ancient weapons and society of hawaii
THE ANCIENT Weapons, Tikis AND Society OF Hawaii

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Tribal Hawaiian Tattoos

To the ancient Hawaiians tattoos were more than simple decorations. They used to identify individuals and to link them with a specific tribe and family. Tattoo’s also offered protection to their owner, something Hawaiian warriors needed.

Traditional Tribal Hawaiian Tattoos
Traditional Tribal
Hawaiian Tattoos

Getting Hawaiian tribal tatoo
Hawaiian Design Tattooing

Another reason a Hawaiian might get a tattoo is to mourn the loss of a love one. Queen Kamamalu had a tattoo applied to her tongue as an expression of her deep grief when her mother-in-law died in the 1820s. Missionary William Ellis watched the procedure, commenting to the queen that she must be undergoing great pain. The queen replied, "He eha nui no, he nui roa ra ku‘u aroha." (Great pain indeed, greater is my affection.) Warriors used tattoos to increase their prestige, often there was a story associated with a tattoo. Warriors also used the designs to make themselves look savagely fierce, frightening opponents in battle.

Tattoos were an indication of social status on the islands of Hawaii; nobles had the best artists work on them while the commoners had to make do with apprentices. The designs often had hidden, personal meaning and that aren't readily apparent to those looking at them. Slaves, the lowest level in the Hawaiian chaste system, were marked with a single line across the bridge of their noses.

Traditional tribal tattoos, or Kakau, used an ink created from the suit of ground kukui nuts and sugarcane juice. Getting a tattoo in ancient Hawaii was a painful event, for their needles they used bird claws, beaks, or fish bones tied to sticks, they then struck the stick with a mallet to puncture the skin. Often, many needles would be tied together to create more punctures for each whack of the mallet. Men tattooed their legs, arms, face and torso while women did their hands, wrists and tongue.

Typical traditional, tribal tattoos are highly stylized lizards, sea turtles, Dolphins, sharks, tropical flowers and arrows. Geometric shapes and curling designs are very common

as well. The tribal Hawaiian tattoo designs are larger and bolder compared to other Polynesian designs. For more on traditional tribal tattoos we recommed the book, Tribal Tattoo Designs, found on the right. Mahalo!

traditional hawaiian tattoo
Warriors feel no pain!
Tribal Hawaiian Tattoo Design
Modern / Traditional
Hawaiian Tribal Tattoo

Related Pages
Tribal Hawaiian Tattoos
Traditional Tribal Hawaiian

Hawaiian Tattoos
Tradiational and Modern
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