Polynesian Tattoos

Polynesian Tattoos Polynesian Tattoos and Tattooing The world of tattoos and related body art would ever remain indebted to the Polynesian islands for their rich and varied history of tattooing and art of body markings. It is an integral part of the Polynesian culture to create distinct marks all over their body to signify their identity and personality. People of the Polynesian island also used tattoos to mark the status of a person: social rank, sexuality and genealogy were the most common of them. History of Polynesian tattooing The history of the ancient Polynesian art is incredibly interesting as it involved banning by the Old Testament and the revival of the art in the late 1980's. It all started with the discovery of European travelers in the year of 1595. The Spanish navigator named Mendana discovered the Fenua Enana Islands but there was no mention of the tattoos until the next two centuries when in 1767 the English Captain Samuel Wallis and the explorer from France, Bougainville observed the tradition among men and women to get the lower half of their body covered with paints and thin black lines. More interestingly, the paints and lines indicated different designs. Later one of the captains came back to discover the name slightly, perceiving it as "tattoo". Finally, a member of the Tahiti tribe from the Polynesian islands traveled to Europe and became extremely famous for his tattoos. The lost art and revival The Christian missionaries banned the art of tattooing the body as it was forbidden in the Old Testament. According to the Old Testament, any form of cuttings in the flesh or printing any marks were forbidden. However, the Catholic Church has no such restrictions as long as the marks in the body were not against the practices of the church itself. However, late in the 1980's the lost art of Polynesian tattoos revived due to the interest in the West. However, there was another setback of sorts when the traditional tools of Polynesian tattooing were banned by the Ministry of Health of French Polynesia as the wooden and bone tools used in the process were extremely difficult to sterilize. Significance of the traditional Polynesian tattooing Tattoos carry a lot of significance in the lives of people living in the islands of Polynesia. Generally the process started from an early age of twelve. Some of the significances of the Polynesian tattoo are: Tattooing is considered to be a symbol of courage for men. The tattooing process is extremely painful and alot of courage, valor and perseverance are required for enduring the complete tattooing session. The Polynesian society is considered to be the bridge between the childhood and adulthood. It is the period of transition for all teenagers. The sexual attractiveness of men is determined by the design of tattoos in the society. Ancient traditions in the Polynesian islands considered tattoos to be a talisman, and thus are believed to offer protection to its people. It is a mark of status and position for the people of Polynesian islands. Fellow people would know everything about their status, rank of the tattooed person by just looking at the tattoo. Designs of the Polynesian tattoos The designs of the traditional Polynesian tattoos were typical to the culture of the people in these islands. However, with the bans enforced by the Christian missionaries over tattooing, these designs were lost in the history. However, quite miraculously, more than four hundred such designs were redeemed as they where noted and sketched by the missionary Karl Von Steinen. The traditional designs were basically depictions of the life history of those people, their originating island, their position in the society, work and activities they did. Moreover, there was an element of seduction in their designs, as it was a method to enhance the sexual attractiveness of a person. For an instance, a fisherman used to have symbols that protected him from sharks, while a warrior wore designs that showed him protected against his enemies. These designs, which signified their bravery attracted women towards them. There were certain mystic symbols as well representing the chiefs and shamans among their ancestors. The gods worshipped in the Polynesian islands also featured in the symbols. Their main god, named Tiki was the most prominent among symbols. All these mystic symbols had a very deep and close connection with the overall spiritual force or the mana. These symbols were to indicate that god would protect them from all kinds of evils, be it natural or spiritual. The spiritual force was believed to be inherited from ancestors, but it was also required to develop this force deep inside. The sacred art of tattooing by Shamans There is an ancient mythology that says that the art of tattooing was first taught to human beings by the two sons of the God of creation, or Ta'aroa. At that time, it was only the shamans who performed the sacred art of performing tattoos (known as "tapu"). The shamans, who were locally known as "tahua" were highly trained in performing this religious ritual. They needed to know the designs, their individual meanings and every technical aspects of the art. There was a separate method in designing the body with tattoos. The design and the location of the design on the body were determined by the Shamans with the help of a few parameters. They used to consider the genealogy, position or status in the society and the personal achievements in order to determine the position and the design of the tattoo. The religious aspect of tattooing Since the ritual is extremely religious, there are certain rules one needs to follow before the process of tattooing begins. This rules requires the person to undergo a period of cleansing. In this period a person has to fast for a particular period of time, and keep away from any sexual relationship with women. The tattooing process is indeed very painful but is considered to be a ritual that changes the status of a boy to a man.