Sifting Through the Paradoxes and Hidden Meanings
“If the children ask me why
I am putting flowers in the skull
Of my mother,
I say, it looks better that way,
I say, why not?
And now when they draw on it with their crayons
As they will draw on mine later
I do not scold them.”
(From Susan Schaeffer's GRANITE LADY)
Although it has been the victim of many stereotypes over the past few decades,
skull tattoo designs are hardly the evil portent of doom that you might picture
it to be. While it is the nearly universal symbol for the victory of death over
life, it is also a symbol of great saints, such as St. Francis of Assisi, St.
Jerome and St. Mary Magdalene. It has been a symbol of sacrifice and forgiveness
on one hand, while it has also been the emblem of hate on another. In the end
the skull often represents the temporary nature of life.
The skull tattoo design brings with it unique stories, legends and dreams.
Its legend is peppered with a diverse crew, from pirates, to Hitler’s
SS men, and young, addicted teenagers. Free roaming bikers and secret societies
have chosen this symbol to become their own personal logos. The influence of
the skull ranges from the most liberal to the most conservative; from Christian
monks to Aztec kings with their bloody sacrifices to their gods.
The Skull Tattoo Design – A Gallery of Choices
From the simple skull and crossbones to the wild flaming skull, there are so
many ways to incorporate the skull into a tattoo. Human skulls or the skulls
of creatures such as bulls, cows, dear and the mythical dragons are popular.
Pair the skull with a rose, a cross. Take the skull and sharpen the canines,
and viola, a vampire skull or demon skull. Give your skull a top hat, or let
it stare out at your amid searing flames. Tangle it in barbed wire or create
a Death’s Head moth. Clown skulls, jester skulls and joker skulls make
for scary tattoos with frightfull twist of humor or insanity.
Whatever you want, wherever you want it, the skull can be that or go there.
A Historical Look At the Skull Design
It seems that the skull design has become the ultimate of paradoxes. Across
the globe, and across eras, this seemingly simple design has been a constant
reminder of our own mortality. While today it is general associated with secret
societies, toxic substances and the pirates’ “Jolly Roger”,
the skull actually has a long and enchanting meaning across the ages.
Religious Significance of the Skull
Many cultures have placed a great amount of spiritual importance on the symbol
of the skull. In India, skull necklaces are popular. These icons are designed
to be a constant reminder of death and its ever immanent approach. The Tibetans
and Nepalese were familiar with these necklaces, as they were worn by the darker
deities of their religion. Skulls were also revered by the ancient Aztecs of
pre-Columbian America. In their religious system, the skull held an honored
place as an icon and symbol. The Aztecs celebrated the passing of life to death,
and held an annual “Day of the Dead”. As part of the celebrations,
white skulls made of sugar were eaten, and offering were left at the graves
of dead friends and loved ones.
Today, and through recent history, crystal skulls have been found in excavations
in Mesoamerica. These are breathtaking sculptures honed from the clearest of
crystals, and their visages are eerily realistic. So realistic, in fact, that
several New Ager’s believe that they’ve found actual skulls, the
skulls of our extraterrestrial space neighbors. They swear to their authenticity
because the jaw is hinged, but the skeptics aren’t buying it!
Perhaps more surprisingly, the skull has received a fair amount of good PR
from Christianity. Most widely, the skull and skeletons represent the belief
of an eternal soul, that even though we suffer a physical death, our spirit
goes on into immortality.
The skull also coincided with the crucifixion of Christ. Golgotha, which translates
into “the place of the Skull”, is where Jesus was hung unto death.
It is rumored that below the very cross on which he hung Adam’s bones
were buried. While Jesus’ blood flowed, it pooled on the ground and seeped
down where it anointed Adam’s ancient skull. As this happen, it was to
have washed away the stain of his original sin.
The Skull and Architecture
The world has been speckled over with groups of people who have been inspired
to use skulls and bones as major components of their architecture. Tracing back
to the times of legend and myth, there are also still these morbid buildings
In ancient Greek myth, Antaios, a giant from Libya, was famous for slaying
traveling passers-by who happened to stumble into his realm. His collection
grew to the point that he was able to build a magnificent temple to his father,
Poseidon, from their skulls alone. However, this devoted son later lost his
life at the hands of Hercules.
Once again, in a seemingly strange appearance in Christian culture, the skulls
(and the other bones) of over 40,000 believers were utilized to erect Sedlec’s
Church of All Saints ossuary (a repository for bones) in the Czech Republic
region of southern Bohemia. This rather macabre work of art regularly attracts
large numbers of curious tourists!
Skulls and Secret Societies
With all of the mysteries that surround death and the end of our earthly existence,
it is no wonder that Secret Societies have chosen the skull to represent rebirth,
and the eternal rewards that awaited them for their earthly service and devotion.
It was prevalent in initiation rituals, and was used by at least two very popular
clandestine organizations: the Masons and “Skull and Bones”, the
Yale secret society who boasts members like George W. Bush, and his father,
George Bush. By association it is then connected to the Illuminati, the Knight’s
Templar (their initiates all drink out of a human skull), the Priory of Sion,
and Eastern Star.
In perhaps one of the most frightening of all “secret” societies,
Hitler’s SS-totenkopf verband often wore the death head or skull as they
worked in and around the concentration camps. It has become a representative
of the Neo-Nazi movement, and has shown up in quite a few gang-type tattoos.
Bikers and low-riders (as well as some military buddies) boast of skull design
tattoos, where the skull signifies reckless machismo, only just barely protected
from disaster. Others claim that the skull design symbolizes a sort of doomed
bravery who accepts its fate with a shrug.
The Skull Tattoo Design & Modern America
The skull has made its appearance in many realms. It became a key emblem for
the Heavy Metal movement, it shows up every Halloween. The skull has taken on
a wide range of meanings and symbolizes something different for everyone who
chooses to wear it. It warns of fear, and now, thanks to the crystal skulls
in Mesoamerica, New Age followers have given the skull yet another meaning.
Skulls designs range from traditional to new-school. Whether you are a boy or
a girl looking for a skull, the incredible variety of skull tattoo designs ensures
that you will find the perfect tattoo drawing for you.
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