The Evolution of Ku’s ire, Marquesan/ Ana’ole Polynesian

Posted: March 13, 2012 in Xisle Custom Tattoo
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This is a piece representing Ku, the god of war. Initially this client approached me seeking a ‘warrior’ tattoo. Truth is, there are no specific warrior tattoos. Sure, in ancient Hawaiian culture you may be able to distinguish the warrior class from the common class by the style and placement of their respective pieces, that is to say, a lauhala weave on the chest and thighs meant to act as ‘armor’ to protect them as their capes shifted during battle to reveal skin, but it would be otherwise be safe to say that in Polynesia, many who were tattooed were warriors and many were not.

Specifically, in regards to one symbol that has been attributed to being warrior exclusive, would be the koko atu. In ancient Marquesan culture, this symbol was often found on the face (Hardy 1922, p17, in reference to Langsdorff) of warriors and chiefs. This motif was thought to have evolved into the spirals placed over nostrils. Further evidence of this motif occurs in Maori facial tattoos which incorporate the koru and/or such distinctive spiral designs on the face.

At any rate, I decided to create a piece that wasn’t so much warrior-centric as much as a piece reflecting the god of war, Ku. I began to think about what Ku would be like if he wasn’t creating war and arrived at the conclusion that he would be somewhat pensive. I don’t know, I just didn’t think that he would be sleeping or drinking ‘awa or weaving a mat.

I placed the image of Ku at the bottom of the piece, with a stoic expression, perhaps lost in thought. I imagined the piece progressing as it moved upward (and as Ku became angry, eventually releasing all of his anger and causing war).

The next symbol are a pair of etua, invoking his spirit. These are followed by two divergent bands of niho, showing his growing ire and ferocity. Above that are two pahito inset with niho to protect the tattoo itself.

Two reflecting images of koko atu are next which are meant to convey that Ku has decided to become angry and that war is on the horizon, so to speak. This is topped by a larger etua or god-ling, essentially reinforcing the ire of the god. The etua is seen holding up two sets of ka’ake which speak of the magnitude of his state of mind.

Finally, the last image is of Ku in anger. He is pissed and ready to unleash all of his anger upon the mortal world by causing war.

So there it is, Ku transitioning from being somewhat sedate to being pissed as can be.

Lesson here, don’t make me come in on my day off! No, seriously, I was fortunate to be able to do this piece and I hope that the client is pleased as well.

Aloha and peace!

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