For those who are fans of Mexican heritage, there are many symbols that are very important in the culture. From the county’s seal, Aztec symbols and family crests, there are a great deal of directions you can go if you want to purchase or have a symbol tattooed on your body.
In this case, the sugar skull is the symbol we are talking about that has a Mexican background and is also extremely popular in terms of symbols that look great tattooed.
In this post, we will talk about the history of the sugar skull and what it means in Mexican culture. We will also discuss the meaning of the sugar skull tattoo and the meaning behind the image. Symbolism can change depending on what else is pictured in the tattoo so we will go over some variations of the sugar skull tattoo and talk about the meaning of them. By the end of this post, you should feel more informed about the sugar skull and what it means to have a sugar skull tattoo.
About the Sugar Skull
When thinking of a skull many people think of death and decay, however, there are some different general meanings for different styles of skull tattoos. Sugar skull tattoo designs are an essential part of the Mexican and Latin American celebration of Dia de Muertos, the Day of the Dead, which falls on the day following Halloween. The skulls in this festival are a representation of ancestors and family that have passed on but have come back to Earth from the spiritual realm to be honored.
The sugar skull, or Calavera, is made from edible sugar and may be consumed or made from clay and decorated. The decoration that typically adorns the sugar skull is colorful and bright to symbolize the vibrancy of life, especially appreciated by those who have lived a full one and have since passed away.
As with any tattoo, there are different styles of skulls; a sugar skull- as previously mentioned is primarily used in Day of the Dead celebrations; a skull with roses- typically used to display the contrast between good and evil; or a girl skull- which often will have heart-shaped eyes or bows attached. This being said, the meaning behind a skull tattoo does not have the signify something negative, it can be used in remembrance of loved ones who have passed (such as the sugar skull is used in Mexico on the Day of the Dead).
In ancient societies, as well as modern, skull tattoos represented great change and a celebration of life. The meaning can vary passed on to the wearer’s religion as well. For example, in Christianity the skull can often symbolize eternity or what remains after the soul moves on, in Kabbalah, it can represent rebirth and celebration. With sugar skulls, the symbol is always that of life and experience. Names and vivid ribbons are often used to decorate the skulls.
The name and date of death of a specific relative are used to serve as an Earthly representation of that person for the Day of the Dead celebration. Tattoo designs frequently mimic this, especially for those with Latin American or Mexican heritage who actively participate in this holiday.
On November 2nd, people celebrate the Day of the Dead and head to the graveyard to celebrate the loved ones they have lost. They use this time to clean up the grave site, leave flowers, and play games while talking about their lost loved ones.
We celebrate this holiday in America as well. We do this for many reasons and a big one is because of the large Mexican population in the States. Another school of thought is that we don’t have a day dedicated to our lost loved ones like in Hispanic cultures. On the other hand, many think it is because of our interest in magic. Lastly, it might just be seen as another reason to go the bars and drink
The sugar skull tattoo or candy skull tattoo is one way to honor your loved ones forever in ink. The meaning of this tattoo means something different to everyone but the Day of the Dead is in there as a reason. As with most tattoos, the ability to get creative is what will make this tattoo your own. You don’t have to go into the flash book and do what has already been done.
Adding to that, we should understand what skulls mean in other cultures in modern and ancient times. In many cultures, the skull represents change or a celebration of life. There is a great deal of religious symbolism as well and this could change the symbolism of the skull. In the Kabbalah religion, the skull symbolizes a rebirth or a celebration in that we move on from one life into the next stage.
In Christianity, skulls symbolize death and there isn’t much else to it. However, when talking about sugar skulls, these are only happy moments to celebrate. Of course, we’re sad of lost loved ones but these tattoos are a way to honor the ones we have lost.
Sugar Skull Tattoo Variations
Sugar skull tattoo designs generally feature petal-like decorations around the eyes, which are sometimes rendered as heart shapes to emphasize an animated quality. Dots and curving line work are also included as well as simple flower shapes. More realistic designs can use realistic images of flowers, most often roses but any flower can be chosen.
The favorite bloom of the ancestor or family member can be used if the tattoo is dedicated to a specific person. Flowers can be placed in the eye sockets of the sugar skull, or other pleasing symbols like diamonds or jewels, Catholic symbols, or stars.\
Geometric Sugar Skull Tattoo
Geometric designs work well with the sugar skull because the elaborate and colorful decoration is easily fragmented into simple shapes. The sugar skull can be designed very simply in this way and therefore be rendered much smaller and more delicately creating a feminine appearance. Additional roses and other flowers are often included in the background to achieve a fuller look and a larger piece that is still kept simple.
Masculine Sugar Skull Tattoo
In masculine designs, sugar skull decorations are done on a female face rather than a skull in order to include the feminine form. This can be done very simply as well or very realistically. These designs are often made to appear ominous and include symbols of horror like spider webs, skulls, skeletons, and kept in dark hues.
These women can be rendered like ghosts, ghouls, or zombies to deemphasize the celebratory nature of the sugar skull and emphasize the death on which it relies. In other cases, the female form is used with the sugar skull for aesthetic appeal rather than to make a definite statement. But no matter how it is used, the sugar skull is always a symbol of death, taken either positively or negatively.
When the female form is used, the woman is sometimes designed like a gypsy with elaborate jewelry and a scarf covering the hair. The gypsy, often with a crystal ball, is a symbol of the future which is combined with the representation of death and lives that have passed found in the sugar skull. These designs are often rendered within a vintage theme and can serve as a homage to a certain period of time, perhaps one that a grandparent was born in.
Not all skull tattoos are human in nature either some people choose to go with an animal skull instead. Popular selections include: deer- symbolized in Pagan beliefs as the protector of the forest, a deer skull also symbolizes strength and virility; bull/buffalo-in Native American folklore these animals’ skulls represent life and prosperity; and the goat- this skull symbolizes someone who is fearless in the face of death.