Maori are descendants of Polynesian, native people of New Zealand. In their culture, the tattoo has always been an form of art comparable even to the Holiness and is highly regarded to this day. For Maori people the head is the most holy part of the human body. It is not surprising that the most popular tattoo in their culture is performed on the face. Maori tattoo is usually consisting curved shapes and spiral motifs. Those tattoos often cover the entire face, to demonstrate high social status, power and prestige.
For Maori the tattoo is a ritual of passage and therefore performing it is a form of the rite. The execution of a tattoo usually begins with the arrival of adulthood. During the life Maori tattoo is constantly updated in order to commemorate the important life events.
In the Maori culture (particularly among men) tattoos are very respectable and considered almost as Holiness.
Only people with appropriate social status can wear Maori tattoos. For many people, such as slaves or people with very low level in society performing tattoos on face is prohibited. Maori tattoo on the face is a kind of ID, it shows achievement, position, status, material situation – Something which is far beyond reach of the slave.
Specific places on the face have their special meanings. Face of the Maori people is divided into eight areas:
- Ngakaipikiaru: consists of two triangular areas located on both sides of the line dividing face in half. This area shows the status and is reserved for people who who inherited social status from their ancestors.
- Ngunga: consists of a triangular areas on both sides of the forehead, above the eyebrows. Tattoo at this point indicates the position of a human life.
Uirere: an area stretching from the lateral part of the nose to the corners of the eyes and down to the line equal to the end of the nose. This area reflects the tribal membership.
UMA: is located on both sides of the face, from the temple on the middle part of the ear. This area shows information about the origin of the father or of the mother, including whether the person wearing it comes from a first or second marriage, and the changes in social status.
Raurau: consists of two areas on both sides of the face, from the tip of the nose, the cheeks to the lines of the lip. This area is a distinctive sign of the person concerned.
Taiohou: This is the area between raurau, the cheek and the line of jaw. It shows the profession of the person wearing a tattoo.Wairua: Reserved part of the face for this sign is the area under the lover lip. It represents the social status of particular person.
Taitoto: The area on the edge of the jaw. Shows the privileges conferred by birth.
Spear blade symbols can be found in almost each project of Polynesian tattoo. It is intended to express the courage and fight. Very often used to represent warriors. This symbol combined with with other can have different meanings. E.g. head of the spear upside down along the side is performed to express the importance of the warrior fighting with enemies. It has many varieties as the picture above presents.
Marquesan Cross Symbol
Marquesan Cross is a symbol that is quite popular and often used in many Polynesian tattoo patterns. It is often used to present a balance between the particular elements and harmony. Its origin is not known, but archaeologists say that is is associated with the shape of a turtle shell. This symbol is often confused with symbol of the lizard. Picture above shows some variations of Marquesan Cross and example.
In Polynesian tattoo patterns, the Sun often is connected with other symbols to express special importance. Sun in Polynesian culture means: wealth, brilliance, momentum and leadership. The rising sun represents rebirth and symbolizes the transition in the afterlife.
Meanings of Maori tattoos with Sun symbol may vary. It all depends with which symbols sun is connected.
There are quite a few Polynesian sun design, everything depend on tattoo artist, his imagination and skills. Couple Maori Sun design are presented on the photo.
In Polynesian cultures lizards and geckos represents gods, as well as the ancient ancestors of the Polynesian people, so they look very similar to the “enatas” human symbols. Lizards are in their beliefs a type of creature, who can talk with the gods and see the hidden world. This symbol in tattoo will bring a lot of luck to your life . You can find many symbols of lizards that are embedded in the Polynesian tattoo patterns. A few examples at the picture above.