60 Tribal Tattoos (with their meanings)

IsabellaIsabella Garm | 23 August 2023
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Tribal tattoos: from the primitive practices of native people to the lounges of all tattoo studios of the western world today, tribal tattoos are here to stay. Tribal tattoos are one of the most popular trends in tattoo design nowadays. In the past, tribal tattoos were a traditional practice among indigenous tribes in all continents. For tribe members, tattoos symbolized social status, achievements, family history, team spirit and spirituality.

In the Western world, the most widespread styles of tribal tattoos are the Polynesian originating from the traditions of Tahiti, Samoa, Hawaii and Maori in New Zealand. Maori tattoos are the most popular tribal designs today, usually for larger pieces, such as tattoo sleeves. The Polynesian style is characterized by shades of black/grey and by the combination of intricate geometric shapes and tribe symbols, the meaning of which is very interesting.

Since the symbolism embedded in those tattoos is considered by the tribe a strictly personal business, if you wish to acquire such a tribal tattoo we recommend that you do not copy an entire design from someplace else. We recommend a visit to a tattoo artist who specializes in tribal tattoos so that together, you can create a more personal design. In this article we will present you with the most popular styles and meanings of tribal tattoos.

Tribal tattoos: meaning and significance

Maori tattoos or more traditionally ta moko, are considered to be one of the most famous tattoos ever. Women and men are very fond of these types of tribal tattoos and usually have them on various parts of their bodies. Today, the tattoo methods employed are hugely different from the practices the indigenous tribes used in Polynesia or New Zealand. These tribes had a culture rich in practices and rituals. One of them was the sacred ritual of tattoos. Those tribes also had a wise man that only himself knew the ritual of tattoos. He was one of the wisest and most respected people of his tribe and he had the exclusive right to tattoo his fellow members of the tribe. Tattoos started from childhood and the process went on up until the late stages of life. Through various symbols and signs, the most important events in someone’s life and their status, wealth and character were depicted.

Most important tribal tattoo designs

Every tribal tattoo is unique and complex. And even though every tattoo has been adjusted to the peculiarities of every individual and to his/her story, there are some symbols that are very common and characteristic. Some of them are the following: gecko tattoos, tikis, enata, turtles, manta rays, shark teeth, waves, stars and the sun.

The so called tiki tattoo is one of the most important and often tattooed image all over the world. It symbolizes the first man and represents Polynesian semi-gods. In Polynesian culture, it holds a very important role as a symbol of protection. Tiki’s organs are often drawn separately to represent different meanings. For instance, nose symbols mean sniffing danger before it arrives.

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