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Meaning of Skulls and their Symbolism

The skull symbol has a lot of meanings depending on the context in which it is displayed. Would you like to know more about the fascinating symbol of the skulls? Keep reading

The meaning of a skull is that associated with death, danger, or mortality. Is a fact that our current society predominantly associates skulls with demise and evil. But skulls do not only represent morbidly; they can also stand for optimistic ideas, like overcoming obstacles or protecting valuables.

The word skull, as such, comes from the Latin calvaria, which means ‘skull’. The bones of the skull fulfill the function of surrounding and protecting the brain and the sense organs of the human being, in addition to containing the chewing apparatus

Nonetheless, to some historic societies, it’s believed to have had the alternative affiliation, the place objects like crystal skulls signify “life”: the honoring of humanity within the flesh and the embodiment of consciousness, and here the skulls merchandise takes on all its meaning.

The fascination for skulls and their symbolic value, not only encompasses the art world, its use is very wide and covers cultures and times. In synthesis, it would be the symbol of death, but this meaning can vary or have nuances depending on who is appropriate of this icon.

The symbolic meaning of Skulls

Skulls can appear under various circumstances as warning or indicative

  1. In warnings of the danger of toxic substances or high voltage areas.
  2. In the aesthetics of many rock bands, an example of this is the logo of the American punk horror group The Misfits.
  3. In the symbology of some military divisions, such as in the uniforms of the 3rd SS Totenkopf Division.
  4. In the pirates and buccaneers ensign, for example in the flag of the pirate Edward England.
  5. In funeral symbols in cemeteries or churches.
  6. In some candles for magical rituals.
  7. In alchemy engravings.
  8. In Masonic rituals.
  9. In the insignia of the secret society Skull and Bones.
  10. In the traditional Day of the Dead party in Mexico.

For the Spanish critic Juan Eduardo Cirlot (Barcelona, ​​1916-1973), Define the meaning of skulls as follows: “the skull is the emblem of the expiration of existence, which appears in the literary elements of Hamlet and Fausto. However, like the shell of the snail, it is actually what remains of the living being once its body has been destroyed.

Thus he acquires a vase sense of life and thought, with this symbolic meaning the skull appears in the books of transmutation. Also in a multitude of superstitious acts, rituals or derivatives of this feeling ”.

Meaning of Skulls in Art

From ancient times it was the anatomical composition. The doubt of what was hidden under the dermis, the curiosity that killed the cat to explore and discover it. Along with antiquity where practical experimentation represented a need for access to knowledge, the artist understood as an architect of meaning and creator of sensitive knowledge, turned to the unique and irreducible basis of man inserted in nature: his skeleton.

The Three Skulls By Paul Cezanne

The head is the most select discovery of this anatomical investigation because it clearly exceeds it. The origin of ideas supported by bones, an imperishable reinforced shell. Hence the first idea of ​​using the skull as an artistic object, symbolic carrier.

Its composition directly contributed to the specific visualization of the growth of the sapiential capacity in the human, where it is located, and how it works motorically, which nature inexplicably gave rise to.

symbolism of skulls in art
“Vanitas Still Life” by Pieter Claesz, 1630. (Photo: Public domain via Wikipedia)

Since then, a series of motifs have followed that put on the image of the skull as a carrier of meaning in itself and of argument, depending on how you look at it and the era in which it is constructed, painted, or talked about.

Lately frequented by pop artists, advertising, fashion icons, have also echoed some historical figures who directly define features of the cultural identity of a people such as the Mexican, in which the figure of the skull describes, defines, and permeates history.

Skulls in Memento Mori

Meaning of a Skull Tattoo

Skull tattoos are intimately related to the idea of ​​death due to the representation that was given to them since ancient times. However, there are very different interpretations.

Some of the general meaning of skulls could be

  • New Life: “Reborn” or learn from past mistakes that will never be made again.
  • Overcoming: An illness, accident, or pain that was overcome is another reason why this symbol is tattooed.
  • Commemoration: Honor a special person whether it be your family or friend with a skull and date tattoo.
  • Strength: Symbolize the strength of the person with a skull. Protection, take care of your body and spirit.

These may be the reasons why people get a skull tattoo, but each person can have their own contributions to the tattoo of the always spectacular skulls.

Below we will explain what some of the most frequent skull tattos designs mean.

Skulls and Roses

One of the designs that most combines with the skulls is roses because the first show a strong image and the second calms the previous one, showing a feeling of peace that may have been overcome or has marked the life of the person.

Meaning of skull and roses tattoo

However is clear that the duality of life and death can be represented here. Beauty and vitality and the end. Even love until the end. The eternal struggle between good and darkness. And from death comes new life.

The skull and rose can also symbolize together the birth of a new life as obstacles or enemies have been defeated.

Skull and Clock

A design in which a skull appears next to a clock is undoubtedly related to the passage of time. A more accurate interpretation for this type of tattoo design is to live as if it were the last second or a reminder that life is very short and must be lived intensely.

Meaning of skulls tattoo skull and clock
Skull and Clock Tattoo

Skull with mirror

A skull tattoo with a mirror is undoubtedly one of those with a deeper and wiser message. Basically it symbolizes how beauty ends up leaving our bodies late or early showing that we are all equal in the end. Latin America is by far the geographical area where this type of tattoo is most common.

Skull with mirror meaning
Awesome Skull and Mirror Tattoo on the Back

Meaning of Skull and Bones

Skull and crossbones is a representation of a human skull with two long bones crossed below it.

This symbol means death and especially as a memento mori on tombstones, or also a warning symbol of poisonous substances and danger.

Skulls and Bones in a Pirate Flag

The origin of this symbol is believed to date back to a very remote past. It was initially observed in the tomb of Tutankhamun, in the ancient Egypt, although not exactly with the same conformation as the one we know today.

At the end of the Roman Empire and later in the Middle Ages, Christians used the symbol of the skull with crossed bones to symbolize death, the passage of life. The symbol has been discovered in several Christian catacombs in Italy, some of which date from the 2nd century.