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Polynesian Maori Tattoos: Meaning of tribal motifs

Polynesian Maori Tattoos: Meaning of tribal motifs


Polynesian Maori tattoos are very complex motifs that have emerged from ancient cultures and traditions and are growing in popularity. Is there a difference between Maori and Polynesian tattoos? Polynesia is the geographical region of Oceania between New Zealand, Hawaii and Easter Island. The Polynesian tattoos have a Hawaiian, Samoan, Maori and Aztec origin. Each of these cultures has unique patterns that have their own meaning. Therefore, the difference between the motives is very small. Today we will tell you about the most common Polynesian patterns.

Polynesian Maori tattoos and their meaning

The Tiki sign

Polynesian Maori Tattoos: Meaning of tribal motifs

Tiki is a humanoid figure representing Polynesian demigods. Above all, they symbolize protection and have a guardian role. Tiki plays a very important role in Polynesian culture. Tiki organs are often drawn separately to represent different meanings. For example, nose symbols signify the danger of smell and early detection. Tiki’s eyes, nose, mouth and sides are important design elements for most Polynesian tattoo designs.

Mau Moko: The World of Maori Tattoo by Ngahuia Te Awekotuku

Polynesian Maori Tattoos: Meaning of tribal motifs

Teeth are not uncommon. In combination with a closed mouth, such a design can be designed for two calves or arms, in which Polynesian Maori tattoos, on the one hand, are similar in form, but differ in terms of the motifs. So you can use several desired Maori motifs and meanings right away.

Polynesian Maori tattoos and their meaning – shells and turtles

Polynesian Maori Tattoos: Meaning of tribal motifs

In Polynesian tattoo designs , shells are very common and depicted in many variants. They often have many variations and stylizations. They stand for protection and intimacy. Clamshells symbolize couples and marriage. They are shown more precisely in the form of sea snail shells. Family people can also fall back on it.

Polynesian Maori Tattoos: Meaning of tribal motifs


Tortoise shell is a symbol of the turtle, which is a very important sea creature for the Polynesian culture. The turtle shell also incorporates other complex motifs that could have a whole range of meanings. Basically the turtle shell symbolizes longevity, fertility and peace.

Polynesian Maori tattoo symbols – Marquesas cross

Polynesian Maori Tattoos: Meaning of tribal motifs


The Marquesas Cross is another icon that is very popular and used in many Polynesian tattoo designs. It often represents the balance between the elements and symbolizes harmony. Its provenance is unknown, but some archaeological studies show that it is related to the turtle shell.

Polynesian Maori Tattoos: Meaning of tribal motifs

It is sometimes confused with the lizard symbol. One method to distinguish both is to find out if the symbol has “tail” and “head”. Then it is clear what is shown. The cross is somewhat reminiscent of the compass, which in turn does not symbolize the elements but the four directions of the sky.

Polynesian Maori Tattoos – The Sun.

Polynesian Maori Tattoos: Meaning of tribal motifs

In the Polynesian Tribal Tattoos the sun is often combined with other symbols to express different meanings. In the Polynesian culture, the sun symbolizes wealth, splendor, grandeur and domination. The sunrise is rebirth and the sunset is a transition to the world beyond.

Polynesian Maori Tattoos: Meaning of tribal motifs

Often, only the sun’s rays are drawn to represent the sun. The sun does not necessarily have to be completely imaged and can be combined with some other suns in other areas of the tattoo. A great example of this can be seen above. A larger half sun is shown in the shoulder area and combined with a smaller one in opposite color and side.

Polynesian Maori Tattoos: Meaning of tribal motifs

The sun motif may or may not be the center of the entire tattoo design. If you choose the different motives, you create a compilation according to your ideas. It is advisable to choose a tattoo artist with experience in this field, who can advise you well. Highlight special symbols for Polynesian Maori tattoos for you.

Polynesian Tattoos – Symbols and Meanings – The Sea

Polynesian Maori Tattoos: Meaning of tribal motifs

Marine symbols are very common in Polynesian Maori tattoo designs. They are used as gap fillers to complete the tattoo. Polynesian people regard the sea as their ultimate goal after they die. So sometimes the sea is a symbol of death or the world beyond.

Polynesian Maori Tattoos: Meaning of tribal motifs

Not meant are the mussels and turtles already mentioned. These and some other sea symbols have their own meanings. Often, the sea is instead represented by wave patterns. The sea is also considered an important food source and represents life, fertility and endurance. So it’s another important motive for the Maori tattoo designs.

