ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Borneo Tribal Tattoo

Updated on January 27, 2009
Click thumbnail to view full-size

Know as the "Dayak", meaning "interior" or "inland" person, the variety of indigenous native tribes of Borneo have a tradition of tattooing that describes their fundamental identity as tribespeople, headhunters, warriors, and community members. Both the men and the women were tattooed, and for a variety of reasons.


Dayak tattoo mythology

All aspects of Dayak tattooing showed a great reverence for ancestors, the departed spirits who resided in the 'village of the dead', as well as nature - the Dayak believing that plants contained the same type of life force as humans and animals. Performed by Shaman known as 'manang' to the Iban tribe of Borneo, tattoos were performed to show rites of passage such as a successful head-hunt, to cure illness which was sometimes believed to be due to evil spirits, or to mark women's ability with textiles and their status in the tribe. In Iban mythology and religious belief, all humans were formed by Selempandai, the Iban blacksmith god who forges human beings, and if a person's illness was thought to be caused by evil spirits, a name changing ceremony was sometimes performed along with a new tattoo near the wrist, in order to conceal the person from the evil spirit by changing them spiritually in the same way as Selempandai forged humans.

Ancestor spirits, and the shaman

The spirits of ancestors, and enemies (in the case of headhunting) were used for agricultural advice, to predict the seasons, protect from evil spirits in the forest, and protect and ensure success in hunts and head-hunts. Shamans acted as the link between the tribe's world, and the spirit world, and it was believed that while all people hoped their spirits would be able to find the sacred village of the dead in the afterlife, only those with the tattoos would be able to make it past the greatest hurdle in the afterlife, 'Maligang', the malevolent guardian of the bridge over the River of Death. Their tattoos would then shine brightly on the other side of the bridge, guiding their way through the darkness.


Traditional Tattooing Methods

The Kayan tribe's style of tattoos owes its popularity to its wood-block stamp technique, and is the source of much of the Borneo's designs, as other tribes, such as the Iban adapted the deigns to suit their own community. Tribe members would carve patterns into blocks of wood and then transfer it onto the skin. Designs were hand-tapped in ceremonies which often bore resemblance to ceremonies performed for the dead, possibly showing the Dayak's view of tattooing as a death and re-birth for the subject.


Common Borneo tribal designs

Dogs, Scorpions, Tigers,The Hornbill, Tuba root, the Garing tree, and Rosettes feature highly in Borneo designs, as well as other images all depicting features of nature, such as bamboo. These designs denoted spiritual assistance, protection, prestige, and tribal identity among other things.



    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I LOVE looking at pictures of DIfferent Common dayaK tribal tattoos


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)