CHEERS TO LIFE. THE SKULL AS A TATTOO MOTIF.

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THE STORY & MEANING OF SKULL TATTOO MOTIFS

I.

Nothing hits life more than death. Nothing is more closely associated with death than life with all its transience, but also with its joy, its connection between all living beings. We are all born, animals, people and plants and we all perish. It is Gaia, Mother Earth, who brings us forth to finally receive us again.

Thus, the skull tattoo may forever remind of transience; that there is something behind all the appearance that there are bones under the skin. The ones left over from us. Skulls show what is under our skin. All the more remarkable when it now finds itself on the surface of the skin, as a drawing, as a reminder, as a symbol. But skulls are not only reminders, but also invitations to give meaning to one’s life in view of the fact of being alive once, and really only once. Rebirth or not. “I’m not that young anymore. Let’s go, let’s talk honestly, authentically and approach things sensibly.”

II.

This may frighten us at first, when one sees a skull so directly on the skin of another person, it reminds one of what man likes to suppress, death. But which is so unequivocally part of life. So why this horror? Would I get a skull tattoo myself?

The skull tattoo is a good idea if you want to express that life is more than just a whirlwind, that life is intense, that it can also be sad, that beautiful and bad events come and go – that you are part of this vortex. And that’s a good thing. Kelly Osbourne has two skulls on the top of her feet. A good choice: you go through life with the passion of finitude. When things come to an end, that gets me moving in the present. Nothing is more boring than an infinite life.

The Vikings drank beer from the skulls of their dead, they exclaimed “Skal”, and thus combined the joyof life directly with death, so to speak. In many ancient cultures, death, and explicitly the skull, is not marginalized, but is obviously anchored in the social life of all. As a gloomy version in the Middle Ages, or in the Baroque on the famous still life with the vanitas motif. And it is good that the skull still reminds us that life is more than just a beautiful appearance, senseless searching luck, and entertaining pleasure. There are some who get a skull tattoo because they have completed a difficult chapter in their lives and are now on a positive life path. So the skull, here again, stands in a way for something past, the part of oneself that has died and from which something better has emerged.

Such insight does not apply to our police. To this day, candidates with skull tattoos cannot be hired. At least with the Berlin police. They may reject applicants with tattoos of skulls. The skull suggests a dubious disposition. So much for the enlightened society that we want to be today.

Even social media platforms aren’t looking for “authentic” lifestyles with a good life-death balance. Which profile picture on Facebook isn’t embellished? Exactly. And isn’t everything based on the principle of recognition? Who likes me? Who is for me? No disturbances! No ambivalence! No death!The like neuroses on “Facebook”, for example, when teenagers fall into depression when one or the other image does not crack the like mark. Frightening: This is not only the case with teenagers, it affects all age groups: wherever you look. Just show no weakness, illness, or transience. Death as a life experience, grief as a real existential feeling, does not exist here. Why? Social media is not the right place for such a thing. (Yes, admittedly, there are “profile” cemeteries in the digital jungle, the account is then “in the memorial state”. There, my profile history finds a memory as a “digital existence that hasended”. But is this the real integration of mortality?)

But a healthy skull tattoo has never hurt to express a certain maturity for life. As with Keith Richards and his skull ring. Also with the “Dia de los Muertos”. Everyone knows the colorful skulls that are everywhere at this Mexican festival as a life-affirming symbol. And they are very suitable as motifs for tattoos.


SKULL TATTOOS FROM THE HOUSE OF ANANSI IN MUNICH: