the-rock-offbeat-inkDwayne “The Rock” Johnson started out as a professional wrestler until he was discovered and burst on to our screens as a professional actor. The Rock has followed faithfully in his forefathers’ footsteps. He is the third generation in his family to wrestle professionally, and also to be tattooed.

The Rock’s first tattoo, the bull head tattoo on his right arm represents zodiac sign, Taurus. The tattoo is of a Longhorn steer and is a simple outline where the eyes of the bull are red. The tattooing on his left arm and shoulder, however, is another story altogether. Literally.

The Rock’s large tattoo is a traditional Samoan tattoo, done by an artist in Hawaii. It incorporates traditional tribal patterns and symbols representing Johnson’s life history, his family and their spirit guides. This extensive half sleeve wraps all the way around the upper arm, over the shoulder and onto the chest. It was at a later stage that he had the tattoo design extended forward, adding a warrior visage over his heart.
Traditionally, Samoan tattooing is done by an artist attended by several assistants who handle the tools, hold the person down and stretch the skin taut. The tools were a bone-tipped rake and a striking stick. The rake would be dipped in ink, placed over the skin then struck with the other tool to puncture the skin.

Johnson has never said whether his tattoo was done using these traditional tools, but he spoke in a Playboy interview of the three sessions and sixty hours it took to execute the freestyle tattoo. No stencils or prior skin markings were used, the artist created this image totally freehand. He did, however, take the time to explain the tattoo in his own words in another interview and these are reproduced below:

In Dwayne Johnson’s own words:

”A) These are coconut leaves, or niu, which denote a Samoan chief-warrior.
B) This is the sun which brings good fortune.
C) This isa/ga fa’atasi (three people in one). That’s me with my arms open. As it continues on my chest, it connects to my o lo’u to’a/ua (my wife, Dany) and my o lo’u afafine (my daughter, Simone Alexandra).
D) These descending swirls represent past, present and future, with the future becoming ever bigger. The pattern continues under my arm, where its meaning is written: “It changes in the place where it is found to be gone.”
E) These two eyes, called o mata e lua, represent my ancestors watching over my path.
F) This is the Great Eye, It’s an intimidating symbol that allows its user to possess the spirit of his enemy. The eye is used to distract the enemy in a confrontation.
G) This broken face, marked by shark teeth—a symbol of strength—is my spirit protector and a symbol of my struggle.
H) This is the priest and spiritual guide, who raises a warrior to enlightenment and supernatural power under the eyes of the warrior’s ancestors.
I ) These are stones of achievement and abundance. They’re the foundation of my life and symbols of my dedication. They bring the right to stand and speak with honor as a Tula Fale—a high talking chief—and they maintain mana, or supernatural power.
J) This is a tortoise shell, to deflect evil spirits. Warriors used shells as shields.”

As meaningful tattoos go, I cannot think of a single one to top this. Not at the moment, anyway.