TATTOO DESIGNS & SYMBOLS - SNAKES
Tattoo designs - S >> Snakes
Snake Tattoos - Both the East and the West embrace snake tattoo designs, as the snake frequently appears in myths and legends in most cultures around the world. One of the oldest symbols in existence, the snake's image is found long before the written word appeared. Depending on culture, climate, and religion, the snake was seen as a friend or foe, a force both positive and negative. The snake's phallic shape has long made it a symbol of fertility, as well as the fact that many species of snakes mate in large balls of intertwined individuals, and the young emerge from eggs. Conversely, the widespread distribution of poisonous snakes have long made men have a healthy respect for the power that snakes have - literally one of life and death. In many myths, snake bites and snake venom are featured as representations of life and death. This duality often has snakes as symbols of the Underworld, or Underground.
In Greek mythology, the serpent was associated with the goddess of the moon. As a female symbol, it brings knowledge to mankind, while in other cultures it is portrayed as a goddess of mystery, birth and death. In India, snake cults worshipped her as goddess of fertility and prophecy. In Kundalini Yoga, the serpent energy is said to be coiled at the base of the spine, ready to rise from the sex centre in the service of higher consciousness. In the Americas, there are many myths that tell of Snake People living underground, both as guardians of the next world, and of helpers of humans still living in this one. Many of these myths are grounded in the observations that many snakes hibernate underground and seem to be renewed by shedding their skins on a regular basis.
A snake (or pair of snakes) coiled around a staff is the symbol used by medical professionals, an icon that originated in Greek myth. Asclepius, the God of Medicine, observed one snake healing another with herbs, and thus was the art of medicine born. The Chinese zodiac contains the snake as one of its twelve animal signs. Those born under the sign of the snake are said to be rich in wisdom and charm, are intuitive and romantic, but also prone to sloth and vanity.
We're fascinated with the snake's ability to slough off its skin, a trick that has given rise to its association with rebirth and immortality. In some cultures, the snake is the river guardian, or the snake-spirit living in wells. Among Australian Aboriginals, the giant rainbow serpent is the symbol of creation, and in Africa the rock python is held sacred. The ancient Aztecs had Quetzalcoatl, the plumed serpent, which they worshipped as the 'Master of Life'. In the Old Testament, however, the serpent in the Garden of Eden is vanquished by Yahweh, earning it the reputation as an eternal trouble- maker for man.
Two of the most poisonous snakes are also the most sacred -- the rattlesnake and the cobra. Of all the species of cobra, the King Cobra reigns as the largest venomous snake in the world. When the cobra is alert, it rises up and flattens its neck into the distinctive 'hood' that is instantly recognizable. In India the cobra is sacred, a totem for the indigenous people, and a symbol of power. A cobra myth tells of it sheltering Buddha from the sun as he slept. A cobra near a dwelling is thought to be a good omen -- not surprising since it's a fierce exterminator of rodents. In Egypt, the cobra was venerated and represented several ancient deities. Cleopatra is associated with the viper, but she used the venom of the cobra to end her life on earth. And why not, since the cobra in Ancient Egypt was associated with the afterlife. A cobra was found in the tomb of Tutankhamen, as a symbol of protection.
For the Native American, the indigenous rattlesnake (commonly known as the 'rattler', but also as the diamondback or sidewinder) is a symbol of potency and fertility. With a strike as fast as lightning, it has become associated with rain and the act of entering the earth and bringing forth life. It is regarded as the male symbol of creation. It is also a symbol of death and transformation, since its venom has the power to turn life towards death, delivering humans to the edge of one world and to the brink of another. In some cases the victim returns, since the bite of the rattler is not always deadly. Because it rattles its tail before striking, as a warning, this poisonous snake has been called courageous. Appalachian fiddlers are said to place the rattle of the snake inside their fiddles to improve the sound.
As a tattoo design, the snake symbolizes power, both natural and supernatural, fertility, regeneration and wisdom. In the West in particular, the snake represents temptation and feminine sexual power. Adam and Eve and the Snake in the Garden of Eden are never too far from the popular consciousness. One of the reasons snakes have been such a popular tattoo design for over a century is their ability to be combined with other tattoo symbols and the ease with which the tattoo artist can use the fluid and dynamic shape and form of the snake to emphasize the aesthetic lines of the human body. Frankly, it doesn't get much sexier than a snake wrapped around an arm or a thigh or draped over a shoulder and around a breast. And for this reason, snakes are popular with both men and women.
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Tattoo designs - S >> Snakes
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