtle’s shell.
The most common symbol for dignity and guidance throughout the world is the sun. It is also symbolic of the possessions and rehabilitation.
Lizards have various connotations which mean different for different people. They are known to be survivors through adversity and represents a force that protects us from evil and other omens. In Polynesian cultures, the lizards, also known as mo’o or moko, play a significant role. Gods (atua) and other angels are often summoned by men in the form of lizards and geckos and this is very crucial in understanding why the stylized embellishment is present in the same way as it is present to represent a human figure. The lizards hence are a way of communication between gods and men. They bring good luck and fortune and have access to the spiritual world. But on the other hand, the can also bring destruction and a bad chance to people who are impolite while approaching them.
This is an emblem or a pattern representing the lizard symbol and if you could notice, it looks a bit similar to the outline of human being form.
The oceans are often considered as something that connects the tangible world with the world of the invisible. In a way, they also represent the flow of life and the death circle. While on one hand, it shows fertility, on the other, it shows death. The ocean represents a second home to the Polynesians and like many cultures, it is a place of rest after they have departed. As a matter of fact, turtles being a water animal, are believed to join them in their journey towards heaven and beyond. Since the ocean feeds the beings and creatures, it has a lot of impact on various myths and cultures. Almost all the creatures are linked with several metaphorical meanings that links our traits with theirs. Another way of representing the ocean is through the symbol of waves.
This is a simplistic version of the oceanic waves. This stylized version represents notions of life, diversity, and progression that persists. Waves, like the ocean, are symbolic of life beyond death and things related to heaven and hell. It is mainly associated with the afterlife.
The Shark Teeth
The shark teeth are quite sharp and are represented by the means of triangles. It is symbolic of heroism and fierceness. They obviously represent the cruel side of any creature. They are also called niho mano and has a special place designated for themselves based on a profound significance that they hold. They represent a lot of things including shelter, leadership, and vitality along with traits such as brutality and adjustability in many cultures.
This is a simplified variant of the shark teeth.
This is quite simple in designs as they incorporate triangles that are not even interconnected as shown above.
The spearhead is the ancient symbol of war or battles, enmity, and triumph. They were apparently more liked by the warrior class of the tribe and were inked on them. An arrow facing in the same direction is quite a positive symbol and means success over the foe. The spearhead is the classic symbol of all times to represent the warrior inside you. They can be used to represent protection and endurance and in fact, an animal’s sting.
This is another variation of the spearhead and here, the arrows are interconnected with each other.
Entata is the Polynesian meaning for the human form. They can represent a whole tribe of people who represent a same class, like that of warriors, for example. The human figures here mean both the men and women, but in addition., it can also incorporate the gods. Inside a tattoo pattern, they can mean human relations and connections. On the negative side of the representation, they can mean defeated enemy, if placed upside down. This symbol is a human form in singularity.
The stylized variant of this entata is a group of them joined together in a row and seemingly holding hands. The motif is called ani ata which means ‘cloudy sky’ in Polynesian culture. If these human forms holding hands were in a circular pattern rather than a straight line, they would have represented the sky and the ancestors as a guiding force for their decadents.
There is no reason to add the stingray pattern on numerous tattoos than it being overtly beautiful. Besides, they also signify a state of tranquillity and refinement. They are also very swift in movement and energetic and hence they represent the same.
Stingray, normally, as a great talent for hiding from its enemy which is mainly sharks. They hide under the sand in the seafloor and lay still without any movements. The sharks have an ability to sense its prey if hiding under the sand, but stingray is able to conceal this fact and can hide for a longer period. This peculiarity about the stingray makes it an emblem of shelter. It has various variations in meanings besides this one. Out of various other symbolism, it stands for adoption, gracefulness, well-disposed nature, vulnerability, dexterity, agility and slyness.
Here is an illustration of a tiki face. This is tiki and it resembles a human face quite evidently. It actually represents demi gods as compared to the actual gods in the Polynesian culture. Demigods are gods, but they appear to the men in the shape of other creatures like lizards and other animals. The tiki or the semi-gods, also are symbolic of deified patriarchs, ministers, and elders who became tiki after being deceased. They stand for the protection of their successors, productivity and they serve as guides. Over the years, the symbol has changed various times and has reached to a more simplistic version of itself. It is known as the ”brilliant eye” where the eyes, nose, and ears appear to be the pre-eminent components.
