As an example, (if you belonged to a tribe in the past) you go to your shaman complaining of consistent headaches, and he tattoos a bunch of lines onto your forehead, and sends you on your way. Talk about faith in things that you know nothing about! Since they held mystical knowledge "beyond the understanding" of the common tribesmen, then the tribal tattoo the shaman would give (as a healing or protection) would hold a secret meaning to the shaman. Many times, the tattoo artist of a tribe also happens to be the priest, or shaman, of that same tribe.
Mummies of Egypt have been uncovered, and shown to display tattoos. Tribals have a long, deep history spanning back to ancient times. Most times, The designs are not symbolic or have any additional etchings upon it. For the most part, tribal tattoos have the distinctive look of thick, black patterned lines. Tribal tattoos have developed from strange looking, facial style tattoos, to the new craze as armbands and back work on men, and lower back and abdominal art on women.