Tattooing is practiced worldwide today and has very diverse origins, but the etymology of the word is Polynesian. Indeed the art of tattooing is intrinsically related to Polynesian culture. It reflects “what is deepest in man”. In the Marquesas for example, “it is the skin that is the Enata(men), makes it human, mortal mind, not just”. It is his image and expression of identity that reflects the past, and reveals the future of a lineage that goes back to ancient times. The tattoo had been sent by the elders of deified ancestors, gods and we should be worthy, prepare physically. Hijack this art, and his motives, their original destination, it was certainly risk their wrath.
The history of the tattoo (tatau) is very difficult to trace, because even if it is an ancient practice, we can not even locate it accurately in time. According to legend in Polynesia, tattooing would be of divine origin. Indeed, during the PO, the practice of tattooing would have been created by both son of God Ta’aroa: Mata Mata Arahu Po and Tu Ra’i. The two brothers were among a group of artisans who were also part another god, that of authority, and Hina Ere Manua Ere, daughter of the first man. When Hina Ere Manua Era became a pahio, the two gods fell in love. To impress they invented the tattoo, is adorned with a pattern called Tao Maro Mata and managed to remove the girl from where it had been locked up since she had become a young woman, because she also pushed by the desire she eluded the vigilance of his “prison” for a tattoo.
Thus was born the tattoo in Polynesia.
This practice was first used by both Ta’aroa son of the god, and they passed their knowledge to practical men who found this very interesting and used it in abundance. The two brothers Mata Mata Arahu Po and Tu Ra’i thus became the gods of tattooing.
Before the arrival of missionaries, the Polynesians did not use written language, passing on their knowledge orally. The symbolic designs of tattoos on his body were used to express the identity and personality of a person. They also indicated social rank in the hierarchy, sexual maturity or genealogy. The art of tattooing was regarded by the Polynesians as Tapu and reserved for the initiated.
Traditionally it was limited mostly to the upper classes (tribal chiefs). The more a Man was tattooed, the more prestige he had. Tattooing was a sign of strength, power and wealth for the individual. Therefore one could observe the most elaborate tattoos on warriors or chiefs. Non-tattooed people were despised while those who were fully tattooed from head to toe could enjoy great prestige.
Polynesian tattooing is, by its divine origins, intended for use by the senior class: Gods, priests, kings and chiefs and their descendants. The upper classes and showed their social differentiation. This is a type of tattoo called Hui Ari’i Arioi and reserved for chiefs (men and women). As noted (Ch. L. Clavel medical officer in the 19th century Hugo during his stay in the Marquesas, the fact of not being tattooed forbade the consumption of human flesh, “a hand with the dorsal side was not improvement of the phalanges to the wrist, could not draw its share of “popoi” in the common dish. E. Robarts, an English sailor, guide and interpreter who stayed in the Marquesas in the 19th century including reports that he had to be tattoo pattern on the chest to be fed during a hunger period.
Tatau must be a truly unique and it is common for authentic Tahuna (“specialists”, traditional tattoo artists name) refuses to tattoo the same pattern twice, reproduction is not part of the customs of tattooing in Polynesia, which reflects the Tatau the soul of the wearer.