TATTOO DESIGNS & SYMBOLS - TRIBAL TATTOOS
Tattoo Symbol Index -
Tattoo designs - T
Tribal Tattoo Designs -
accounts for nearly a third of all tattoo design search requests,
and the term "tribal" of course covers an astonishing array of
tattoo design possibilities, from the traditional tribal tattoos of
indigenous and aboriginal cultures, to the latest in graphic design
for the body.
While today it is possible to find some incredibly breathtaking
tribal tattoo designs, you'll be hard pressed to experience the
full, authentic art of the tribal tattoo experience in commercial
America. Now, electric tattoo machines and high tech, high quality inks have
replaced sticks, styluses, bone needles and plant dyes of the modern
tattoo's ancient ancestors. Modern tattoo artists have replaced the
shaman and medicine folk of old.
The History of the Tribal Tattoo Design
Most likely, the very first tattoo happened on accident. All it
takes is a few rowdy primitives playing around the fire. It wouldn't
take long for someone to fall in, get poked with a charred stick and
later heal before they'd realized that they were on to something.
The news probably spread as fast as the fires that prompted the
invention. As a matter of fact, it is rumored that the first tattoos
were of the sun or flames in honor of the sun god(s).
There were three major factors that took the practice of tribal
tattooing from the realm of art and into the plane of the spiritual:
Pain, Permanence and Loss of the Life Source (blood). This
mystical trio elevated the tattoo from mere art and transformed it
into a chance to draw people into a relationship with God, a god,
magic powers, or a trance or vision state.
Because body and soul were generally thought to be identical to one
another, your tattoos then existed on two planes: the physical and
spiritual realms. Many of the tribes from Borneo believed that
tattoos would not only be enough to get them to the proper spirit
world, but that their tattoos also offered them special
qualifications for advantageous occupations upon their arrival.
It has been found that most (if not all) primitive tribes used some
form of body marking, be they tattoos, scarifications or the use of
plain, temporary body paints. This art prevailed worldwide until the
arrival of civilization as we know it, when the tattoo fell into a
temporary loss of popularity.
Times May Change, But The Reasons Stay the
In ancient times, tribal tattoo art was popular for many of the same
reasons it is so alluring today. Tribal tattoos were employed for
To Identify Clans, Tribes and Families
Originally (and hence the name) tribal tattoos were employed to
identify and group tribes, clans and families together. Not only did
this enable you to easily identify one another, or recognize distant
relatives, but it was generally believed that your tattoos would
allow you to find your tribe and join it again in the afterlife.
Today, fraternal orders, gangs, members of the military and other
organizations also have designed tattoos that are recognizable to
their fellow brothers and sisters.
In addition to a tribal tattoo, ancient men and women may also wear
a marriage tattoo. Not only would this serve the same function as
the modern day wedding ring (as a witness to your commitment to
another), but again, would allow you to find your spouse in the
afterlife. This was understandably important when husbands and wives
would "cross the veil" several years apart from one another. In
modern times, this form of tribal tattoo is still prevalent, and you
will often see spouses and life-mates with matching tattooed
armbands, "rings", initials, and hearts as a permanent witness to
their love and fidelity.
Rites of Passage
Ancient adolescents approaching maturity would often come under the
prick of the tribal tattoo point before being socially accepted as
an adult. A woman who couldn't bear the pain of a tattoo would be
unfit for the impending pain of childbirth - making her unacceptable
for marriage. A young man who couldn't take it would be seen as
unfit for battle or hunting, often dooming him to the role of
outcast. Today, many teenagers eagerly await (or don't wait) their
eighteenth birthday and celebrate their entrance to adulthood by
getting a tattoo.
Totem Animal Guardianship
Many tribal tattoos were administered as proof of the power of
certain totem animals over the lives of those they chose to guard
and bless. This was especially true amongst Pacific Northwest Native
American tribes and the Druids and Celtic people of the British
Isles. Being bestowed with a totem animal guardian was a two-fold
blessing- not only would you gain the strengths and abilities of the
totem animal, but the tattoo also served as a mysterious link
between the animal spirit and the bearer of its marks. Different
animals provided different strengths and virtues to their receiver.
Today, animal tattoos are wildly popular. Lower backs, upper backs,
shoulders and arms abound which have been decorated with gentle
butterflies, fearsome dragons, and deadly scorpions in hopes that
these creatures' merits will take hold.
Probably the most documented and understood of the magically charged
tribal tattoos was for the purpose of love spells and charms. These
tattoo magicians would mix special herbs and potent concoctions to
their dyes and would apply the tattoo to a small, generally hidden
area to activate the magic. Generally, these tattoos were kept
hidden because it would be foolish for an old married woman to go
around wearing the marks of a foolish youth. Today, who doesn't know
someone who knows someone with an ex's name tattooed somewhere,
whether they've covered it or removed now or not?
The rich, spiritual folklore still survives today. Tribal tattoos
are being given in droves, to people as different from one another
as night is from day. You can find a tribal style fairy, Hawaiian
themed designs, African inspired prints, and Celtic crosses (both
pagan and Christian), and even Maori facial tribal art. But it
appears that the ancient superstition still prevails. When faced
with doubts or indecision regarding tattoos, the modern tattoo
artist and administrator will tell you...
"When you should get a tattoo, the tattoo god will tell you that it
See also: Maori Tattoos, Haida Tattoos, Tattoo History Museum
Choose your own tribal tattoo design from Tattoo-Art.com.
Buy the tribal tattoo design that's perfect for you.
Choose your tribal tattoo design from over 13,000 different
tribal tattoo designs by some
of the world's best tattoo artists. Buy your perfect design today.
Get Tribal tattoo designs on t-shirts, hats, sweatshirts, bags & more.
Tattoo designs - T
Tattoo Symbol Index -