Tribal Tattoos

Yura Gorobets avatarBy Yura Gorobets

Tribal tattoos can be deeply personal, often carrying spiritual or symbolic significance for the wearer. If you’re thinking of getting a tribal tattoo, it’s important to do your research and find a design that has significance for you. There are many different styles of tribal tattoos, so be sure to find one that fits your personality and aesthetic preferences. So in this article, we’ll take you through the basics of tribal tattoos and explore some of their most popular designs.

What are Tribal Tattoos

Traditional tribal tattoos are designs that are inspired by the cultural and spiritual traditions of a particular group or tribe. These tattoos typically feature bold, geometric patterns that incorporate elements like animals, plants, and other symbols to convey important meanings. Some common tribal tattoo motifs include feathers, hearts, suns, moons, and stars. These symbols and motifs signify important things like power, fertility, and freedom for the tribe.

Modern tribal tattoos are a bit different from traditional ones. While they still incorporate geometric patterns and symbolic motifs, modern tribal tattoos have become more diverse in terms of style and meaning. Some people choose to add personal touches to their tattoo designs, such as adding the name of a loved one or a meaningful quote. Others may choose to use more abstract, modern motifs in their designs that reflect their own personal aesthetics and experiences.

History of Tribal Tattoos

Tattoos have been found on mummies dating back to the ancient Egyptians and Nubians. In both cultures, tattoos were commonly used to signify social status. The Egyptians believed that the soul was divided into five parts: the ka, the ba, the sheut, the ib, and the ren. Each part had its own hieroglyphic symbol, and these symbols were often tattooed on the body to represent the individual’s soul.

The Nubians also used tattoos to mark important events in an individual’s life. For example, a woman who became a widow would tattoo a spiral on her forehead to indicate her marital status. Tattoos were also used as medicinal treatments; in some cases, they were thought to ward off evil spirits or provide protection from sickness.

As time passed, many cultures and tribes began to adopt tattooing for various reasons. For example, on early Polynesian islands, tattoos were used as a rite of passage for young men to signify their transition into adulthood.

The history of this trend begins in Polynesia and the style of drawing patterns on the body developed in different tribes in parallel. Then it got to Europe thanks to the sailors, who brought these patterns on their bodies. These patterns quickly gained popularity. As they became more popular in the West, tribal tattoos began to be used for aesthetic purposes and to represent important beliefs or values. Today, people across the world still use tribal tattoos for these same reasons. In the modern world, they became popular after tribal tattoos began to be used by actors and artists.

Tribal Tattoos Meaning

As we said before, tribal tattoos differ from culture to culture. Naturally, the influence of tattoos on ancient tribes varied according to the location and way of life of these groups. Below we will look at different cultures and the symbolism of their tattoos.

Filipino tribal tattoos

The Filipino tribal tattoos are inspired by ancient myths and legends. These intricate designs often feature flowers, animals, or elements of nature that hold significant meaning for the tribe.

For example, the popular Kalinga and Bontoc tribes of the Philippines are well known for their intricate and beautiful tribal tattoos. These designs typically focus on symbols that emphasize strength, wealth and power. Batok, a popular Filipino tribal tattoo, represents the passage to the afterlife and is said to ward off evil spirits.

Today, the infamous Apo Whang Od, the last remaining Kalinga “Mambabatok” tattoo artist, still practices this traditional technique. She’s 105 years old, and her valued skill has been passed on through generations of the Kalinga people.

Cherokee tribal tattoos

The Cherokee tribe, which is indigenous to North America, is known for its elaborate and beautifully-coloured tattoos. These designs often feature images like animals, stars, moons, and sacred symbols that are imbued with spiritual meaning. For the Cherokee people, these tattoos were a way to honor their ancestors and connect with nature in a deeply spiritual way.

Indian tribal tattoos

Like many other indigenous cultures, Indian tribes use tattoos as a way to communicate their cultural and spiritual beliefs. Many popular motifs in Indian tribal tattoos are inspired by nature and animals, such as the tiger or peacock. Other symbols, like mandalas, may be used to represent different aspects of traditional Hindu philosophy, such as liberation from suffering. Gods are also commonly featured in these tattoos, with images of deities like Kali or Ganesh representing inner strength and spiritual enlightenment

Celtic tribal tattoos

The Celtic people are known for their unique, intricate artwork and rich cultural history. Celtic tattoos are heavily influenced by this artistic tradition, often featuring bold knotwork patterns and other stylized motifs. These designs often hold a connection to the natural world and exhibit spiritual significance.

Mexican tribal tattoos

Mexico is part of the Mesoamerican cultural area, one of the cradles of civilization in the Americas. Ancient Mexican tribes are known for their elaborate body art, including tattoos and body paint. Their tattoos are known to represent social status, prosperity, and spiritual beliefs. In particular, the Aztec tattoo culture is famous for its use of animal imagery, such as snakes or jaguars.

Aztec tribal tattoos

The Aztecs have a deep cultural significance, marking the wearer as part of an ancient and respected tradition. The tattoo motifs are often represented by warriors, shamans, and natural forces, such as the sun or moon. These designs are often filled with spiritual meaning and are believed to imbue the wearer with strength, courage, and wisdom.

Mayan tribal tattoos

The Mayan culture is famous for its beautiful and complex art. Many of the symbols found in these traditional tattoos have specific meanings, such as an owl symbolizing death or a turtle representing fertility. Their tattoos often symbolize harmony and balance through the use of imagery featuring the natural world.

Nordic tribal tattoos

As a culture representing Viking heritage, Nordic tattoos often feature strong imagery related to nature and the great outdoors. Common symbols in these tattoos include animals like bears or wolves, as well as natural elements like mountains and stars. These designs are thought to reflect a deep connection with the Earth, representing an appreciation for the beauty of nature, the seas, and the wilderness.

Popular Tribal Tattoo Designs

Looking for the coolest tribal tattoo designs? Check out these popular motifs based on traditional tattoo culture around the world:

Patterns and line work

Show off your love of intricate patterns and line work with a classic Celtic tribal tattoo design. These tattoos are often composed of bold, interlinking lines and geometric shapes, making them a great choice for anyone looking to make a statement.

Nature-inspired imagery

Looking to connect more deeply with the natural world? Consider getting an image inspired by the beautiful and diverse natural environment, such as a majestic tree or beautiful flower design. These tattoos are perfect for anyone who values the beauty and power of nature.

Spirit animals

If you want to embrace your inner animal spirit guide, consider getting a tribal tattoo featuring one of your favorite animals. Popular motifs in these designs include birds, wolves, lions, and other fierce creatures that are believed to hold deep spiritual significance. This is a great choice for anyone who wants to honor their inner wildness.

Disjointed and abstract

If you want a truly unique tattoo, consider going for a design that is disjointed and abstract. These tattoos are often based on traditional tribal motifs, but they incorporate modern flourishes that make them feel fresh and unique.

Full body tattoos

Full-body tribal tattoos are an increasingly popular choice, showing off the bold and intricate designs of traditional tattooing in a way that is sure to turn heads. These tattoos can be customized in any number of creative ways, making them perfect for anyone with a passion for artful expression.


Tribal tattoos are a popular choice among those looking to express their love of traditional culture and the natural world. Whether you’re drawn to patterns, nature-inspired imagery, or spirit animals, there is a tribal tattoo design that is perfect for you! So if you’re looking for an eye-catching and meaningful tattoo, consider getting one and showing off your love of ancient traditions and culture!

Popular Tribal Tattoo Artists