Symbolic Skull Meanings
for Tattoo Ideas

meaningful Skull tattoo ideas

Skull Tattoo Ideas

Other than looking incredibly bad-ass, skull tattoo meaning can be powerfully profound to the wearer. I personally love skull tattoos, and if I didn't already have a bonzer theme going, I'd likely be skulled up with the best of them.

If you already have gobs of skull tattoos (like potato chips or cookies, you can't have just one skull tattoo), or if you are thinking about getting your first, I have some symbolic suggestions for your creative contemplation.

Skulls (and therefore skull tattoos) are very big juju in aboriginal tribes (I'm talking African, Australian, and even Native American). Skulls of the dead were retained and placed prominently at entryways. This warded off "evil spirits" but mostly (effectively) kept unwelcome guests at bay. This is also a tactic of many other ancient tribal communities. It's a clever protection method, really. Honestly, wicked-grinning skulls instead of "welcome" mats at the front door is a pretty clear message. What better way to say "go away." This might be the message you want to convey with your skull tattoos. If you're an anti-social type, a skull tattoo might be the perfect way to say "buzz off bozo."

Skulls have also been used as tools of intimidation in history. Ruthless dictators and rulers collected skulls and strung them out as trophies - much in the same way a buck's head is mounted on a hunters wall. In this way, dominance is shown. Skulls might also be used to adorn a conquered village. A flag or some other makers mark would be left with the skull garland at the scenes of war crimes. This is a way to put a signature on the gruesome handiwork of raping and pillaging. Lord Dracul was notorious for this; strewing skulls along villages he'd plundered as a calling card. A way to say "been here, took everything, and leaving the skulls to prove it." If you dig Dracul's vibe, and intimidation is your game - a skull tattoo might be your thing.

Now, I'm a deeply spiritual geek. This makes me ponder silver linings and philosophical implications in most things - including skulls. If you're like me, maybe you're looking for a softer side of skull tattoo meaning.

If so, consider the ancient Celts, who viewed the skull as symbolic of the anima, or the spark of life. Specifically, the Celts knew the skull was the seat of the soul. It housed the power-horse of human motivation; the mind. Celts were crazy about trinities, the two eyes and nose form a unique triangle in the skull - something the Celts considered to be symbolic of creation, cycles and the power inherent in life. I've written a whole page on Celtic skull meaning here, check it out. Pretty fascinating stuff.

Skull tattoo meaning

Some keywords to consider as you contemplate personal skull tattoo ideas...

Symbolic Skull Meanings

  • Death
  • Power
  • Warning
  • Mortality
  • Intellect
  • Protection
  • Intimidation
  • Impermanence

Other philosophical fodder of the skull pops up in the Renaissance. In this era, artists included skull imagery to convey a sense of impermanence as well as the folly of vanity. Skulls in the Renaissance were symbolic of earthly things, greed and superficiality. They were also a reminder of the temporary nature of earthly life. "Everybody dies" is the theme here.

In alchemical symbolism the skull is considered the throne of higher intelligence. It is symbolic of consciousness, rationality and prudence. The skull is a elite icon distinguishing man from beast.

The skull is the last bone in the human body that surrenders to decay. In other words, it sticks around the longest. This is symbolic of the lasting legacy of human ingenuity. These kinds of symbolic themes are also seen in paganism and occult theological groups of the day.

These are just a few ideas as you contemplate your skull tattoos or embark on getting your very first skull tattoo. For more tattoo ideas, check out the relevant links below.

Special thanks to David J. Crotty for the use of his skull picture (center of page). Thanks Dave!

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