Since the people of Polynesia didn’t have a language that was written, the Polynesian tattoos symbols were very important in featuring a person’s life, family history, beliefs, spirituality, etc. Among the islands of Polynesia, the Polynesian tat designs were certainly different, and they were classified into 2 basic kinds; namely, the “Enata” and the “Etua”.
In the case of the Etua tat designs, they had a religious or spiritual significance, and were treated like a “talisman” that safeguarded the people against evil and enemies. Referring to Enata designs, their significance was based on social and natural since they signified a person’s life.
For your awareness, the procedure in engraving Polynesian tattoos symbols on the body was different from before as compared today. The introduction of new technology in creating tats made the big difference in the process. A lot of modern tattoo instruments are now being used by tat artists, and although you still have to undergo a painful procedure in getting a tat, it can’t match the pain felt by people before.
The traditional way of piercing Polynesian tat designs were done by cutting the flesh (not only skin) with native tools such as bamboo, turtle shell, bird bone, etc. In due time, inks produced from natural extracts including an organism which was half vegetable and half caterpillar, filled these cuts.
This was the kind of ink used in tattooing the body with color, while the kind of ink taken from burnt wood was utilized for face tats. Since this tattooing process was very painful, and took a lot of courage to endure, coupled with a long healing process, the Polynesian tattoos symbols became recognized as the symbol of endurance and courage.
These tats symbolized the rank and status of a person in the community. Tattooing was usually performed when a child has reached the age of 12 as a sign of transformation from adolescence to becoming an adult. As the person grows and increases his experiences and achievements in life, more tats were added on his body.
In the case of women, Polynesian tattoos symbols were engraved when they become sexually matured. People who had a lot of tats embedded on their body were fully recognized as honorable in the tribe, while those who had incomplete tats or nothing at all were looked down as inferior because of their failure to endure the painful tattooing process.
One of the best examples of Polynesian tats is the Maori tat design. Considering that Polynesia is actually a group of islands located in the Pacific Ocean, this is the place where the Maori designs originated. Since the groups of islands surrounding Polynesia have practiced the same traditional way of tattooing, this means that tattoos had a very significant place in their tradition, and they had the same meaning to each Polynesian symbol.
The art of tattooing is sacred to these people as well as their special meanings. This is the reason why you have to be very careful in choosing your Polynesian tattoos symbols and their precise meaning in order to respect their culture and tradition.
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