10. Tiki Eyes
Tiki figures can be represented in a frontal view, seldom with their tongue strained out as a token of resistance to opponents. This design is the eyes of the tiki, the most important feature of the tiki face.
Just like the designs, the placement in the Polynesian culture also plays a great role. The meanings of the Polynesians tattoos are greatly dependent on their placements on the body. So, therefore, the meanings change with the placement of the tattoo.
Humans are supposed to be descendants or offspring of Rangi (Heaven) and Papa (Earth), which were assumed to formerly being consolidated. A Man’s journey in the Polynesian myth is to discover that association again, so the human body is perceived as a nexus between Rangi and Papa. The uppermost part of the body is related to the spiritual realm and something beyond it, whilst the lower part of the body is paralleled to the tangible world and to the planet.
The employment of some components on the body, such as the pedigree records on the back of the arms, suggests that the back may be linked to the antiquity and the front to the future destiny.
Looking at the gender, the left is customarily linked with women and the right to men.
The head is assumed to be the junction point of Rangi, and so is associated with motifs such as religiosity, education, enlightenment, and foreknowledge.
2. Higher trunk
This area can be felt above the navel going towards the chest and is associated with notions such as altruism, truthfulness, righteousness, and conciliation. It is also observed to be placed between the Rangi and Papa because it provides unanimity between the two opposites. A balance is necessary for every aspect of life.
3. Lower trunk
This is below the higher trunk and covers the area from thighs to the navel. This component of the body straightforwardly relates it to life’s spirit, resolution, reproduction, self-confidence, and passion. Particularly, the thighs are linked to power and compatibility. This area is where the mana arises while the navel represents autonomy due to its association with the umbilic cord which is cut during childbirth.
Autonomy is a great trait and is highly valued in the Polynesian culture and in fact, in other cultures too, however, it must not be confused with individualism. The whole tribe is quite aware of the importance of socializing and society. Human beings are always referred to as social animals. The culture of the tribe is because they consider each person as their relative. The family thus is not just people who share blood relations, but in fact includes all those who are a part of tribe, including friends, relatives, and neighbors. All of them play a significant part in their lives.
Hawaii is known for following such a trend and they even have a famous name for it. It is called Ohana, which means an intimate group of people who grow, teach, feed, and learn from each other as a family.
4. Upper arms and shoulders
The shoulders and the upper arm are related to strength even in the common lifestyle. In a Polynesian culture too, it is related to vitality and endurance and is significant for people who are warriors and guardians. The word, kikopuku, is used to describe this part of the body which is the combination of Kiko (flesh, body) and puku (swollen). Puku is a prefixture or a postfix is or can be also applied as an intensifier of the word it qualifies, implementing the concept of muscular arms.
5. Lower arms and hands
The arms are the part of the body that are below the elbow. The same word is designated to both the arms and the hands. This component of the body is related to creativity, invention and executing tasks.
6. Legs and feet
Just like the arms and hands, the same term is designated to leg and feet. They are obviously symbolic of movements, alterations, and improvement. They help us move forward in life. They are also linked to detachment and determination. It is in correlation to what its biological features are. The feet are emblematic of our connection with Papa and Mother Nature and so are associated with concreteness and corporeal objects.
Joints, usually, represent a union, as it joins two parts of the body. It is symbolic of contact. Even if we look at our body in relation to the society, we will get a better understanding of why the joints, a meeting point for two bones, describe a varying range of bonds among two people. The farther it is from the head, or the king of the family, the faraway in the alliance it is. It also represents a feebler social stature. Ankles and Wrists are symbolic of connection and the bracelets or anklets placed on them are symbol of commitment.
Although we have described the importance of the traditional placement for you, it should not be a limitation or a reason for you to not get inked wherever you want. The patterns should be significant to the wearer before anyone else and it is your body you are going to get marked for the rest of your life. Hence, the choice must be yours.
