There are different Samoan tattoo designs and meanings. Each of them is regarded as sacred. For the Samoans, tattoos aren’t just a body art. But they’re considered as a family custom incorporated with traditions of the Samoans.
The origin of Samoan tattoos was believed to have started by two Fiji women who had the tools and knowledge about tattooing. According to the tale, these two women, who were sisters, sang a song that women were the ones to be tattooed. However, when they got near the shore, the song they were singing mistakenly was reversed saying that men were the ones that should be tattooed.
When Samoan tattoo designs were first introduced, no one was interested until one Samoan chief decided to give it a try. Soon after that, Samoan tattoo became a part of a tradition that spread throughout the culture of all Samoans.
Most Samoan tattoo designs have history and deep meanings. They also represent the community, status, respect and honor to be part of a Samoan tribe. Before, if you had Samoan tattoo and you were not part of their culture, you were considered of being disrespectful of the true nature of the tattoos. In the early days of Samoan tattoos, you had to get the approval of the Samoan chiefs before getting one. If you didn’t ask for permission, you’d be cursed.
The Process of Samoan Tattoo
A true Samoan tattoo is a painful process as it uses a bone or a shell to be used to scratch the skin. The shell or bone is dipped in the black ink, which is made of the ashes of burnt shells. Your skin will be tapped to allow the ink to go deep into your skin. Then, the artist will wipe the blood away before drawing the design with the ink.
The tattoos aren’t completed in one day. Instead, they’re completed within a few days, weeks or even months. The reason for this is that it allows the portion of a tattoo to dry before another portion is covered.
Different Samoan Tattoo Designs and Meanings
1. Tiki Design
Tiki represents semi-gods of Polynesians. This symbol is a form of protection. It’s also considered as the ancestor of humans. Tiki tattoos can be drawn on men’s and women’s skin.
They’re very common in various designs. They represent wealth or richness. Thousands of years ago, Samoans used shells as money. Thus, wearing a Samoan tattoo with shell design would mean that you’re expecting abundance of riches and overall well-being.
They can also symbolize protection and intimacy. This is one of the reasons they’re worn by couples.
3. Marquesan cross
It’s another symbol that’s quite popular in most Samoan tattoo designs. It represents balance between two elements. Or it simply means harmony.
However, Marquesan cross is often confused with lizard symbol. But you can easily distinguish the two by looking into the design. If it doesn’t have a tail or head, it’s a Marquesan cross.
Up to this day, the origin of this element hasn’t been uncovered yet.
In Samoan culture, the sun means brilliance, riches and leadership. This tattoo design can go with other symbols and other meanings. When it’s used in conjunction with other symbols, it can have different meanings. The symbol’s size, shape and rays will also have a different associated meaning.
For example, if you opt to have a periodic rising sun, it could mean eternity. Rising sun, on the other hand, could mean rebirth. Sunset symbolizes a passage way to the other world. Contrary to what others believed, it doesn’t symbolize death.
Skill tattoo artists can provide you with the creative sun Samoan tattoo designs.
It’s another common Samoan tattoo design. For Samoans, ocean is their final destination when they die. Thus, this symbol could also mean death or afterlife.
On the other hand, it could also mean as the source of food. It also represents life, persistence and fertility.
Essentially, it means that the ocean completes a life cycle. The waves in the ocean symbolize the other world that’s beyond us, where it is believe as the land where all ancestors live.
6. Shark Teeth
If you’re a Samoan tattoo fan, you might be familiar with shark teeth. It’s popular among Samoan fanatics. Half of the tattoo designs include shark teeth symbols.
In the Samoan language, niho mano means shark teeth, which represents guidance, power, and coverage, among other meanings.
In one of the legends, sharks represented the god of the people. It can have different variations and combinations. You can have the shark teeth in individual rows, horizontal, multiple rows, etc.
It’s a popular Samoan tattoo design that symbolizes humans and gods. It represents life experiences and rank in society, etc. You can combine it with other symbols that represent marriage, family, relatives and friends.
A tattoo with a combination of enatas and a certain creature could mean that the enata is defending such dangerous creature.
When you opt for a reversed enata, it symbolizes an enemy. In Samoan tattoo, semi-circle enatas are commonly seen. You can see design with enata that shows how it guards the Samoans and their kids.
8. Spear Heads
This is a symbol of courage and fight. You can also find this in various Samoan tattoo designs. One line spear head with one line of enata drawn upside down can express that the wearer has defeated an enemy.
Spear heads can be used in conjunction with other symbols to express other meanings, besides courage. It’s really up to your artist to give you the exact symbol that you want to express.
In Samoan culture, lizards are the important part in Samoan beliefs as they symbolize gods. They’re also regarded as the ancestors of Samoan people. That said, you can see that they look like enata, which is a symbol of a man.
Lizards are also considered as creatures that can talk to gods while watching the hidden world. They are also believed to bring fortune to the wearer of a lizard tattoo.
In a branch of Samoan culture, the lizard is used to symbolize as a guardian that protects humans against evils and illnesses. In other cultures, lizards could symbolize re-growth or a survival from disasters.
Does Your Samoan Tattoo Design Have to Mean Anything?
Although each Samoan tattoo design has its own meaning, it doesn’t have to have a meaning when you have one or some of them on your skin. However, you just need to know what kind of story you’re going to tell people and why you chose such design.
Don’t be like other tattoo wearers who have Samoan tattoos on their skin and don’t know the meaning behind the tattoo. Remember that the Samoans use tattoos as part of their culture. Thus, you should respect it.
If you wanted to obtain an authentic Samoan tattoo, you must first have to be a part of the Samoan community. You should prove yourself that you’re trustworthy and that you’re committed to follow their culture.
Samoan tattoos include intricate designs and inked in various parts of the body. The meaning of a design can be personal. It should also tell a story. Then, you should find a tattoo artist whose specialty is Samoan tattoo designs.
You may also like our Tribal tattoo ideas and meanings.