If you have seen the Disney movie Moana, you’ve probably noticed the tattoos of Maui, the demigod in the story who helped Moana become a master way-finder. If you thought they were cool, then you’re definitely right! The Polynesian tattoos are not only pleasant to look at, but their meanings are also just as fascinating.

Still from the film, Moana. ©Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

In the army, tattoos could be visual records of accomplishments, travels, professional talents, and even superstitions, like the rope tattoo that sailors get to denote that the wearer was a deckhand. It’s pretty much the same concept with the Polynesian tattoos, just a bit more badass.

Tattooing in Polynesia stems back from the Maori and Samoan cultures in the South Pacific. The term for them was “tatau,” which literally translates to “to mark.” They represent the class, nobility, and traits of the wearer and tell stories. It’s like introducing yourself and letting people know of your identity without saying a word.

The traditional way of tattooing is pretty badass, too. The first step is mapping the design on the skin using charcoal. Their tattoo artist, called Tufuga, uses a tattooing comb (called au) that’s often made from boar teeth fastened together with a turtle shell.