„From a religious perspective, Polynesian peoples shared a widespread belief that the universe was governed by invisible forces that could determine, influence, and control the events of life and human destiny itself. This mystical relationship was forged by the actions of a large number of patron deities that held sway over daily activities, such as agriculture, fishing, navigation, warfare, and the creation of art forms including tattoo, while more “personal” gods watched over individuals, families, and local communities. All of these entities were propitiated with offerings and sacrifices and they were ritually honored in temples and other sacred locations to keep their favor close to the living.
Although priests had the power to directly communicate with these important divinities, so too did expert artisans – albeit in a different way. Properly apprenticed craftsmen like tattoo artists not only worked under the protection of one or more patron deities, but they also had the ability to control the supernatural force of mana that was distributed in natural objects and substances as well as in subjects, like their human clients. Mana was believed to have had an influence on all the achievements and abilities of humans, but it embodied living bodies differentially – some individuals possessed more than others.“