It seems like ancient Egyptian women exclusively practiced tattooing in comparison to men, with the exception of a stele coming from the Dynasty XII period. There is little to no evidence that suggests Egyptian men also got tattoos done. But during the Meroitic Period, most Nubian men started sporting ink on their bodies too. There were also accounts of archaeologists travelling to ancient Egyptian sites, which have described the tools used for tattooing as an uneven assortment of metal-based needles, all attached to a wooden handle.
A Coptic tattoo is often comprised of three lines, two elements, and three dots, which symbolize the Holy Trinity. The tools that they use here had a purposely odd number of needles, which are meant to bring good fortune and luck. A lot of Copts did get Coptic crosses tattooed on the inside of their right arm. This is most likely taken after a same kind of method involving tattooing religious symbols on the arms and wrists, during the Ptolemaic period.
Slaves and prisoners of war were also heavily tattooed in places like Persia, especially during the Persian classical era. This is a practice that spread across Persia coming from Greece, then eventually to Rome. One of the most famous instances of tattooing in regards to popular Persian literature is based from a tale by the poet Rumi, about a man who wants to get a lion a tattoo on his body, but changed his mind right away when he realizes how painful it is. In Persian baths (hamam) there are dallaks whose main job is to assist people in washing themselves. This is an important occupation, since aside from helping clients out with washing their bodies, they also worked as barbers, dentists, massage-therapists, and lastly, tattoo artists.
Maori tribes in New Zealand utilized a form of tribal tattooing called ta moko, which is usually crafted from chisels. But starting from the late 20th century going onwards, there has been a huge reemergence of ta moko tattoos, now sporting European-style designs. These are also worn by Maori tribesmen. The traditional ta moko designs are still being used nowadays, but only for the head area. Apart from the ta moko, there’s another form of tribal tattoo used called the kirituhi, which bears the same kind of design and aesthetic as a ta moko but can only be worn by non-Maori.
In other Polynesian regions, traditional tattoos worn by males are called pe’a. Meanwhile, traditional tattoos worn by females are called malu. It was the Samoans who invented the word ‘tattoo’, which is based after the native word ‘tatau’.
When the Europeans first discovered the Samoan islands back in 1722, three Dutch ships, all commanded by captain Jacob Roggeveen paid a visit to the Eastern island called Manua. A member of his crew described the natives as ‘friendly in their speech’ and ‘courteous’, without any trace of savagery and wildness. They also didn’t pain themselves, contrary to the natives who resided in other islands. The natives also wore silk tights or breeches above their knees.
Types Of Tribal Tattoos For Men
- Tribal tiki back tattoo for men – This is a tattoo design that is both complex yet simple at the same time. It is a tattoo design which includes lots of intricate geometrical patterns, which include symbols such as the ‘enata’ (a standard Polynesian tattoo motif) and the sun. And even though the enata represents the relationship between gods and humans, along with their life experiences, the sun is there to symbolize power and strength. Surrounding the sun within the enata’s patterns in this tattoo design means that they have given the gods power to protect the wearer’s own life experiences.
- Enata tribal tattoos – Human figures, also referred to as ‘enata’ in the Marquesan language, represent gods, men, and women. You can put them within a tattoo to symbolize a person, as well as their relations. If you position them in an upside down manner, you can use it to represent dead or defeated enemies. This is one of the great examples of the enata in its singular form. An over-stylized enata are linked together in a row of people with joined hands, creating another motif called the ‘ani ata’, which means ‘couldy sky’. The Polynesian language, as well as the enata all linked together in a circular form, also symbolize the sky, alongside the ancestors that watch over their descendants.
- Ear tribal tattoo – Tribal tattoos don’t have to be big. A great and unique tribal tattoo idea is to place a small one at the back of the wearer’s ear. Plenty of people choose to wear tribal tattoos because of their sheer size – These wearers want something big to place on their body. But there are still some people out there who enjoy the look and feel of these tribal tattoos, but are not ready to commit to a large one on their arms or chest. This is the reason why people will adapt a tribal tattoo design to fit their own aesthetics. In the end, it makes for a completely amazing design.
- Maori half-sleeve tattoo – This is the type of tattoo design that focuses more on symbolism instead of the overall design. It’s a forearm tattoo which you can use to show off your personality, your own identity, or to embrace your own masculinity. The design contains symbols like turtle shells, and flowers. Both of them are utilized as forms of longevity and rebirth.
