There are many types of tribal tattoos around the world, with rich historical significance and meaning to them. Traditionally tattoos were a form of representation and can even be used as part of the rites of passage in some cultures.
Different Native American tribes, Polynesian tribes, Celtics, Ibans, and many other ancient tribes used a variety of tribal tattoos. This one shown above is a full sleeve Samoan Tattoo.
Our Choice of an top 100 tribal tattoos:
Tattooing was a part of almost every ancient culture, from the Egyptians and Chinese to even more recent history such as the Romans. Early Christians even used tattooing as a form of branding themselves to show their commitment to their faith. Some religions consider tattooing a forbidden practice.
Although it was historically practiced around the globe, in a variety of styles and in many different cultures. The word originates from a Samoan word that meant to strike, referring to the method they used to apply tattoos.
Samoans are not the first (nor the only) culture that traditionally practiced tattooing. The etymology of the word simply traces back to their language. Before that, the English language may have called tattooing by other names such as staining or body painting.
Here we have a few Samoan and Maori tribal tattoos, which have many similarities (they are both Polynesian). They both have geometrical patterns (especially triangles) and large areas filled with a darker color (black)
Shapes such as shark teeth, spearheads, and ocean symbols are commonly used in Samoan and Maori Tattoos. They often tattoo different areas of the body, each with its significance. Tattoos on the face are common in Polynesia. Often these tattoos are part of elaborate rituals or signify bravery and other warrior themes.
You can see the traditional Maori fern above. It has been used as a symbol of strength and resistance. New Zealand (where Maori come from) uses this symbol as part of their national identity. Because the lower parts of the fern are white or silver, tattoo artists depict it with half of its leaves white and the other half black.
Their traditional tattoos often cover large areas of the body, such as the entire leg or arm. They are the inspiration for the popular trend of “sleeve” tattoos. Many artists take Polynesian designs and modify them to make their unique patterns without ever knowing the symbolism behind them.
Of course, nowadays these tribal tattoos are used by many without regard to their original cultural significance. Many bodybuilders and others get these tattoos as a fashion statement. Tattoo artists often get creative and focus solely on their design aesthetics and do not necessarily attach any meaning to their designs.
As you can see, even tribal-inspired tattoos are common on all areas of the body, depending on the size.
They can be complex three-dimensional designs or simple and elegant. Some tribal-inspired tattoos also add modern symbols such as breast cancer ribbons to give them more meaning. Some people get tattoos merely as a form of self-expression and decorations. Others place profound importance on the designs they choose.
While most tribal tattoos are simply black and white, the addition of colors gives them more life, and the contrasting of color allows for more vivid designs.
Some might feel inspired to add a floral element to their tribal tattoos. Flowers, especially roses, have traditionally been decorative and indicate beauty. They add a charming and graceful touch to tribal tattoos that may seem more brutal and animalistic.
Of course, adding names of loved ones gives tattoos an extra meaning apparent for anyone to see. This client’s tattoo is tribal-inspired, probably with the names of his children. The same style could be adapted to include any text, such as a phrase or religious scripture.
But Polynesia isn’t the only region to produce tattoos used by tribes. The Celtic knot can be considered a tribal symbol used as a tattoo. Many people of Scottish, Irish, and Welsh ancestry opt for this beautiful symbol. Traditionally, these are never-ending loops representing eternity and other themes that use eternity as part of their meaning, such as love, friendship, loyalty, and faith.
The Aztecs also tattooed symbols of their tribes on various parts of their bodies. Other Mesoamerican tribes have also historically used several symbols as tattoos.
Of course, the Mesoamericans also held rituals to accompany their body modification practices. They did not stop at tattoos but went as far as scarring, branding, and other body modification forms. Many of these traditions are lost, but tattooing is still prevalent in modern Mesoamerican countries.
Native American tribes extensively use animal symbols in various parts of their culture. The wolf is well-known for its association with Native Americans, but many other animals are prevalent in tattoos from different cultures.
Birds are commonly used to signify freedom, spirituality, and liberty. In particular, eagles are considered a sign of freedom in many cultures. Many people imagine flight as a freeing experience and choose tattoos of various bird species to denote several meanings.
Tattoos of a burning stallion can be a way of showing both freedom and power. Horses are common in almost every culture worldwide, and riders are usually proud of their companions. Horse-lovers will tell you that they are among the most elegant creatures on earth, so it is not surprising that people would choose this tattoo.
Especially beautiful, the peacock is used to signify nobility and self-confidence. The Native Americans view it as a protective symbol. Indian cultures are particularly fond of peacocks, and their culture inspires other tattoo designs as well. Traditional Indian tattooing is not permanent, but it’s patterns are often used in permanent tattooing.
Mythological creatures such as dragons are part of Asian cultures, giving us beautiful tribal tattoos.
Tigers are an integral part of Asian symbolism, denoting military prowess and strength. Other Asian symbols may include Yin and Yang. It is a part of Chinese culture representing dualism and the balancing act of contrary forces.
Tattooing is seen as a protective practice by people from the Iban culture (Malaysia), with various signs used to ward off evil spirits. They also use flower motifs or amphibians and other creatures.
Also, Koi Fish are the Japanese sign for good luck, and they are elegant even when their vibrant colors cannot be seen. Other fish may have a different meaning, depending on the person getting the tattoo.
Many other shapes and patterns are used in tribal tattoos.
Skulls, mythological creatures are well suited for use in tribal tattoos as well.
Some might consider Crosses a tribal symbol, and many tattoos fuse both themes to get a tribal-inspired tattoo, including a Cross. It may be regarded as a form of protection and a statement of one’s spiritual beliefs.
Many different styles of Cross tattoo are popular. People get them on all parts of their bodies as well. Back tattoos, although elaborate, are aesthetically pleasing and trendy.