Skulls and skeletons tattoos (3)

Besides those already mentioned, there are some other meanings of the skulls tattoos that have their roots in some ancient beliefs and practices.

Skulls as trophies - it was a common practice to keep the skulls of the killed enemies and to display them as trophies (eg.: to decorate with them the city walls and towers, to keep the skulls on the palisades as a warning sign, to display them on pikes at the Traitor's Gate, etc) or even to use them as wine-cups. Skulls-tattoos as trophies are a very common theme when it comes to the gang tattoos, prison tattoos, etc. For example, if we consider the russian criminal tattoos, a skull tattoo signifies murder (a significant one). When a tattoo design combines skulls with military insignia (especially with the epaulets tattooed on the shoulders), it usually designates a murderer.

russian criminal tattoo: epaulets and skulls
The epaulets are distinctive decorations for the inmates who are members of the "Vory V Zakone" (aprox "Thieves in law"). An inmate who has this kind of tattoo is a person with a high position in the prison hierarchy. The presence of the skull designates the wearer as a murderer. Read more about this topic on this blog: russiancriminaltattoo.blogspot.com

russian criminal tattoo: epaulets, skulls and a spider web
A russian criminal tattoo. The presence of the epaulets indicates that the wearer has a high rank in the prison hierarchy. The presence of the skull designates the wearer as a murderer. The spider is a symbol with multiple meanings; it may symbolize racism, doing time in prison, drug addicted, etc. Read more about this topic on this blog: russiancriminaltattoo.blogspot.com


In the Mexican tattoo-culture, skulls and skeletons are linked with the celebration of the Day of the Dead. The most common themes and representations are: the sugar-skull (brightly colored and highly decorated), the partying skeletons (because El Dia de los Muertos is not a time for sadness, but for joy and celebration) and the in-loving-memory-tattoos (these tattoos include attributes of the passed person in the skull's design: her favourite flowers, his / her weaopns, facial features, etc).

a mexican in-loving-memory-tattoo
In-loving-memory-tattoo. Some of the passed person's features are still present (the moustache and the hair)

Mexican tattoo: a fancy dressed skeleton playing a violin
Typical Mexican tattoo: a fancy dressed skeleton playing a violin

a very popular Mexican holiday: the Day of the Dead
For the Mexicans, El Dia de los Muertos is not a mournful day, but a day of family gatherings and holiday cheer.


Alchemy and Magic - the skull is an ancient symbol and it has several embodiments of the alchemical “union of opposites”, an ancient doctrine which accepts a syncretism of conflicting views, a harmony as opposed to a never-ending conflict between Good and Evil.

a skull decorated with alchemical symbols
The skull is a one of the alchemical symbols


Wisdom - sometimes, a skull tattoo is a symbol of the mature realization of a continuity of life into death, and the ability to accept death. This is very important because it is only when a person can live with the presence of death that he can fully learn to appreciate life.

medieval depiction of the skull as a symbol of wisdom
A medieval depiction of the skull as a symbol of wisdom.

Related posts:
Various elements which can occur in a Death tattoo: skulls and skeletons (1)
Skulls and skeletons tattoos (2)
Death tattoo - various elements which can occur in a Death tattoo
Death tattoos: the main depictions of the Grim Reaper
Death Tattoos / Grim Reaper Tattoos: themes and meanings
Death tattoo - various elements which can occur in a Death tattoo - animals

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