- Sleeve tribal tattoo – A great thing about a tribal tattoo is that they all seem to carry a visually bold appeal. The black and thick curved lines, along with the interlocking patterns can lend themselves nicely towards the standard tattoo areas, like the upper arm, the lower back, the back, or even your legs. But the same kind of bold appeal does have its disadvantages. Make sure that your chosen tribal tattoo is something that you really want, since once you get it done, removing it can be tough. And what’s worse is that covering it up with another tattoo isn’t going to work either.
Meaning Of Tribal Tattoos
Even though tribal tattoos might come off as cool and very masculine, they do have plenty of meaning behind them, apart from being just a sign of boldness and courage. The tribal tattoo design goes all the way back to the bronze age – At least 5000 years ago. So as expected, the purpose and meaning of it is practically all over the place.
However, the four most important reasons men in ancient tribes liked to wear tribal tattoos were because it was seen as a rite of passage, totem and animal guardianship, as a sign of marriage, and probably the most unique out of all of them, for medical and magical reasons. And each Polynesian tribe actually has their own style of tribal tattoos: From Samoans, to Hawaiians, Mayans, Indians, Egyptians, Aztecs, and the New Zealand Maori tribe.
In their own cultures, tattoo designs were utilized to identify those who wore them as a member of a certain tribe, shown off in their social status. In certain cases, they were also employed in religious and medicinal rituals. The figures used a tribal tattoo design was often a representation of other forms of nature and animals, as well as several aspects of tribal life. Depending on the elements and the designs used, these tattoos often told their own story. These warriors’ tattoos will often include animal or any other nature-themed design which showed off the warrior’s strength and abilities when fighting. Images which symbolize the sea were also fairly common like all of the cultures associated with tribal tattoos have resided near the sea or ocean.
A tribal tattoo can carry spiritual meanings too. A couple of traditional tribal tattoos were meant to act as a form of protection against evil forces, or demons. And of course, these particular significations were eventually brought over to modern forms of tribal tattooing culture. There are even several modern-day tribal tattoo designs which are pretty much more or less void of a much deeper meaning for both the artist and the wearer. These tattoo designs are simply meant as a form of decoration – Nothing more, nothing less.
Tribal Tattoos For Men Placement Ideas
The placement of a tribal tattoo on one’s body does play a very important role, especially in Polynesian settings. Because there are a couple of elements here which are connected to a certain meaning, depending on where the wearer decides to put them. So to sum it all up, the placement of a tribal tattoo does have a strong influence on its meaning.
According to Polynesian folklore, humans were said to be a direct descendant of Papa (Earth) and Rangi (Heaven). Papa and Rangi were once said to be united. And legend has it that man’s true quest is to be able to find that union again between the two. Their bodies are meant to serve as a connection between Papa and Rangi. The upper part of a person’s body is associated with heaven and the spiritual world. Meanwhile, the lower half is associated with the Earth and the world.
The positioning of certain elements of the body, which include geanology tracks on the backside of the wearer’s arms, do suggest that the back might be connected to the wearer’s past, while the front is for the future. And in regards to gender, the left side of the body is associated with women, while the right is meant for men.
Tribal tattoos on the head are important since they’re supposed to be the connecting point towards Rangi, so tattoos placed on this area are connected with knowledge, spirituality, intuition, and wisdom. The higher trunk is the area found just right on top of the navel and the chest area, and is often associated with themes like sincerity, generosity, reconciliation, and honor. Some wearers might have noticed that this spot is placed in the middle of Papa and Rangi, so there’s harmony in between them. Therefore, balance should co-exist nicely in this area.
The lower area is the place that goes from the wearer’s navel, down to their thighs. This is connected to courage, life’s energy, sexuality, procreation, and independence. Thighs are associated with marriage and strength. The mid area, which includes the stomach, is the place where ‘mana’ comes from, while the navel symbolizes independence because of the symbolic meaning that’s associated with removing the baby’s umbilical cord right after it’s born.
Independence is considered to be a highly valued trait in Polynesian society (as well as in other societies). But surprisingly, individualism isn’t. Those people who solely depend on the sea for sustenance and food will know the importance of socializing with their peers. Polynesian culture greatly revolves around this – Family becomes a much bigger group of people, which includes all of your friends, relatives, and neighbors. They are meant to play a very important role in helping you grow.
Tribal Tattoos Preparation Tips
Keeping yourself well-hydrated ensures that your skin is in better condition for being tattooed. This means that its surface layer will take in the ink much easier and makes applying a tattoo twice as fast and simple, as compared to dehydrated skin.
