Polynesian symbolism, tattoos from the southsea and native marquesian culture

 polynesian tattoo, tattoo designs, meanings and their origin





Arising from myth
Tahiti/Marquesas  New Zealand  Samoa  Summary




In the Polynesian region cult, myth and religion are basically affected by nature. Deities often symbolize luminaries, wheatherphenomenons or personate long ago ancestors, which are dignified now. Hence especially chiefs are dignified already in their lifetimes as exactly these deities. The god Tiki is an ancestor of the humankind, but already his next descendant is because of the father-daughter-marriage characterized by a complicated family background, which seems to be very obscure due to the different interpretation and the consequently fragmented reconstruction of the respective myth on the archipelagos.



One of the first myth concerning the development of the Tatauierung has its seeds in the motive of incest. Hina a divine daughter beard her father a daughter, who also became the fathers wife. These two procreated three more children: the first son Matamaataru, a second son Tiitiipoo and a daughter Hinaereeremonoi. To keep the daughter’s virginity, she was on watch of the mother. Her both brothers, who were bent on the seducement, invented the technic of tattooing and drew one another a pattern. They went to their sister, who was fascinated about the painting. For getting herself the same ornament, she fooled the mother’s carefulness, which should have been her protection and got a tattoo. But in the same breath she became the witness of her brothers.
Thus the tattoo has its seeds in the legends around the gods and has been imitated by mankind for the same purpose. That is why both sons and inventors of the ornaments became the deities of the Tatauierung.

Furthermore there is the goddess of tattooing Kikiioani “Red of the sky” on the Marquesas. To put it in a nutshell there is also a sister: Kikiioani and her brother: Taha Mata Keé in the center of the narration. The sister, inventor of the ornaments wanted to tatoo her brother, but he was not keen on it and so she tatauierte someone else. Thereupon her brother stole the tools. The sister was searching despairingly, but could not find it and started to cry. In rage she shouted, that from now on tattooing shall be painfull. When the brother himself started to tatooing someone else, the man could not bear up against the pain. Taha Mata Keé went to his sister and said “The man is dying!”. The sister asked whether the brother stole the tools, what was affirmed by him. Kikiioani asked “Why did you take it. I would have give it to you!”. Finally she took a Noni-leaf, chew it, put it on the tatooed area and blew to alleviate the pain of the man.
Here one learned about the cure from the goddess and explained the origin of the pain of Tatauierung.

New Zealand


The myth from New Zealand differs from all others and highlights especially the tattoo of the face. This kind of ornaments is totally missed in other regions. The living space of the Maori can surely be seen as one reason. The coolish and variable climate caused, that the Maori had to wear long coats made of hemp and feathers. To ensure, that the tatoos are nevertheless visible they were concentrated in the face. The ornament “ta moko” called “lizard” seems to be unsuitable. However the lizard does possess demonic power in the mythology of the Maori and is a death-predicting animal of the ancestors, which made trembling the most courageous men.
The origin of the tattoo is explained like the following: the divine tattoomaster Uetonga, a grandchild of the earthquake-god, is living in the netherworld. His daughter Niwareka got married with Mataora from the world above. After an impetuous dispute between the married-couple Niwareka broke up with her husband and went back to the netherworld.
Mataora followed and ran across with Uetonga, who dispunged his already existing Tatauierung as a flub and tattooed him a real Moko. Afflicted by pain he called for his wife, who recognized her husband and helped to heal his wounds. After that he and his wife went back to the upper world. In future tha way to the netherworld should be barred, so that no more men can go down.
The origin of the tattoo is explained as an art from the netherworld. Mataora, who now lifed in the real world teached everybode the new art of tattooing.



On Samoa the curious story exists, that the tatoo is originated from Fiji. The fact, that on Fiji just women and only in a very sparely way and men are not tatauiert at all, is disproved as follows: Ta’ema and Tilifainga have been the goddesses of the tattoo. They swam from Fidji to Samoa to implement the handcraft there. During departing they got the order to sing the whole way “tattoo the dames, but not the guys” (as common on Fidji). But on their long journey they got confused and sang at their arrival misleadingly “tattoo the guys and not the dames”. Thus the ornaments have been brought by the gods too, but in an unsual way from the Fiji Island, where the rite of Tatauierung normally has been practised in a different way.



All these stories have in common, that the named gods can be derived from environmental phenomenons accordant to the peoples belief in nature. They personate wind, clouds, light, gloaming or the moon. Thus can the two brothers of the first story (see above) be seen as the evening and morning breeze and the sister as the twilight.
The light contrasts of the wind and the clouds as well as of the moon, which can be observed by the Polynesian, are identified as tattoos of the dedicated deities. That is why they are seen as the taskmaster of these arts and crafts. For example are the tattoos compared with the high-contrasted thunderstormlights in New Zealand.




























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Polynesian tatou, lots of examples and explanations