The skull has long been associated with many ideologies and emotions, above all our macabre fascination with mortality. However, even the earliest origins of the symbol denote a much deeper meaning: the skull was a celebration of life.
Ancient civilizations often implemented the skull symbol and tattoo to mark “the change” in one’s life, that is to say, an awakening to the inevitable course the flesh must take.
Many religions would go on to interpret the skull in a variety of ways. Early Christians believed the skull to represent the human shell left behind after the soul departed, while the Kabbalah held the skull as a sign of rebirth and hope in the passing of a loved one. The now-famous painted sugar skulls of Dios de la Muerte (Day of the Dead)celebrate the continuation of life after death; a vibrant message that the festivities don’t end just because the body does.
Today skull tattoos are worn in a number of styles and fashions, from anatomically precise to Gothically decadent. Many opt for the skull tattoo to symbolize triumph over death or adversity, and rebellion in the face of life’s rules and hypocrisies. The skull tattoo is more than just a reference to life and death, it’s the mark of the wearer’s own ability to tread the line between the two.
Beauty and decay are the skull’s most poignant allusions, with the pictorial skull-and-rose combination sending a powerful message of good and evil being one and the same, a contrast borne of equal parts. Regardless of how you choose to interpret the skull for your own tattoo art, none will mistake your meaning.