Don’t thin your blood. To limit out the amount of bleeding you’ll get from the tattooing process, as much as possible try to avoid ingesting products that act as blood thinners for the next 24 hours until you get that tattoo. This means you shouldn’t drink any alcohol before getting a tattoo done. Another thing to avoid here is aspirin – Do not take it at least a day or two before your tattoo appointment. Like alcohol, aspirin is also a blood thinner, so if you have taken it a few hours before the process, your tattoo will bleed more.
Wear comfortable clothing. Depending on how big or small you want your tattoo to be, you could end up staying in the shop for a couple of hours. It helps to don an old yet comfortable outfit as you have to deal with the pain and discomfort of getting a tattoo.
Apart from that, these loose and comfortable clothes are needed so your tattoo artist can gain access to the spot where you want to get that tattoo done. So if you are acquiring a tattoo in a place on your body that’s mostly and regularly covered up by clothes, just be sure that you put on something to the appointment which can give your tattoo artist better access when tattooing that spot.
For instance, if you plan to get a tattoo on your leg, you may want to wear a skirt or a pair of shorts so the artist can reach that area easily. And at the same time, if you’re getting it done on your arm, then put on a sleeveless shirt.
Eat something before your appointment. Get plenty of food in your stomach before you visit the shop for your appointment, so you won’t feel dizzy or light-headed while getting a tattoo. It’s already bad enough that you feel pain while getting a tattoo, and you don’t want to experience something worse like light-headedness, or even fainting during the appointment. Having low blood sugar can increase a person’s physical reaction to getting a tattoo. This is why you’re more than likely to faint from the pain.
Eating a full meal before you arrive for your appointment provides you with the strength and energy to be able to handle the pain of getting a tattoo done. And even though it doesn’t really matter whether you eat pasta, a salad or steak, as long as it gives you enough sustenance to be able to get through the appointment. But it also helps if you eat a protein-rich meal instead of one that’s loaded with sugar, as protein helps you feel full longer.
If you are certain that your appointment will take at least four hours to finish, bring in a quick snack, like a chocolate bar. Your artist will be more than happy to give you a short break so you can keep yourself full before continuing on.
Are Tribal Tattoos Painful?
Keep in mind that the faster an artist works, the quicker they’ll finish your tattoo. And this also means that you’ll be experiencing twice the amount of pain here, but at least it’ll be over soon enough. And remember that there’s actually no best or worst method in regards to tattooing. Artists both slow and fast can be just as bad and good as each other – Even though a quicker artist will most likely result in your tattoo costing less.
Each person has their own threshold for pain. Even though one individual might be able to sit down in a tattoo chair for four, five, six, or even seven hours, another individual could stay in a chair for an hour until they reach their limit.
There’s a certain belief that if you show up to your appointment either drunk or high, your tattoo won’t feel painful. There are rare instances where this might be true for some individuals, but in plenty of other cases, being intoxicated from alcohol or drugs can actually increase your pain receptors’ sensitivity. Therefore, this makes the entire experience feel so much worse than it already is for you. And then there’s also the issue of showing up to the shop while obviously being under the influence of one or both of these substances. This will result in your artist turning you away immediately, postponing your appointment, and losing your deposit in one go. Just don’t risk it.
And a tattoo could take twice as long to heal up if you are always in a hungover and tired state, during the days leading on from your trip to the tattoo shop.
Several types of diseases and illnesses will affect your body in many different ways, and this can make the pain of tattooing so much worse than the usual, thanks to certain parts of your nervous system, as well as the pain receptors in your body being placed beneath a certain amount of stress.
In case you suffer from a short-term illness, it’s always a good idea to wait a while until you have completely recovered, before you can push through with that appointment. Not only will the entire experience be so much better for you, but your new ink will heal faster if you’re in the pink of health. Plus a lower immune system gives the risk of you contracting an infection thanks to the tattoo, as it heals up.
And finally, if you’re suffering from a long-term illness, see a doctor and ask them if a tattoo is a great idea for you. The amount of stress your body can experience from a tattooing session can make your current condition twice as bad than it already is.
But what about your mental health? It’s actually quite surprising how powerful the human mind is. And when it comes to tattooing, the classic phrase ‘mind over matter’ really does matter in this experience. If you attend your session with the idea that the pain is going to be really bad and you’ll end up quitting halfway through, then you may have already quit beforehand since you’ve admitted defeat.
Frequently Asked Questions About Tribal Tattoos
- How do I pick a tattoo?
