28 Symbolic Tribal Tattoos

Here is some insight on tribes through their tattoos.



The Maori tribe of New Zealand has deep roots to tattoos. The tribe held the belief that the face and the head were the most divine parts of a human body and thus tattooing the face or the head was considered honorable. They also believed that when you die, a light would shine through you and through your tattoos and reveal who you actually are. Thus, the person who wore a tattoo in the Maori tribe, would wear it not just to symbolize inner strength but also to showcase his ancestral tribal lineage and associations.

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Tattoos derived from Celtic art are a representation of the Celts. These people belong to more of a culture than a tribe and their art has evolved over hundreds of years, passing through generations, languages and countries. A person involved in battle had the highest honor among the Celts. So much so, that they fought nearly naked as a form of intimidation. To heighten this intimidation, the warriors wore scars won from previous battles and of course, tattoos.

Samoan (Polynesian)


The word tattoo originated out of the word tatau which is a word in the Samoan language. This Polynesian tribe has practiced tattooing for well over 2000 years. Tattooing is not just a symbolism and representation but also a language, a naming convention in this tribe. Dwayne Johnson aka “The Rock” is probably the most famous tattoo sporting person of Samoan descent.



8d8bb23265c198f8a974fadd27f312c8 fcfe4395769d18e6ee74763346c46140 Hawaiian tribal tattoos

Tattoos in the Hawaiian tribe are a delicate and intricate form of art usually done by a skilled tattoo artist. They have gained popularity very recently and do not have age-old heritage as Samoan tattoos. Nonetheless, these tattoos are a symbolic representation of the gods and goddesses of the Hawaiian tribes while sometimes also representing sacred animals.



Mayan tattoos are more astrological by nature. The tattoos are usually a representation of the prophecy for the person that has been made by means of observation of their birth time, date, position of the moons and stars etc. Therefore, through this representation of astrology, the tattoos are also a means of speaking for the personality type of a person.



Tattoos have been prevalent in the Egyptian culture for over 4000 years with evidence of tattooing on mummies from 2000BC. This art form had various symbolisms, meanings, themes and representations for tattoos. There have been tattoos of gods for religious and devotional purposes. There are image tattoos like of the ‘ankh’ (eye), the pyramids, Anubis,and also most uniquely to this form of tattooing, the hieroglyphic tattoos. Hieroglyphs were ancient forms of pictorial language among the Egyptians found till date on pyramids, tombs, paintings and many other places. Hieroglyphs were created through representation of common objects well known by society. Placing these pictures in a structures sequence, created a message or a form of communication much similar to the windows font ‘Wingdings’.


Africa is home to a countless number of tribes and every tribe has their own way of distinguishing themselves from the rest. Tattooing is a very predominant form of this tribal representation. Tattooing in most African tribes is not limited to ink but extends to intentionally created scars through scarification and body painting. Subjects of the tattoos range from plants, animals, holy spirits, gods and goddesses to geographical and regional presence, membership, rights and protection.




In Indian culture, although tattooing is not considered to be of great pride, certain forms of temporary tattooing is ritualistic. For example, henna tattoos are very prevalent during weddings. These tattoos are completely feministic and are considered a mark of beauty for women. The bride must wear a tattoo through the course of her wedding and her tattoo would be the most outstanding, intricate and beautiful of all women present. The other women present during the wedding ceremonies would get their hands and feet tattooed for beautification purposes much like jewelry. Common themes in these tattoos are storytelling, reserved for intricate tattoos for the bride, alphabets and names of near and dear ones, symbols and lettering from holy scripts for example the popular word , “OM” written in Sanskrit.

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