Posts Tagged ‘ku’

This Ana’ole chest piece is the male side counter part to his left side, female piece already in place. This piece is a personal expression of this person’s life journey and so out of respect to him I won’t go into detail of ‘why’, but will simply breakdown the symbols used.

This is the god Ku, spitting forth waves of water and lightning. There are other storm elements in this piece as well: rain and wind. The piece flows up his chest, to his shoulder where it transforms into the talon of a Hawaiian hawk, ‘io. All of the curved motifs such as waves, are formed with the Golden Ratio in mind. All of the motifs are also reflecting Fibonacci sequences, mainly in the 1,1,2,3,5,8 range. The GR and FS was part of his request and I decided to make the entire piece reflect these qualities instead of just a few motifs.


a- the god Ku, god of war
b- fire, ahi / ama kopeka, this symbolizes power and guidance
c- koru placed in the style of a warrior at the edges of the mouth
d- shark teeth, niho mano, strength and ferocity
e- waves, nalu
f- rain, ua
g- lightning, uila
h- talon of ‘io, inset with twin etua for strength as well as arrows of FS
i- etua, in this case a gosling of strength that is holding up the gust of wind coming from the ‘io talon
j- wind, makani, this is a vortex of wind created by the talon
k- feathers, hulu, these are feathers of the hawk inset with vanes of FS





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!

Ku is one of the most diversified of Hawaiian deities in respect to having many facets to his character, which over time were considered separate gods embodied in one, so to speak. Ku was considered the male element and counterpart to Hina who represented female energy. Both were ancestral gods of heaven and earth who controlled the prosperity of the earth and the generations of mankind to come. Ku also presided over all male spirits as Hina did female.

Again the issue of dualities arise where you have an entity that oversees life but is also a progenitor of war.

Who said that the early Hawaiians weren’t a complicated bunch?

The word ku also means, “to stand, to rise, to extend” while hina means, “to lean down or to fall” which corollate to their respective male and female elements, respectively.
Ku was also considered the god of the forest and rain, god of husbandry, god of fishing and god of sorcery, among many, many others but he was primarily worshipped to produce crops, to bring forth food from the land, to bring about good will, and to kick massive amounts of ass when such things were required.

Ana’ole walk-in


This person was a walk-in who wanted to get a tattoo before he left. Generally, this is the best time for anyone to get work done because it allows the enjoyment of the sun and ocean (two things that you need to avoid after getting tattoo work) to their hearts content.

He really didn’t know what he wanted to get, as we started talking about design, vacillating between several traditional Hawaiian symbols and placements.


Sorting out the gobbledegook in someone else’s mind is part of my job and thankfully this person was consistent enough in his desire to get some sort of Polynesian work done on him. Sometimes people come in and they don’t know what they want, but they know they want something (an allegory to life?). In these cases I tell them to go home and think about it since getting a tattoo shouldn’t be treated as an impulse, like say, changing your hair color or buying that Harley you’ve always wanted but never needed. Besides, I don’t want to put my time and energy into something that could be classified as trivial. But that’s just me.


Inside of forty-five minutes, we had established that he wanted something that exemplified his family, love of the sea, the Big Island and protection. Also, he wanted the tattoo to reflect his warrior’s spirit, although he joked that because he was now studying to become an accountant that his warrior days were presently in his rearview. Utilizing traditional Hawaiian symbolism within such parameters, his tattoo would have consisted of a smattering of triangles and squares and perhaps a petroglyph-esque rendition of various elements of the island topped off with a turtle shell. Fairly played out symbols that everyone and their mother has emblazoned on them nowadays. So, I suggested something a bit more dynamic and he agreed. Leaving me to my devices, he and his party went off to the local bar to have a few drinks. When he returned thirty minutes later, I had completed 90% of the drawing, and after making a few small modifications, we set an appointment for the following morning.


When doing any Ana’ole work I prefer to have some time to think about the piece, drawing up several options before finally arriving at a final design. In the case of a walk-in, I don’t have that cushion to fall back on, but as is the case with any walk-in, coming up with something on the spot is part of the challenge of creating a thought out, meaningful piece. I was very pleased with the final design, but more importantly so was the client.


Walking through this piece starting from the bottom and moving upwards from left to right, I decided to place the maka io, or hawk’s eye as the base for the simple fact that the hawk’s eye is a symbol of vigilance; always on the lookout for danger or opportunity. Behind the eye are lauhala checkers, which signify family and unity. Moving upwards along that same plane is the sun (which you can hardly see from this angle) which is a symbol of strength and life as well providing illumination for the maka io to see.


The next plane consists of a row of niho mano, or shark’s teeth, set into a wave. This is to symbolize the strength of the ocean, an object that he admittedly enjoys yet fears (as anyone should).


Just above that are two rows of spearheads signifying his warrior spirit. Set into these rows I put Mauna Kea to symbolize the Big Island since a volcano (albeit a dormant one) is a good way to represent the BI. Coming off of the right of this symbol are four waves which symbolize his family (at least the ones that he was traveling with this time). Since they all share a love for the sea, I have them coming into contact with the wave to illustrate this better.


Lastly, I put Ku the god of strength as the main hierarchal piece, to tie together the protection and power elements of the piece. Both the ku tiki and maka io are facing forward to confront anything obstacles that he may encounter in life.





PS. I promise that one day I will learn to take a proper picture!


Equipment used:



Pulse, Watson









Silverback 3,4