49 Maori Tattoo Ideas – the main symbols and their meaning

The Maori tattoo or traditionally too ta moko called, is one of the most popular tattoos par excellence. Lately such tattoos are quite trendy again. Both men and women like these types of tribal tattoos and are often stung on different parts of the body. Nowadays, of course, the tattoo method differs substantially from the traditional ones used in Polynesia and New Zealand by the native tribes. Nevertheless, we would like to say a few words about the ancient tradition of the Maori tattoo.

The Polynesian Maori Tattoo is back in fashion

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Which are the Maori?

This is actually the name of the indigenous people of New Zealand, who originally came from Polynesia. No one can say exactly when the Maori set foot on the New Zealand coast for the first time. But the fact is that this people had an intact culture that was rich in unique customs and customs that were quite unknown and incomprehensible to Europeans.

Such a ritual was tattooing. This has always been considered sacred by the Maori and was perceived as a very special initiation.

The Maori were also a rather combative people, consisting of many tribes who often engage in wars. Around the middle of the 18th century, the life of the Maori has changed rapidly due to the colonization of New Zealand by the Europeans, who have not only brought their rifles, but unfortunately also their diseases. Here are some more exciting facts about the history and indigenous Maori culture.

Maori women with facial tattoos

Maori women wooden statues tattoos face

Traditional tattoo art

The only one who knew the secret of Maori tattoos was always the tohunga ta moko, which means tattoo master. He was one of the most respected and wise persons of the tribe and had the exclusive right to tattoo the tribesmen. Because the head was considered to be the holiest part of the body in Maori culture, the warriors in particular have decorated their faces with tattoos. Women, unlike men, tend to tattoo their chin and lips. Traditionally, the Maori do not use needles when tattooing as they do nowadays. On the contrary - the instruments of tohunga ta moko were used were special knives and chisels, too (uhi) called.

Artful Sleeve Maori Tattoo for Men

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As a rule, these were made from albatross bones, shark teeth or stones. And so the Maori tattoos were not stung, but literally chiseled into the skin. The traditional tattoo ink was obtained exclusively from natural products - wood ash, with a special fungus infected caterpillars or Dammerharz, mixed with animal oils.

Tattooing started in childhood and this process lasted until old age. Through different symbols and signs the most important events in the life of the tattooed person were told as well as their status, wealth and character.

A young Maori warrior with typical Ta Moko on the face

maori-tattoo-young-warrior-face tattoo

The most important Maori tattoo motifs

Every single Maori tattoo is unique and very complicated. And although each tattoo has been adapted to the specific features of each individual person and their life history, there are already some symbols and signs that are very distinctive and typical for the Maori tattoo. Most of them are nowadays very often and gladly stung with these types of tattoos and preferred by many people. These include, for example, geckos, tikis, enata signs, turtles, shells, manta rays, shark teeth, waves, stars and sun.

The so-called Marquesas cross is also traditionally very popular and has the four world directions. This symbol also stands for balance and harmony and should give the tattooed person stability and peace. Men can be sting this symbol even today, especially as tribal upper arm tattoo also combined with other characters and elements.

Maori Tattoo - the focus of Marquesas Cross

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The tiki is one of the most significant and commonly engraved characters in the world today. Originally, it represents the first human being and depending on the drawn organs - eyes, nose, mouth, etc., the tattoo is also attributed to certain different meanings.

A tiki combined with stylized spearhead

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The gecko we all know and love each other. These cute lizards of New Zealand stand for luck and protection from disease. In the Maori tradition, it is believed that geckos can speak with the gods and therefore are considered sacred beings. Individually or as part of larger tattoos geckos also look very effective in general and quickly become an eye-catcher.

Breast-shoulder tattoo with gecko symbol

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Mantara are among the most popular maritime symbols in Maori tattoo designs. Very often stung all over the back and decorated with numerous smaller motifs. Skates stand for power and assertiveness. For example, a brave warrior is quite justified in bearing such a sign.

Manta Rays as back tattoo

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turtles In the whole Polynesian area they are considered the best navigators in the ocean and thus these creatures are perceived as a symbol of longevity, happiness and endurance.

Turtle tattoo combined with small shark teeth

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Also all other sea creatures are revered by the Maori tribes and perceived as vital. So stand, for example dolphins for friendship, harmony and joy and squid symbolize high intelligence and inexhaustible knowledge.

The sun Like the European or other ancient cultures, it stands for grandeur, power and wealth and not infrequently for the divine.

Lower leg Maori tattoo with stylized sun

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Discover other Maori tattoo symbols in our picture gallery and learn more about their meaning. Think about which characters are more suitable for you and which ones you might like to get stabbed in the near future.

Which body parts are ok for you? Maybe your work or lifestyle does not really allow you to wear a tattoo on an open body? Or maybe the opposite?

The editorial team wishes you lots of fun looking and searching!

Maori sleeve tattoo idea for men

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Fine thigh tattoo for women

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Or subtle on the shoulder

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Find out which Maori Tattoo is right for you!

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