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Tattoo designs - D >> Death

Skull tattoo designDeath Tattoo Meanings - Of all the things that we can be sure of in life, the only thing we can know with absolute certainty is that we will die. Death is inevitable. From the moment of birth we all begin the long, or perhaps tragically short, march towards death. We will all leave this mortal coil. We will all, regardless of social status or rank, Kings and peasants alike, be consumed by fire and flame or by worms and decay.

There is no one single tattoo design or symbol that represents Death, unless of course you count the literal - tattoo designs that spell out the word Death in one language or another. And it could well be argued that nearly all tattooing explores some symbolic reference to Death. The opposite state of Death is of course, Life. And most tattooing, both ancient and modern, explores some aspect of the duality of Life and Death.

Death is a universally shared experience, part of the human condition and yet the diversity of beliefs about death among the worlds many cultures is extraordinarily wide-ranging.

The classic symbols of Death have been, Skulls which represent the aftermath of Life, the Grim Reaper, Demons, and the Devil, who at the moment of Death comes to collect your Soul, Angels and Spirit Guides, which some believe will escort you to Heaven, an afterlife or Spirit World, or any of the many agents of Death, those animals, creatures and objects that we have come to associate with the termination of Life.

These tattoo symbols have all represented Death at various times, and in many different cultures - Snakes, Scorpions, and Spiders - all whose poisonous bite could end your life, Dragons, Tigers, Lions, Jaguars, Bears, Sharks and any number of other apex predators and Mythic creatures who could eat you if they so chose, Lightning, Knives, Daggers, Swords, and other instruments of destruction, war, plague, pestilence and disease. Think of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

Modern symbols that can symbolize Death can be hypodermic needles, or pills, signifying death from an overdose of drugs. Bio-Hazard and Radiation and Poison Symbols can also symbolize Death.

In those cultures who are not monotheist, which is the belief that there is only one God or Supreme Being; such as modern Christianity, Judaism and Islam for instance; the polytheist cultures have many Gods and Goddesses and Divine Beings, in which there is almost always a God or Goddess who is the agent of Death and the collector of Souls. Here is but a small sampling:

Among all the ancient Egyptian gods Anubis is the one who was chosen to be the God of Death and Dying. He was also considered to be the God of the Underworld. Anubis had the body of a human and the Head of a Jackal. But it was Osiris, husband of Isis, who was the Goddess of Life, who eventually became the God of Death and Re-Birth.

The Buddhist Lord of the Dead, Yama, has five skulls around his head, signifying the conquest of anger, greed, pride, envy and ignorance.

Kali, the Hindu Goddess of Death, wears a necklace of skulls and a skirt of severed arms.

The Aztec god of death was Mictlantecuhtli, Lord of the Land of the Dead.

Hades was the Greek God of the Underworld, but not Death. That was the job of Thanatos, who was the God of Death. Interestingly, Thanatos was the brother of Hypnosm, who was the God of Sleep.

For the Romans, Mars started out as the God of Fertility and Growth and the Earth-God, and over time became the God of War, and from there is it was short step to becoming the God of Death.

Odin, chief among the Norse Gods, and similar to the Greek Zeus, and Roman Jupiter, was the Ruler of Aesir. Odin was the God of War, Poetry, Wisdom, and Death. It was Odin who sent Valkyries, beautiful winged women, to gather the most heroic Viking warriors slain in battle to fill the mighty banquet Hall, Valhalla.

Interestingly, many tattoo designs and symbols that feature or represent Death in some way, also represent Life, re-birth and the idea of resurrection, reincarnation and the endless cycle of Life and Death in the Universe. This is the Yin-Yang aspect of Life and Death, Death and Life.

The Phoenix is a classic symbol in this regard. Despite a fiery death, the Phoenix rises again our of its own ashes, re-born to live again and after Death begin a new cycle of Life.

A similar symbol of Death, Destruction and Re-Birth would be Ouroboros - which has several meanings. The first, is the symbolism of the serpent devouring and consuming its own tail, literally eating itself. This symbolizes the cyclical Nature of the Universe: creation out of destruction, Life out of Death. The Ouroboros eats its own tail to sustain its life, in an eternal cycle of renewal. This secondary symbolism is an echo of the concept of infinity, of cycles without end. A Universe without boundaries or limits.

In the end, each of us must choose our own symbol for Death. And a tattoo design and symbol for Death is not necessarily a morbid one, but one that reminds us to live in the moment and treasure every breath of Life we enjoy.

In fact, given human nature and our tendencies towards superstition, such tattoos are often seen as powerful amulets and talismans against Death itself!

Death / Gods of the Underworld Inspiration Gallery - Click here to get inspired!And when Death does inevitably come, there are many cultures that believe that being heavily tattooed is the best way for an individual to ensure your safe passage to the Other Side!

Get inspired by some great images and photos in our Death / Gods of the Underworld Tattoo Inspiration Gallery

See also; Religious Tattoos, Memorial Tattoos

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Tattoo designs - D >> Death

Tattoo Symbol Index - A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

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