The squid

Polynesian Maori Tattoos: Meaning of tribal motifs

The squid, octopus or octopus is known and symbolizes its regenerating property. Add to that the versatility and ingenuity, knowledge and intelligence – symbols that make it a popular motif. Not to forget, these sea creatures are also an important food source. The animal can be depicted with typical Polynesian motifs and patterns.

Polynesian Maori Tattoos – shark teeth

Polynesian Maori Tattoos: Meaning of tribal motifs

Shark teeth are another symbol that is very popular with the Polynesian Maori tattoos. Over 50% of Polynesian tattoos have shark teeth embedded in the design. It is also called “niho mano” in the Polynesian language. The motifs are easy to recognize, because they consist of a zigzag pattern, ie several triangles, which are lined up.

Polynesian Maori Tattoos: Meaning of tribal motifs

Shark teeth stand for protection, leadership, power, savagery, adaptability, etc. In Polynesian legends, sharks also represent the god of the Polynesians. His authoritarian charisma makes the Haimotiv very popular. It can be used to fill gaps or frame certain areas and also the great tattoo. The triangles can run arbitrarily pointed, so both equilateral and isosceles designed.

Polynesian tattoo symbols – meaning of the lizard (or gecko)

Polynesian Maori Tattoos: Meaning of tribal motifs

In Polynesian culture, lizards and geckos are considered as manifestations of the gods by the name of Moko (which is also the name of the facial tattoo in Maori culture). This creature can talk to the gods, observe the world beyond, bring luck. In the Maori culture, it is believed that the lizard protects against evil and disease.

Polynesian Maori Tattoos – The tip of a spear

Polynesian Maori Tattoos: Meaning of tribal motifs

The spearheads can be seen in almost every Polynesian tattoo design. The sign stands for courage and fight. They are also commonly used in combination with other symbols to express certain meanings. For example, a band of spearheads and a band of Enata symbols on its side can mean victory over the opponent.

Polynesian Tattoos – People Icons – “Enata

Polynesian Maori Tattoos: Meaning of tribal motifs

“Enata” is a typical motif for Polynesian Maori tattoos and symbolizes men and gods. It comes from the Marquesas language and stands for life experiences, birth, role in society, etc. It can also represent relationships such as marriage, family, relatives and friends. An inverted enata sign can also symbolize an opponent.

Hand tattoo

Polynesian Maori Tattoos: Meaning of tribal motifs

Naturally, you decide for which body area you choose Polynesian Maori tattoos. While ladies prefer smaller designs for the hand area, neck, back, foot or thighs, men like to resort to larger arm sleeves that not only cover the upper arm, but also the forearm and even the shoulder and breast.

Tattoo designs with deep meaning

Polynesian Maori Tattoos: Meaning of tribal motifs

Polynesian Maori tattoos undoubtedly require good planning and that you are well informed about the possibilities, symbols and motives so that you can also consider everything important and get a perfect design. You also do not have to go over the whole area. Subtle Tattoodesigns as in the example above are just as attractive and can be completely sufficient.

Ideas for ladies and gentlemen

Polynesian Maori Tattoos: Meaning of tribal motifs

Discreet is also this motif for the thigh of a lady. The female representatives among them, rather, will prefer such variants. Instead of a large tattoo, you can also consider two or three smaller ones, which are chosen for different areas and yet include all the important symbols in it. Again, a consultation with the tattoo artist can help.

Polynesian Maori Tattoos: Meaning of tribal motifs

Combination with wolf paw

Polynesian Maori Tattoos: Meaning of tribal motifs

Do you recognize the Maori motifs in this tattoo design?

Polynesian Maori Tattoos: Meaning of tribal motifs

Each character has a different meaning

Polynesian Maori Tattoos: Meaning of tribal motifs

Maori tattoos are especially popular with men

Polynesian Maori Tattoos: Meaning of tribal motifs

Turtle tattoo with tribal design

Polynesian Maori Tattoos: Meaning of tribal motifs

Maori breast tattoo for man

Polynesian Maori Tattoos: Meaning of tribal motifs

Ideas for women

Polynesian Maori Tattoos: Meaning of tribal motifs

Polynesian Maori Tattoos: Meaning of tribal motifs

Polynesian Maori Tattoos: Meaning of tribal motifs

Polynesian Maori Tattoos: Meaning of tribal motifs

Polynesian Maori Tattoos: Meaning of tribal motifs

Polynesian Maori Tattoos: Meaning of tribal motifs

Polynesian Maori Tattoos: Meaning of tribal motifs

Polynesian Maori Tattoos: Meaning of tribal motifs

Polynesian Maori Tattoos: Meaning of tribal motifs

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