Polynesian tattoo symbol: fish hook


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Polynesian tattoo symbol fish hook

Matau: (Maori, Marquesan, Tahitian), hook.

mātau in Samoan and makau in Hawaiian, all refer to a hook, usually a fish hook, which was a very important asset for people living on such a rich ocean as the Pacific one was.

Considering how rich the Polynesian Ocean was, it's not surprising to see how important was the fish hook as a symbol.

Since having a fish hook meant to be able and tap into this seemingly endless source of food, the probably most common meaning for this tool is prosperity, abundance.

It's not the only one actually: Polynesian people were great observers and often saw likeness and similarities among different aspects of life, which became the base for stories, teachings and traditional lore.
For example, in Maori language the word mātau refers to knowledge, understanding: the fish that gets caught and remains hooked reminds of a concept which, once acquired, does not go away but sticks to one's mind.
On this account fish hooks are also symbolic of knowledge and understanding.

Another important symbolism related to fish hooks comes from their structure: they were often assembled using different materials like bone and polished shells tied together.

Maori waves patterns

Polynesian traditional fish hooks from museum collections. Wood, seashell and bone.

Despite being made with different materials, fish hooks worked as a whole and each part was equally important.
This is why fish hooks also symbolize union, meeting and even reconciliation.


fish hook tattoo symbol details


Tiki and fish hook are a popular combo to symbolize protection and prosperity:

Polynesian tattoo symbol enata representing family

The row of fish (blue) next to the fish hook (red) clearly identifies it here as a symbol of prosperity:

Change half sleeve tattoo

A manaia and a hammerhead shark joined together shape this fish hook shaped tattoo:

Calf Polynesian fish hook tattoo

This tattoo of the Hawaiian islands and IM symbol from Ironman Hawaii was integrated with a fish hook shaped tattoo representing prosperity and coming together:

Hawaii fish hook tattoo

You can click on the photos to read the full description of each tattoo.

Books about Polynesian Tattoos

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