Skull symbolism is what we will be discussing in this article. You may be wondering about the skull symbol meaning.
Well, we’ll try to give you some idea of the skull symbol and what it means.
Throughout countries and eras, we’ll see what meanings skulls are attached to.
What Are Some Types of Skull Symbolism?
Skulls, Skulls Everywhere. Why do we seem to see skulls everywhere? It’s a trend alright and many people are using them as a statement.
Let’s look at some skull symbolism to see why people have used skulls in the past.
On clothing, purses, shoes, dinnerware, decorations, jewelry, and even tattooed on ourselves. Why would that be?
Let’s take a little look at what skulls have meant to people, both now and in the past.
- Basic Skull Symbolism
- Skull and Crossbones
- Buddhism and Hinduism Skull Symbolism
- Skull Symbolism to the Ancient Celts
- The Day of the Dead
- Other Skull Symbolism
We will be discussing skull symbol meaning in the sections below.
Basic Skull Symbolism
What does the skull symbol mean? The most obvious association with a skull is death.
Seeing a skull reminds us that we’re mortal and will someday be nothing but a skeleton ourselves. Cheery thought.
It can make us more aware of the passage of time and how we spend it.
Are we making the most of our lives right now?
Is there some goal that we’d like to reach and have been putting off?
The skull reminds us that we don’t have forever to do the things that we want to do with our lives and to use every minute in the best way we can.
“Skull symbolism is the attachment of symbolic meaning to the human skull. The most common symbolic use of the skull is as a representation of death, mortality and the unachievable nature of immortality” – Source: Wikipedia.org
Some people wear a skull because they are interested in the otherworld and this can be a symbol of being in both this world and the next simultaneously.
And some people use them just because they think they look cool.
Pirates Skull and Crossbones
The skull and crossbones is most often thought of as flown on a pirate’s flag.
Mariners seeing it approaching would be alarmed and feared for their lives and the lives of their passengers and crew.
The skull and bones flag symbolized the pirate’s practice of killing all of the ship’s occupants, giving no quarter, leaving no witnesses.
They were robbers of the sea, taking all of the value in a ship’s hold after removing the captain and crew.
The flag is known as the Jolly Roger. That name was given to it in the early 1700s.
It wasn’t always a skull and crossbones.
The most often seen version was a skeleton and usually on a red flag symbolizing blood.
Sometimes it was accompanied by an hourglass and/or a dagger piercing a heart.
It may have been called Jolly Roger as a reference to the French words “joli rouge” or jolly red to indicate the red flag or some think it’s a reference to the devil.
“The “Jolly Roger,” also known as “Black Jack” or “The Banner of Death,” was invented by Caribbean pirates around 1700.” – Source: uthscsa.edu
Raise The Flag
The flag was only raised when the pirates wanted to alert another ship of their intentions.
Most of the time, the pirate ship used other flags that made it look like a merchant ship or even one of the official ships in a country’s fleet.
This allowed them to get close enough to make it impossible for their intended victim to turn and escape.
Although pirates were in existence as early as the 1600’s, the age of piracy lasted for about 100 years, from around 1720 to 1830.
Skull Symbolism in Buddhism and Hinduism
You may not think of skulls as being in Buddhism or Hinduism, but they can be seen in some of the iconography surrounding their deities.
Both have deities that wear skull necklaces.
In the case of Buddhism, the necklace symbolizes emptiness, the meaning being that there is nothing good or bad in any event.
It’s neutral and we give any event its meaning by how we react to it or think about it.
Life isn’t permanent and it’s fleeting and the skull reminds them of this, so adherents are encouraged to live a life of compassion and caring for all.
“skulls in eastern symbology are so important that they’ve been traced all the way back to the dawn of the Hindu civilization- over 5,000 years ago” – Source: sivanaspirit.com
Hindu deities wear the necklace as a reminder that death is part of the cycle of life.
Some deities can conquer death and dance in celebration of the perfection of the life and death cycle.
These cultures are taught not to fear death but to embrace and accept it as a part of the natural order of things.
Skull Symbolism to the Ancient Celts
The Celts were all about symbolism. They noticed much in nature and learned from all around them.
Since the skull was at the top of the body and held the brain, they saw it as the seat or center point of power.
