Polynesian tattoo symbol: fern sprout



Polynesian tattoo symbol koru

Koru: (Maori), coiled, loop.

Koru is a Maori word meaning folded, coiled, and it is used in tattooing to indicate a curled shape representing a fern sprout and symbolizing life, new beginnings, and tradition.

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It is used to identify the pattern of the unfolding fern frond and it can be found as a partly rolled line as well as a full single or double spiral, usually "carved out" in the tattoo design..

Simple koru patterns

More complex designs include several koru joined together, which usually symbolize family genealogy. The number of koru included in a design can represent the number of ancestors and their size in this case would be related to their importance. Single spirals may be associated to female ancestors and double spirals to male ancestors.

Spiral koru patterns

A reference to tradition comes from the Maori saying "Mate atu he tetekura, whakaete mai he tetekura" (several versions exist, all with the same meaning) that can be translated as "As one fern frond dies, one fern frond is born".
It symbolizes the continuity of life, traditions and genealogy. It's interesting to note that tetekura can also be translated as "chief", and the underlying concept is that when a chief dies, another one will take their place to guarantee the continuity of the clan or family.
This is also related to the adult fern, symbolizing maturity.

A double koru can also be used to indicate a parent with their child:

Double koru pattern


koru tattoo symbol details


The koru next to the lotus flower of this modern Polynesian tattoo symbolizes a new start and a rebirth after a difficult time:

Polynesian tattoo symbol koru representing life

The sun surrounding the major koru was added as a wish for positivity for a great change and new start:

Koru tattoo

Double koru designed in traditional Maori kirituhi style:

Maori double koru tattoo

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

You can also download a PDF quick cheatsheet to this symbol:

Polynesian symbols cheatsheets: koru


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