Polynesian tattoo symbol: spearheads


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Polynesian tattoo symbol spearheads

Fa'aulutao: (Samoan) m. spearhead.

maka ihe in Hawaiian, atai in Tahitian, are some of the terms used to name the spearheads.
They symbolize the warrior, prosperity, and providing for the family.

The spearhead represents both the warrior and the fisherman, as they were used by both of them.

In the traditional Samoan male tattoo, or pe'a, which extends from the back of the waist to slightly below the knee, the spearheads were one of the first elements to be inked.
When a boy reaches maturity and is considered worthy of receiving his tattoo, the tufuga ta tatau (maker of tattoos, a title given only to master tattoo artists) starts studying the back of the boy to decide where the initial line should be drawn. He won't start until it's been commonly agreed with the parents of the boy.
This line goes horizontally on the back and bends slightly upward on the sides of the torso to end almost on the front of the body, and it represents the canoe of the ancestors, symbolizing both the connection with the roots and that the boy is ready to guide his own canoe, to provide for his family.
This is symbolized by the two spearheads that finalize the tips of the canoe on opposite sides as shown in the image below:

Spearheads on the top of the Samoan pea tattoo

The Samoan symbol representing the spearhead reminds of the corresponding Hawaiian version, where spearheads are often arranged in patterns of several points side by side.

Hawaiian spearheads tattoo pattern

Patterns with several spearheads arranged in a row are also typical in Tahitian tattooing, where the more figurative style includes more realistically designed rows of spearheads.
They also appear in associacion with enata symbols to represent warriors.

Tahitian spearheads tattoo pattern


Hawaiian patterns:

Hawaiian spearheads patterns

a spearheads patterns and b Hawaiian petroglyph of a man throwing a spear.

Tahitian patterns:

Tahitian spearheads patterns

a spearheads patterns and b simple spears usually used in combination with human figures.


This row of spearheads running all long the arm symbolizes the warrior:

Polynesian tattoo symbol spearheads

The spear, and the centipede nearby, symbolize fighting spirit:

Polynesian tattoo symbol spears

Several rows of spearheads in this tattoo represent a warrior:

Spearheads tattoo pattern

The warrior can also be represented by a enata symbol holding a spear above the head:

Sergey tattoo photo

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

Books about Polynesian Tattoos

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