To cleanse and purify the dead, the deceased person’s skull was thrown into wells, allowing the water to remove any impurities from the skull and hence the soul.
This may also have been an offering to a deity.
Openings and doorways were ways to enter spirit and therefore the three holes in the skull for the eyes and mouth and sometimes additionally the nose, making for five openings made the skull a symbol for divinity as well.
The number five held meaning for them and the number three has been considered sacred in many cultures.
The two eyes and the mouth can be connected with a triangle which can mean joining two things to make a third thing or creating with mystical means perhaps.
“Celtic culture viewed the head or skull to be the seat of power. Some texts point to the skull as the house of the soul.” – Source: whats-your-sign.com
The skull is also circular and can mean connectedness.
Skulls were also taken as trophies in war and displayed as a warning to others.
Basically, if you mess with us, you could be here.
Many other cultures displayed heads or bodies around their cities or fortifications as a warning to would-be attackers.
They were also considered as a form of protection.
Seems to me that they didn’t protect the people to whom they originally belonged, but I’m not an ancient warrior, so what do I know.
The Day of the Dead
Yes, the dead get their own day. Throughout South America, Nov. 1 and 2 are set aside to celebrate those who have passed on.
Begun several thousand years ago, it’s a happy and joyous occasion as the people don’t think of their loved ones as gone but still with them in some way.
It’s usually associated with Mexico and many believe that in that country the holiday is celebrated at its best.
People dress up as skeletons and paint their faces as skulls that are colorful and festive looking. Not how you’d usually look at a skull.
Extremely colorful costumes are worn to embody the fancy dress of the Calaveras (skeletons) created by artist Jose Guadalupe Posada.
Parades are among the festivities and lots of music and dancing are engaged in.
Altars are set up with pictures and mementos of those who have passed.
“Dia De Los Muertos” Spanish for Day of The Dead
Marigolds are put on altars and on decorations to guide the dead to and from the event. Offerings are placed there as well.
A place at the table is set for the dead to join the family at meals, as it’s thought that on these days the dead can come and visit with the living.
Families clean up the gravesites of loved ones and hold picnics nearby.
Food could include Pan de Muerto which is the bread of the dead and is sweet and often decorated with skulls in icing.
Of course, there are the sugar skulls that are sold everywhere and are the item most closely associated with the holiday in the minds of the rest of the world.
Again, the idea that life and death are entwined with one another is at the heart of the remembrance and that death is just a part of life and not to be feared.
Other Skull Meanings
A few other meanings are worth noting briefly.
It was mentioned above that the skulls and skeletons of enemies conquered were put up as a form of warning and protection and there are some who still wear a skull in the form of jewelry or on clothing or other things as a symbol of protection.
Perhaps that goes together with some of its other symbolism, that of bravery or being tough or dangerous.
A “don’t mess with me” vibe that might lessen the times that someone would try to fight with you.
On containers that hold poison or toxic substances, you’ll often find a skull or a skull and crossbones.
It means pretty much what it meant for the pirates. This substance is dangerous and coming into contact with it could kill you.
This is also placed on containers of acids. There are some acids that will take your hand off if you touch it, so the warning is appropriate.
If the skull has no lower jaw it could mean that a person is immoral.
Posed with a rose, it could be a symbol of life and death intermixed.
Alternatively, a skull and rose can symbolize the ongoing battle between good and evil or the contrast between beauty and ugliness.
The skull portion of this combination could mean an obstacle that has been overcome and the rose would be the new beginning or life that results from that.
Roses and Skulls
Many people use the rose and skull as a memorial to someone who’s passed. The rose would be their life and the skull their death.
Native American headdress skulls are becoming popular. They denote have Native American heritage and can honor their past and their culture.
It could even honor a particular ancestor, with the size of the feathers on the headdress showing the importance of the person so honored.
And a skull with a snake winding through it could mean wisdom that is carried over into the afterlife.
That, in brief, is some of the symbolism associated with skulls.
Skulls are the part of us that physically remains the longest and houses the mind and all of our animating qualities.
They’re the structure that underlies our features and gives our face its basic shape.
And they will continue to fascinate people for thousands of years to come.
SkullGal.com will discuss topics of interest to those who want to know what else is out there beyond what we can see and hear physically.
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