Polynesian Tribal Tattoos: A Legacy in Ink

girl with polynesian tribal full neck tattoos

Polynesian tribal tattoos are not only an interesting category of tattoo today, but also sacred artworks from the past. In Polynesian culture, getting a first tattoo was a rite of passage. Young men and women braved the pain of primitive technology for the sake of tradition. Today, the methods of creating these tattoos are very different. Similarly, the deep spiritual meanings behind many of these tattoos have been lost to history. They are, however, still noted for their style.

Traditional Polynesian tribal tattoos are characterized by:

polinesian back tribal tattoo for girls
  • Bold black lines

  • Patterns within patterns

  • Curved lines

  • Hidden symbols

The Polynesian tattoo designs are imaginative, creative, and abstract. No two tattoos are alike. Each tattoo in traditional culture was unique to both the artist and the individual. You can find a wealth of these creative Polynesian tattoo ideas online to help you decide what you might like for yourself.

Tribal Tattoos in History

To the Polynesians, the art of tattooing was and is a coveted skill. The skill was passed down from generation to generation, from father to son. The process of tattooing today is modernized, efficient, and not too horribly painful.

On the other hand, tattooing in Samoan culture was excruciatingly painful and life threatening. Tattoos were made by puncturing flesh with sharp bones or other tools that were dipped in pigment. This dangerous style of tattooing left open wounds on the skin that took months to heal. Infection of the primitive patterns was lethal.

Both men and women received these coveted designs that took several months to heal. For men, the designs were popular on the face, shoulders, back, legs, and butt. Men’s tattoos were a sign of masculinity, wealth, and maturity.

Women, on the other hand, received smaller tattoos. Tattoos on women were popular on the back, hands, and arms. Women often had their hands tattooed in order to serve a drink called Kava. This ritual was the highest of honors in Polynesian culture.

Western Missionaries attempted to assimilate Polynesians. Christians viewed the tattoos as barbaric, and tried to discourage the practice. The Culture was resilient, however. The tattoos managed to remain a part of the history that is currently being written.


Tattoos in their traditional sense are symbolic. The designs were a form of worship. They also served as status symbols that marked ones place within the tribe. Symbols of the tattoos include:

  • Turtle shells

  • Marquesan cross

  • Sun

  • Sea

  • Sharks and sharks’ teeth

  • Lizards

  • Spear heads

Luckily, anyone considering this tattoo today can enjoy modern practices. Still, some traditional Polynesians prefer older methods to uphold the sanctity of tribal tattooing. The spirituality and honor of these tattoos are unfortunately often lost. The patterns, however, of Polynesian tribal tattoos remain just as captivating.

Live the Polynesian dream with these imaginative tattoos!

11 Photos of the Polynesian Tribal Tattoos: A Legacy in Ink

tribal polynesian sun tattoo on the man's legfemale polinesian tribal tattoo on the sideman & woman with tribal polynesian tattoospolinesian sleeve tribal tattoo for handsome menpolinesian back tribal tattoo for girlswell-built man with tribal polynesian chest tattoopolynesian turtle tribal tattoo on the shoulderpurple tribal polynesian tattoos on arms and chestgirl with polynesian tribal full neck tattoospolynesian man's forearm black tribal tattoospolynesian tribal sun sleeve and chest tattoo

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