For as long as tattoos have been around one of the most common images has to be the Skull Tattoo. Across all continents and all cultures, we find this image recurring. From the old hand tapped tattoos in the east to the modern inked streets of the west, the skull tattoo conveys one of the most basic human fears- Death. Yet as we look into what drives people to mark their bodies with this macabre imagery we find that the Skull Tattoo has a deeper symbolism than we originally anticipated.
Though the skull is commonly used as an age old warning for death and danger, it has a more profound meaning in the world of tattoos. For many, the symbolism of a skull tattoo is a reminder of mortality. The Latin phrase “memento mori” sums this up quite well, meaning “remember you must die”. The constant reminder of your own pending death drives one to live each day to the fullest. It reminds us that though we are not invincible, we are also not as fragile as we sometimes believe.
The skull tattoo is also used as a point of fixation for ‘what lies beneath’. This stems from our own fascination of stripping away the layers of our own portrait until what you are left with is the hard gritty reality that even though it may be scary it is the foundation on which we build our beliefs and values, just as our own skeleton gives shape and structure to our external looks.
Skull tattoos have also been used throughout the centuries as a way of scaring ones foes. The skull can be symbolic of the mental victory over the opponent, his body wasted and decayed after he has been defeated, thus lending courage to the fighter and building up his confidence. While an adverse affect is had on the opponent who sees his own defeat in the deaths head mark.
Just as skulls are found in the media, from ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ to Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet’, a skull tattoo can be used to set the tone, theme and meaning for the rest of your artwork. Large overbearing skulls used for intimidation or small clusters of them to symbolize the forgotten and wasted, there are a number of ways in which you can use it, meaning the Skull Tattoo is one of the most inter-changeable and diverse tattoos that one could have.