Full Back Vulture Design
This looks like a mix between a vulture and a peacock. The great thing about this design is that being a full back design, it gives a majestic look to it.
Upper Arm Polynesian Design
This tattoo pattern incorporates a lot of miniature symbols that are associated with the Polynesian culture. Hence, it means a different thing for different people. Similarly, you can also add different patterns to create innumerable patterns.
This design includes a lot of spearhead patterns. It definitely is the dominant feature of the whole design. It stands for fierceness and strength of the wearer.
The Polynesian symbols are collaborating together to form a feather that looks quite alluring. Feathers as a design pattern are already quite in vogue and symbolize a connection to the other world.
Leg Polynesia Design
The Polynesian designs look similar to the geometrical patterns and are, therefore, quite in vogue these days among tattoo enthusiasts.
Full Arm Polynesian Tattoo
Geometrical patterns on the full arm look quite exquisite. The gaps filled with black ink are quite classic. Although black ink is quite traditional, you can mix in some colors for sure.
Leading Up to the Neck
This design starts from the lower neck and travels downwards to the wrist. Each component of the tattoo has miniature Polynesian symbols incorporated in it.
Simple Polynesian Tattoo Design
This is not an overwhelming tattoo pattern. The side of the stomach, on the ribs, is quite a sensuous place to get tattooed.
Reaching the Calves
The legs and calves represents mobility. This Polynesian patterned design represents the same for the wearer.
This design on the thigh of the lady looks very attractive and creative.
Although black is the traditional ink for the Polynesian tattoos, adding different colors can give it a distinctive look. Here, the person has added a red color which is related to fierceness and energy. In the same way, you can add colors that have some significance for you too.
Stingray Polynesian Design
A stingray, as we mentioned before, stands for agility and swift movement. It is also symbolic of protection and serves as a guardian for the whole tribe.
Covering the Bicep
If you are quite a buff, the geometrical Polynesian pattern would definitely add to the attractiveness of your bicep.
Can Serve as a Wrist Band
Polynesian patterns are so creative that it can easily be passed as a wrist band.
Half the Chest
This tattoo pattern covers half the chest and looks quite attractive.
The Whole Arm Design
The wearer has chosen to cover his whole arm including the hands in a creative Polynesian tattoo pattern.
Including Koi Fish
This tattoo design has incorporated not only the Koi fish, which represents good fortune, but also vibrant colors which gives it a distinctive look.
Snake and the Skull
The snake and the skull are quite evil-looking.
Whole Leg Polynesian Designs
This pattern almost looks like an Arabic Henna design and covers the whole leg and the thigh of the wearer.
Upper Body Polynesian Tattoo
This upper body tattoo has covered up the entire chest and both the arms of the wearer. It looks quite attractive and must have required a lot of patience on the part of the tattoo artist and the wearer.
Distinctive Tattoo Pattern
The flower amidst the geometrical pattern is something that makes the whole tattoo design different.
As mentioned before, the turtle stands for unity and family in the Polynesian culture. The black ink makes it look quite majestic.
Back of the Leg
Attractive Polynesian Tattoo
Blue Toned Polynesian Tattoo
As it has been done in the picture, you can add colors to your traditional black and white Polynesian tattoo too to enhance its beauty.
Rising Sun Polynesian Tattoo
The middle of the design contains an element that looks quite a rising sun. It has quite a powerful meaning behind it.
Shoulder Tattoo Design
Hawk Tattoo Design
This pattern is just majestic as it covers the whole of the upper back. It resonates with strength and vitality. One of the best Polynesian tattoo designs that I found on this list.
Side of the Glute
This is quite a sensuous placement idea for a tattoo but is highly attractive.
Black and White
This black and white Polynesian tattoo on the ankle is quite minimalistic and has a subtle tone to it.
Circular Tattoo With Bird
Black ink bird is a symbol of freedom and anomaly.
Half Sleeve Polynesian Tattoo
Black Ankle Geometrical Tattoo
This design has some feminine quality to it. It looks quite girly, in my opinion. In fact, the placement idea is better adjusted to a girl.