Traditional Shark Tattoos
While they may come from a common background, Traditional Shark Tattoos can have a large variety of meanings.
Sharks have quite specific symbolism within Polynesian culture. The hammerhead in particular, was revered as a type of guardian that would protect people in the ocean from man eating sharks and shark teeth themselves (“niho mano”) and was representative of many things including power, protection, guidance and adaptability. These ideals seeped into the rich Polynesian tattoo culture, where many designs would feature the animal. Upon the expedition of Captain James’ Cook, along with many other tattoo inspirations, this was adopted and westernised through Traditional tattoos.
Sharks are constantly on the move and never rest, signifying a “keep moving forward” attitude, they are top of the food chain within the ocean. Sharks have no natural predators (much like the lion as being “king” of the jungle) and tattoos of them can represent a unwillingness to be victimised or intimidated by others. As an animal they are quite emotionless and steely yet always seemingly maintain their sense of calm and determination. These could all be reasons for somebody choosing this iconic traditional design, which was first worn by men at sea.
The connection between sharks and sailors cannot be understated, with many believing shark tattoos acted as a talisman to protect them from the dangers of the ocean.
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