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Polynesian Tattoo (Tatau) Designs and Meanings

Posted on 22 February 2017

Polynesians which includes Marquesans, Samoans, Niueans, Tongans, Cook Islanders, Hawaiians, Tahitians, and Māori, are genetically linked to indigenous peoples of parts of Southeast Asia.

The Purpose of Tatau

Tattoo was a way delivering information of its owner. It’s also a traditional method to fetch spiritual power, protection and strength. The Polynesians use this as a sign of character, position and levels in a hierarchy. Polynesian peoples believe that a person’s mana, their spiritual power or life force, is displayed through their tattoo. Almost every Polynesian got a tattoo in ancient times.

Tattoo masters are the most crucial people because they bear the meaning of symbols and motifs in memory and know how to combine them to create a meaningful work of art to each person. For example, sea creatures are very common Polynesian symbols, like mantas, sharks, bonitos and sea urchins. Each of them has a meaning related to its inner nature and embodies the meaning by tattooing it on to the body. Polynesian tattoo masters can express varieties of meanings by combining different Polynesian symbols and motifs together.

Our Polynesian Sunglasses Meaning

Our Polynesian sunglasses has a variety of designs which consists of different meanings. The wooden sunglasses frame consists of the ocean, shark teeth, spearheads, and Tiki.

Polynesian Tattoo Ocean Design

Ocean symbols are very common among Polynesian tattoo designs. They are usually used to not only express specific meanings but also fill some blank blocks in order to shape complete patterns. Polynesian people regard the ocean as their final destination where they go when passed away. So sometimes the ocean is a symbol of death, or the world beyond. Besides, the ocean is also regarded as their source of food and can represent life, fertility and persistence. Ocean waves are used to symbolize the other world beyond too, which is a homeland where all ancestors live, where they’ll eventually be.

Polynesian Shark Teeth Design

Shark teeth is another fish symbol which is very popular among Polynesian tattoo fans.  Nearly over 50% Polynesian tattoo designs have shark teeth symbols embedded in. It’s also called “niho mano” in Polynesian language.
Shark teeth usually represents shelter or coverage, guidance, power, ferocity, adaptability, etc. In Polynesian legend, sharks also represent the god of Polynesian people. It has lots of variations and combinations, like the ones showed in the pictures above.

Polynesian tattoo Spearhead design

Spearheads are quite commonly used in almost all Polynesian Tattoo Ideas. They’re used to express courage, dominance, and willpower – and are a staple of Polynesian design. Like the sun, spearheads are used in conjunction with specific elements to convey different meanings. For example; a line of spearheads parallel to a line of upside down Enata can represent the defeat of one’s enemies.

Polynesian Tattoo Tiki Design

Lastly, the Tiki is a symbol of the Polynesian Semi-Gods. As a Guardian, the Tiki mainly represents protection. Different elements of the Tiki can symbolize different meanings; for instance, when the nose is seen to be “sniffing” it means that it is sensing danger prior to it’s arrival.

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