- There are two types of tattoos: Custom and flash. Flash tattoos are those stock designs which you see displayed on the walls of a shop. You can pick from a pre-made design there, or use a combination of two or more designs. You can also use these designs as an inspiration for a customized piece. And as one would imagine, a customized tattoo design means something that you yourself have crafted and or get an artist to create something that represents you, or is uniquely you. Pick a design that you want. Feel free to discuss with your artist about the placement, the color, as well as the size of the tattoo, so you can really get the tattoo that you want.
- How long does it take for you to get a tattoo?
- The amount of time it takes for an individual to get a tattoo will all depend on the design and the size, and the expertise of the artist. Complex designs obviously take more time to finish compared to simpler ones. A huge tattoo or a colorful one can take plenty of hours or a couple of sessions over a span of a few days, depending on the amount of detail involved. It’ll also take longer if the tattoo artist of choice doesn’t have a lot of experience yet.
- Can tattoos cover up old scars, or even an old tattoo?
- Everything will depend on the condition and age of the scar. It’s still possible to place a tattoo over it, however, if the scar is still fresh or if the skin’s surface is raised or thin enough, to the point where it can’t accept the ink.
- Will my tattoo look different if I lose or gain weight?
- Significant weight loss or gaining in a short amount of time could actually alter the look of your tattoo. but when you lose or gain that weight steadily, this won’t have any effect on the tattoo. Getting pregnant, however, is another story – Especially if you have the tattoo done on your stomach, it’ll end up stretching and look very different as your belly grows.
How Much Does A Tribal Tattoo Cost?
First off, you have to consider whether you want to get a tattoo done using the traditional method using ancient tools, or with the aid of a modern machine.
A regular tattoo price has a starting point of around 15,000 XPF (or $150). On the average, people are willing to spend at least $350 up to $500 just for the standard tattoo.
But if you go to places like Samoa or New Zealand and get a tattoo done using ancient tools, it could go for over 60,000 XPF (or a hefty $600). The main reason for this big difference in price is that there’s a huge deal of labor involved. First, there’s the type of tools used. Traditional tattoo tools are crafted from boar tusks. Creating these tools are just downright time consuming, and they’re only made for one person alone – You. And aside from that, these traditional tattoo artists often require an assistant who can hold down the client’s skin while applying the tattoo. Most people who opt to get a traditional tattoo will spend $1000 to $1200 for a piece.
But no matter what method you choose, the final price is eventually calculated depending on the size of your ink, as well as how detailed everything is. Remember that places like Tahiti and its neighboring islands are where tattoos originally came from. This means you can always find someone who’s willing to give you one – At a lower price.
Tribal Tattoos Maintenance Tips
Be sure to follow up the maintenance instructions that your artist will give you after your tattoo is finished. Check to see if this tattoo is kept clean and nicely moisturized for a couple of months after that. Never ever apply abrasive skin products over your new ink – This includes scented liquid soaps and lotions.
While your tattoo is healing up, it could end up flaking or scabbing a bit. Do not ever pick on these scabs and flakes, since this could also get rid of the ink in the same area, and result to patches being removed or fading away altogether. If your new tattoo starts to itch, don’t scratch it – Just lightly slap the area instead to relieve the itching. This sensation should probably last for only a couple of weeks or so. And if your tattoo is still raised, gets uncomfortably itchy, and is red around the design, uncontrollably bleeds for more than a day after you get it done, or still feels hot to the touch after a couple of days, then you have to go back to the shop and ask for medical advice from your artist. An infected tattoo is rare, but it does happen – And it’s still worth getting it checked out if you’re worried about what’s going to happen.
You can always go back to the shop to do touch-ups – But only if necessary. If your tattoo’s ink fades out or peels off after scabbing or flaking, your artist should be able to do it for free – Terrible service and bad tattoos will often lead to the shop earning a bad reputation. So it’s in their best interests to make sure that you are satisfied and happy with the final outcome of your new tattoo. After around six weeks, decide if you want to go back to the shop in case you need touch-ups on your tattoo’s outline or design.
Having to take care of a brand new tattoo as soon as you get it done can help it heal as fast as possible, and make it look as good as the day you got it. Be sure to leave your artist’s applied bandage on for at least a couple of hours before gently peeling it off. Wash your tattoo using antibacterial unscented soap and lukewarm water, then pat the skin dry. When you keep that skin well-dried and moisturized, don’t expose it to the sun’s rays, and avoid scratching or picking the scabs, it’ll heal without any problems.
Always listen to your artist’s advice. Your artist will be the one to tell you how you should care for your new ink as soon as you get it, so be sure to follow their instructions carefully. The way the tattoo is all bandaged up can be different from the way other artists do it, so follow their advice to make sure that your tattoo heals up correctly.