Art of tattoo
Causes for the special tattooed ornaments of the Marquesians and the
other Polynesian tribes have been researched in many ways, since they have
to be special reasons to let the tradition develop this way.
protection Sexual maturity
Replacement for clothing
Tattoos, made because of dolour, could
be proved with a lot of cases. Besides painful tattoos there are some
other rituals depending on the region. An example could be scoring of
the skin and even to the point of chopping off phalanxes. Main focus of
these rituals is not to bear the terrible pain but to donate blood as a
sacrifice. This sacrifice of blood symbolizes human sacrifices and
should appease the gods.
On the Marquesians there are even evidences for a special dolour tattoo
pattern. After chief Komoť has died a stylised skullface is tattooed as
a memory of the chief.
Tattoos because of vendetta are closely related to dolourtattoos. They
are a kind of enhancement of the dolourtattoos. They are supposed to be
a sacred duty for the relatives and offspring of the murdered. The
memorial tattoo turns to a urgend warning, which hopes that the murderer
will meet his terrible fate. Besides the tattoo there are some other
rituals to handle vendetty too. For example shaving oneís head.
Tattoos as protective instruments are
strongly connected to the sacrifice of blood. But here it is the other
way round: Main focus of these rituals is to bear the terrible pain and
to spill blood. Blood in this case has protective effects against
disease, death, defeat and destitution and leads to health, victory and
The protection is closely related to the tattooed bodyparts: Lips are
tattooed to avoid toothache and hunger, the region around the eyes has
its tattoos to keep the acuteness of vision, tattooing joints protects
from rheumatism and finaly a tattooed chest is protected from bullets
and lances. So the magical effects of these tattoos are not therapeutic.
They are used as a kind of prophylaxis.
Thatís the reason why formally only chiefs and their sons had got the
privilege to get a tattoo. They needed the magical protection in their
position as warlord or warriors.
Ornaments of adolescence are popular in
the Polynesian area, too. There is a nice story from Tahiti: A young
native girl visits British seaman on their ship and, to their surprise,
she raises her skirt salutatory to show her maturity. The reason is the
fact that native girls would said to be dishonourable if they were
Girls show their maturity with a tattoo looking like curved stripes on
their loins called Toto Huwa. The boys get the same tattoo but in this
case itís called Awari. By the way this Awari was the special tattoo the
two divine brothers invented to seduce her sister.
The meaning of the tattoo is simply explained: Toto means blood and Huwa
is fruit, egg or seed so Toto Huwa means menstrual-blood, which contains
(in the Polynesian imagination) human germs. Awari could be translated
with removal of the Rahu. Rahu is a spiritual ban from the seed to the
harvest, which in this context also applies to the Ďhumanplantí. In
other words this tattoo was a permission for reproduction.
Finally there is another opinion:
Tattoos might be a kind of alternative for clothing. At first I have to
say that this is definitely not true.
This idea goes back to early seaman, who thought the natives wear black
silkshorts, when they saw them for the first time. This is false but
since then you can read ideas like that from time to time in literature.
Moreover some people think that these tattoos reduce the sense of shame,
because the appearance of nudity vanishes. Itís true that natives feel
ashamed when they are untattooed. Not because they feel naked, but they
could be seen as cowards or slaves. Incidentally itís enough to tie up
the foreskin with a small string so that the glans is covered to make
men feel not ashamed.