Tribal tattoos: what are they, what kind of tattoos exist and ideas

tribal tattoos

One of the tattoos that does not go out of style, and that has more and more fans, they are tribal tattoos. These are genderless, that is, they can be used by both men and women.

In the past, they were used to distinguish the different tribes that populated the Earth, but today they are still for many a decorative element that they wear on their skin. If you are thinking of getting tribal tattoos, you have come to a good place, because not only are we going to give you tattoo ideas, but we also want you to know where they come from and the meaning they can have depending on the type you choose.

The history of tribal tattoos

tribal tattoos

As you know, tattoos themselves are not something that is novel. They have been with us for a long time, but it is that since the dawn of human life in the world they existed, although normally they made it “less permanent”, using blood or other substances to adorn their skin.

The Tribal designs began to appear in ancient tribes. In fact, it is known that the first references to them are obtained from the Celtic tribes, Borneo, the Maori, Polynesia … the latter is even more important because you may not know it but, the word tattoo, or tattoo, comes from the Polynesian word “tatau”, and it was the one they used to say “mark” or “hit.”

The objective for which people marked their skin was not to enjoy or to decorate their body, in reality, these tattoos had a purpose, such as to identify the members of one tribe or another. In addition, according to the types of tribal tattoos, these could determine a certain social status, or achievements that those people had achieved. It was also related to protection, either to blend in with the environment when hunting, or because of a superstition, which made whoever wears that mark feel protected.

Nowadays, tribal tattoos have changed, and you can find two large groups: the “original” tribal, and modern tattoos. Why do they differ? In enough, but we talk more about them below.

The history of tribal tattoos

The meaning of tribal tattoos

As you have already found out, tribal tattoos are not something modern, but they are thousands of years old and, those traditional ones, had meanings that, now, have been lost. However, we are going to try to clarify a bit.

To begin with, and as we have said before, there is two large groups within tribal tattoos: the traditional and the modern. The truth is that one and the other are alike like water and oil; or like night and day. Visually, you may like the modern ones more, but these don’t have the great meanings that the others did. Do you want to know both? Well let’s get to it.

The meaning of tribal tattoos

Traditional tribal tattoos

The traditional tribal tattoo is one of the most varied that exists. In fact, the pattern has infinite ways to trace, without following the fact that it was intertwined, or that it must follow an order. And the thing is that for those who used it in the past, whether it was “nice” or “chord” didn’t matter; for them it served to be associated with one type of tribe or another, as an identifying sign.

Tribal tattoos of Maori tribes

Tribal tattoos of Maori tribes

As we have commented, these tribes are the first references that are had regarding tribal tattoos. They appeared in New Zealand and were characterized by having their faces, arms and legs tattooed. For example, in the case of the face, they called it “moko”, and each one had a unique drawing, which was related to their social status and their work, the personal achievements they made, etc. In the case of women, these tattoos were only done on the mouth and chin (in men it could cover the entire face).

Haida tattoos

haida tribal tattoos

The Haida tribe comes from America, and they were known for the tattoos they wear especially on the arms, chest, shoulders and back. What kind of tattoos were they? Well based on animals. In fact, the most that could be seen were bears, beavers, fish, etc.

Dayak tattoos

Dayak is on the island of Borneo, in Asia. In this case, the tattoos, which were used by men and women, were in order to protect the people who wore them. Therefore, designs were with flowers, dragons, dogs … And, unlike in the previous ones, here they did use colors (not always but many times).

Polynesian tattoos

In the case of Polynesia, tattoos were characteristic of the island’s inhabitants, where they were complete: arms, legs, breasts, shoulders … For them it was a way of representing their own history, and of tell who they were, what family they belonged to, their status, their beliefs, their achievements …

Ancient Celtic tattoos

We finish with Celtic tribal tattoos. Of these it is known that they lived mainly in Ireland, France and England and disappeared around the year 1000. However, their tattoos remain.

And what were they like? Well, we are talking about tattoos that had the shapes of animals, especially birds, dogs, or even humans. These were intertwined with each other, in addition to being in the form of a spiral.

Modern tattoos

Modern tribal tattoos

Now let’s talk about modern ones. They are called “the new tribalism” and the truth is that they do not have much to do with the previous ones that we have discussed. In this case, what is important is not so much the functions that the other tattoos had, but an aesthetic one. They are made one way or another just to look good, but nothing more.

It is true that the design tries to bring the ancient tribes closer, but it does not lead to achieve it, since they are more ornate and even include modern figures or designs that, in ancient times, did not stop to think or did it that way. Keep in mind that the ancients used rudimentary tools, such as a hollow needle that they made from an animal’s spike, bones, bamboo … which they filled with black ink to later mark the body of the other person.

Now, tribal tattoos can also have color, especially red or yellow. In addition, they are based on thick lines spiced with other much finer, or details that would be impossible to see in the original tattoos.

Even so, it does not mean that they are not pretty, and that, in themselves, they can have a meaning for the person who wears them.

Tattoo examples

Finally, and how do we know what you would like to see tribal tattoo ideas, we have made a compilation of images where these are shown. You have both the traditional and the most modern. Whether you choose one type or another will be up to you.

tribal tattoos

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