The adjective ‘tribal’ is of or pertaining to anything to do with tribes – their cultures, traditions and religious beliefs. Because there are so many tribes in the world, tribal tattoo designs are becoming more and more popular because of the choice available.  Tribal art is extremely creative and beautiful and you will find infinite inspiration when you start exploring the possibilities.  Let’s have a look at the origins of these tattoos and what the designs are like today.

The Origins

Within tribes, the tattoo is traditionally used as a symbol of identity, religion or spiritual beliefs.  Some tribes even use tattoos for protection so that they can easily camouflage themselves in the woods.  Some typical tribes that most of today’s tribal tattoos are inspired by are Aztec, Samoan, Egyptian, Hawaiian, Indian, Maori, Indonesian and Polynesian.

The word ‘tattoo’ actually derives from the Polynesian word ‘tatau’.  In Polynesian tribes, tattoos were used as a form of language and all people within the tribes would be tattooed with symbols often inspired by animals.

In Borneo, Indonesia, the tribes use tattoos to represent the proof of protection and achievement.  Borneo tribes typically use flowers, scorpions, spirals, dragons and dogs to create these designs using bold colours with simple designs.

The Maori tribe in New Zealand often uses facial tattoos which represent inner strength.  This stems from an ancient Maori belief that when a person dies, a light shines through them and projects their true self using these designs.

In the Indian tribe ‘Haida’, they also used animals to inspire their tattoos.  Certain animals represent particular character traits within the tribe and the tattoo a tribe member possesses indicates that they possess the strength of that animal.

Tribal Tattoos in Modern Times

Over time, tribal tattoos have become an extremely popular choice for body art fans.  As a result, a lot of the original meanings and purposes of these tattoos have been lost and more individual, modern designs have taken over.  The basic styles and designs used in traditional tribal body art have been incorporated into tattoo designs over the years to create some truly stunning effects.

Modern tribal tattoos often feature images such as fairies, angels, Chinese symbols, stars etc.  The typical style of a tribal tattoo is thick, black lines creating the overall image which means that tribal tattoos can be more difficult to remove so they should be chosen very carefully.  Do some research into the various tribal designs available and make sure you are certain about the origins and meanings behind your choice.  Belated research could result in expensive and prolonged removal sessions!

Tribal tattoos are popular because there is so much choice available.  You don’t have to stick to the original design.  If you wish, you can work with your tattoo artist to create a unique style based on an original tribal design.  The design can be as simple or as complex as you wish but bear in mind that the more complex designs will take much longer to complete and may well be more painful.