Tattoos have become a popular means of self expression. However, the art of tattoos has deep cultural and historical significance and each tattoo design may have its own symbolism and meaning. Even a cute little coconut might have more meaning to it than what meets the eye.
Coconuts have different symbolic meanings in multiple cultures and are often associated with magical protection, fertility, and life. It is also used as a symbol for the human head and the Hindu god Shiva.
Understanding symbolism before committing to a tattoo can be just as fun as getting the tattoo itself. Read on to learn the history of coconuts in tattoos, the meaning of coconut tattoos, and more.
What is the History of Coconut Tattoos?
Historically, coconut tattoos rose in popularity in South Asian and Pacific Islander cultures, specifically in Polynesian culture. The coconut is extremely important in their culture that it has become their main food source. Because of this, many tattoos of coconuts were done on islands in the Pacific.
The coconut itself was not only important to cultures in South Asia and the Pacific Islands as a food source and symbol, but as part of the tattooing process itself. In Samoan culture, the central rib of a coconut palm leaf was used to make the mallets that would strike the combs that made tattoo marks.
What Do Coconut Tattoos Symbolize?
Coconuts are symbolic in multiple cultures.
It is usually associated with life, fertility, and creation myths in many cultures and religions around the world.
It is even mentioned in the Talmud and the Bible as one of the foods of paradise.
In Hindu mythology, the god Kamadeva lived in a coconut tree because of its ability to reproduce. There are also multiple stories about Shiva giving his wife Parvati a coconut as a symbol of eternal love. The three holes of coconuts are also associated with Shiva and his third eye.
There are myths that see coconuts as the beginning of life. In Polynesian culture, legend says that Vena’s mother fell into the sea and when she gave birth, she placed her daughter into a large coconut shell. South American cultures also claim that humans were made out of clay and coconuts by fish and tortoises.
In more modern day settings, the coconut is used as a symbol of status by governments. It is featured on the national flag and coat of arms of Fiji and is an official emblem of the Maldives. Coconut flowers and decorated coconuts are often used as decoration in Hindu weddings as a symbol of prosperity.
What Do Coconut Tattoos Mean?
A coconut tattoo itself can have many meanings. If you have religious beliefs, then it can carry the religious meanings of your chosen belief.
For example, if you follow Hinduism, then a coconut tattoo can be used as a symbol of Shiva. It can also mean fertility and eternal love.
Since coconuts are often associated with life and creation myths, a coconut tattoo could simply mean life and creation. Its strong ties to the Pacific islands could also give it the meaning of tropical paradise.
Due to the rise of coconuts in America in the Summer of Love, a coconut tattoo could also be seen as a symbol of the freedom and expanded consciousness of the era. It was also a status symbol in the late 70/s and early 80’s, so a coconut tattoo also carries the meaning of lavish parties, good times, and relaxing.
Having your name written in a coconut shell is considered a sign of death in multiple cultures, so getting a tattoo of a coconut with your name in it carries the meaning of a death omen. However, other writing, such as an incantation or slogan, is not considered negative.
Where Do Coconut Tattoos Usually Go?
There is not a clear favorite placement of coconut tattoos on the body, but they are often placed on arms and legs. For larger designs, some have opted to get the tattoo placed in the middle of their back. Usually, they will include other symbols, such as an evil eye or writing, in these larger designs.
As with any other tattoo, when choosing placement, just be sure it does not overlap with other tattoos and designs. If you plan on getting multiple tattoos, then consider placing the coconut in a place in which it will not be covered up by another design, such as arm sleeves.
Characteristics and Styles of Coconut Tattoos
Designs for coconut tattoos have a wild variety. Some choose to go the simple route and get a minimal design of just the border and shape of a coconut, without any colors or words. Others may choose a realistic rendering of a coconut.
Quite a few coconut tattoos are brightly colored, with some accompanying flowers or leaves. Others have a pretty lady, ocean waves, or a skeleton alongside the coconut. Many have straws, fruits, and drinks coming out of the coconut shells.
Cheerful and carefree wording is typically written alongside the coconut, such as “good times”, or perhaps the name of a favorite drink. However, as previously stated, writing your name inside of a coconut shell is discouraged as it is seen as a symbol of death.
There are many different sizes of coconut tattoos. Tattoos that focus on the coconut itself tend to be on the smaller side, whereas tattoos that include coconuts as part of a greater design may take up more space. A coconut could be part of a nautical themed design or tucked in among other fruit or plant tattoos.
Whether you like the mythology behind coconuts, have ties to South Asia and the Pacific Islands, or just want to celebrate the good times, a coconut tattoo has many purposes and would make a lovely design. The fruit’s simple appearance also lends itself greatly to a variety of designs, regardless of whether you prefer to keep things minimalistic or if you love saturated colors.