Today, both men and women get tattoos, but they are most commonly symbolic of the wearer’s beliefs, struggles or desires in life. Interest in the use of Hawaiian tattoos and their symbolism has grown in recent years. They can often be found in tattoo parlors far removed from Hawaii, but generally, carry the same meaning. Some of the most common Hawaiian tattoos and their meanings are:
Symbolism of Hawaiian Tattoos
Sharks: Sharks are thought to bring protection to the wearer. It may be depicted as a full-bodied shark or the shark’s teeth may be incorporated into a larger design.
Tiki: In Hawaiian culture, Tiki represents a mythical ancestor of all humans. He contains supernatural powers and is typically used as a symbol of protection. The Tiki tattoo may contain portions of Tiki’s features, such as his nose to symbolize sniffing out danger before it approaches. Tiki may be depicted with a full body.
Manta Rays: the symbol of Spirit Guardians representing graceful strength and wisdom. Most rays tattoos we saw are Manta Ray tattoos in tribal designs
Sea Turtles & Turtle Shells: The sea turtle represents long life, fertility, and peace. Portions of the shell are often included as part of larger tattoos, but the turtle may appear whole a well. The meaning of the turtle or shell varies according to the other portions of the tattoo.
Flowers: The hibiscus flower represents beauty, while the bird of paradise symbolizes magnificence and joy. The orchid represents refinement. These flowers may be found in whole or part in Hawaiian tattoos.
Rainbows: Rainbows have a double meaning in the Hawaiian culture. They represent the path Hawaiian gods travel to visit the earth but are also thought to be a bridge the deceased must travel to reach heaven. The rainbow generally symbolizes connecting to the spirit world and seeking abundance in this lifetime.
Lizard or Gecko: The lizard is a common symbol used in Hawaiian tattoos. According to Polynesian culture, the lizard represents the gods and is believed to be able to observe a man and talk to the gods about what he sees. A lizard tattoo is thought to bring good fortune to the person and deliver bad luck to his enemies.