The search for

the true Polynesian tattoo

Or how we started, what we learnt, and how to use this wiki.
(plus a free service to deliver the symbols cards straight to your inbox right here!)
designing Polynesian tattoos

Why did we start this?
Because we fell in love with Polynesia, its islands, cultures, and tattoos of course, and we've seen first hand how hard it is to find reliable sources about them.

Knowing their symbolism, their true power, got us totally hooked, and we started thinking:

what if we get it wrong? What if we mess it up?
No way.
We HAD to be sure about their true meanings.

...and 20 years ago there was not much available. Even today, 80% of the articles online just quote our Polynesian Tattoo Handbooks or the articles of this website, as they have now become the reference for Polynesian tattoos.
You see symbols cards somewhere? They're likely from our books:

External references to The Polynesian Tattoo Handbooks

It didn't happen overnight though. It's been a long journey, and not an easy one either, but PASSION can go a long way if you let it guide you.

The main problem was finding reliable sources: the exact symbolism, the exact meanings of many elements, patterns, and symbols have mostly been lost and oral traditions alone can't fill this void.

That's why we did not stop there, but decided to study other mediums that preserved similar patterns (like traditional printed mats and cloths), and to go through the diaries of the first European explorers who got in contact with Polynesian peoples: while many times it's just about how many gallons of water were taken on board at each stopover, how many coconuts, sweet potatoes or any other supply of vegetables, fruits, and meat or fish were traded to refurnish the holds of the ships, sometimes hidden pearls can be found, where descriptions of tattoos appear along with insights on their symbols and cultural significance.

Following voyages were made with the specific purpose of exploring and studying these new lands and their inhabitants. These expeditions usually had artists and naturalists on board and to them we owe most of the information about pre-contact tattoos.
And even if it's not easy to remount back to the original drawings, it's always a good idea to do it, and somehow necessary because over the years those drawings have been used as references by other artists to illustrate the life on the Polynesian islands, often changing or modifying them arbitrarily.
This unfortunately means that later drawings can't be trusted or held true to understand traditional tattoos and how they were applied:

Original tattoos and later renditions

It was like a treasure hunt (and a frustrating one at times) where small gems were hidden in old books, oral traditions, and contemporary lore, as sparse in a sea of confusing infos as the very Polynesian islands in the Pacific ocean.

It took us years, and we did not want all this to get lost, nor did we want you to go through the same frustration.

That's why we started publishing these articles, and also the two Polynesian Tattoo Handbooks. They collect all the verified info we gathered to date, and we priced them cheap because we want as many people as possible to get to know this art.

We feel grateful for having been allowed into this world, and priced our books so low because we don't feel we should charge for the knowledge in them, which would be priceless, but only for the time it took for collecting it. For the same reason we also share that same knowledge over here in our monthly articles.

Polynesian tattoo symbols free PDF cards

The books are a shortcut to have that knowledge immediately at hand, but in time it will all be available here too, so keep checking every new article (you can even have each one delivered to your inbox effortlessly by joining our symbols cards delivery service here) and feel free to pop us a message if you have any question (well, any question that we haven't already answered here).

Recently, we also added a video course that explains the background of Polynesian tattoos, their styles, meanings, and even more important, a step by step process that shows how to create them.

Either you have a Polynesian tattoo, or are interested in getting one, we are sure these pages will help you get an all-round better understanding of this fascinating form of art.

Now, ready to start your voyage through the beauty and symbolism of Polynesian tattoos?
Click on the button below and start from the first article, or go to the index and jump to what tickles your interest the most... enjoy the reading!

Books about Polynesian Tattoos

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