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Top 5 Tribal Design Tattoos

Understanding Cultures and Ink


Make a cultured decision before you ink one of the top 5 tribal design tattoos and styles. Tribal tattoos and their traditional rituals hail from many different cultures throughout the world. Dating back centuries, tribal tattooing can signify one's rank, wealth, symbolism and heritage.

In some tribes, the practice of tattooing involves spiritual rituals complete with scarification techniques. Other tribes use tattooing as a barrier of protection and use symbolism to ward off evil spirits or curses.

While modern tattoo machines make the art of inking tribal designs an easier and less painful quest, tribal tattooing will never bear the same meaning or significance without the trained hand of a knowledgeable artist who understands both the culture and symbolism of the tribe. For an authentic tribal tattoo you may need to travel to distant lands to a master in the art. Ritual tattoo practices may include chants and prayer and should be followed in the most traditional form. Be forewarned, without being part of the tribe many artists will rightfully refuse service.

Make sure you understand design symbolism before inking your body and pay respect to the cultures and their artful practices while planning a tribal tattoo design.

1. Maori

Waitangi Day Celebrated In New Zealand
Jason Oxenham/Getty Images News/Getty Images
The native tribe of New Zealand is known as the Maori. Maori practice the ancient craft of Ta Moko; chiseling geometric spikes and spirals into the skin with an albatross bone to tell an individual story of geneaology. Worn with great pride, moko graces the faces of men and usually the lips or chins of women. Take heed, unless you're part of the pack, wearing moko is offensive to the native tribe. French fashion designer Jean Paul Gaultier caused a controversial stir on the runway when his models wore moko. Kirituhi is an acceptable form of Maori-style designs that bears no tribal meaning. If you must ink a Maori tribal-inspired tattoo, Kirituhi is the only sensitive and respectful way to do it.

2. Polynesia

Image CC my_tat2's@Flcikr
Tahitian, Tonga, Hawaiian and Samoan designs comprise the group of Polynesian island tattoos. Most all Polynesian tattoos include geometric patterns, lines and solid bands of black. Warrior spirited designs make up many Tahitian tattoos while Samoan tattoos were a necessary step for a boy to reach manhood. It's not uncommon for geometric designs to extend throughout the lower half of their bodies. A popular vacation destination, many people ink Polynesian-inspired native tribal symbols to show appreciation and love for the islands.

3. Borneo

Image CC Tajai@Flickr
If you want to connect deeper with nature you may consider one of the top 5 tribal design tattoos known as Borneo. Centuries old, Borneo tattoos are inspired by the Dayak people whom encompass the Kayan, Iban and Kenyah tribes. Borneo tribal tattoos were created from organic wood-block carved designs and became passed around throughout the tribes to depict the travels of the inked. Style ideas include intricate rosettes, insects and animals. Some tattoo designs even serve as a guide into the afterlife. Borneo tribal tattoos should be placed carefully on the body according to spiritual significance.

4. Haida

Image Cc Vectorportal@Flickr
Abound with a colorful burst of red, black and white ink, Haida tattoo designs celebrate the totem animals and spirit of the Pacific Northwest tribe. Folkloric in style, the raven and eagle are the most important Haida totem animals as the eagle is believed to have taken form from the great spirit, Ne-Kilst-Lass, while the symbolic raven is believed to have created the world. Many other Haida designs include totem trademarks such as the killer whale, thunderbird and bear. Haida tribal tattoos are commonly inked on the shoulders, chest and forearms.

5. Native American

Image CC ta sitch@Flickr
For the western spirit, A Native American tattoo pays tribute to the great plains and the natives. Dreamcatchers, shields, tomahawks,wolves, animal skulls and protective feathers are just some of the many tribal designs that can be inked to honor American mythology and heritage. As with all cultures, make sure you research Native American history thoroughly and pay careful respect to the heritage and beliefs of the people when selecting any of these top 5 tribal design tattoos.

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