When tribal skull tattoo appears, people initial reaction would be fear. Why not? It was basically ingrained in the human psyche that skull means death. You see skulls in poisonous substances and dangerous places, like “beware of dog” signs. So people’s reflex reaction would be to stay away, do not touch or be cautious. So if the skull symbol emanates fear, why is it that the skull tattoo not limited to ex-cons like they do in movies?

Tribal Skull Tattoo: The Beginnings

The use of skull and crossbones symbols dates back to the Ancient Egyptians, found on the tomb of the famous child-king Tutankhamun.

Early Christians also used the skulls symbols to depict death or passing of life. The skull also represented human vanity, repentance and eternity of the soul. The symbols were found in Christian Catacombs in Italy that dated back to the second century. The practice continued throughout the Middle Ages even by non-Christians.

Tribal Skull Tattoo: Symbol of Mortality

Around the same time the symbol also mean “memento mori”which was Latin for “remember your mortality” or “remember you will/must die”.

The famous Knights Templar used the symbol as well, according to the Masonic legend, when the Catholic Church ordered the disbandment of the Templars, they had the 23rd and last Grand Master Jackes de Molay burned alive. When the remaining Templars looked for his bones, the only parts they found were his skull and femurs. At the time, the Templars were already mariners and so they used de Molay’s remains as their nautical symbol: the Jolly Roger.

Tribal Skull Tattoo: Symbol of Pirates

Eventually, the famous symbol was used by the pirates. The pirates used the Jolly Roger as a menacing declaration of their intention. Thus, defining the skull symbol as we know it today – danger.

Tribal Skull Tattoo: For Mexicans

For Mexicans, the skull symbols are very popular. They use the symbols every  year during their Day of the Dead Celebration. They make skull masks and even skull foods to give to their guests and offer to their dearly departed. The skull symbol this time is not feared but celebrated to remember people who have gone on.

It seems that the morbid interest in skulls has been obvious in the past.  Skulls though fuel fear; also remind humans of their mortality.  Throughout history, skulls remind people of the fact that death and change is looming. This inspired all types of artists, like playwright William Shakespeare and painter Nicholas Poussin.

Tribal Skull Tattoo: Symbol of Fear

The skull symbols were also used as insignia for the Nazi,Totenkopfconveyed the message of fear of death.   In 1809 Ottoman government entrenched actual skulls of Serbian rebels on the road to serve as a warning to other rebels, much like the skulls that adorn temples of the Indian goddess Kali. There are more than enough stories all through history that shows use of the skull symbols in morbid ways and in art. So it is no wonder that it has been translated to today’s modern canvass, the skin.

Although the most immediate notion when seeing a skull tattoo is danger, death and rebellion it is now not just that anymore.

Skull symbols can mean a lot of things and people now are more well-informed and can acknowledge that it is not limited to its negative meanings. Take the Celtic Skull, it symbolizes time, power, divinity, gateway, creation, initiation and concentration. Who knew? But there it is. Skulls can also be used to symbolize, protection, strength, overcoming death or a really difficult situation, or major changes.

A skull with a snake in its eye sockets symbolized knowledge and immortality of the human mind.

In addition, skulls now are not limited to traditional gothic images, it can even be made feminine with color (pink anyone?), flowers even rainbows. The irony makes it more interesting. Skulls are not limited to pirates, bikers and convicts. Today, even the sweetest most innocent girly girl can decide to get a skull tattoo, provided it comes with roses and butterflies.


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