Sunday, May 29, 2011

Skull Tattoos..A little history with photos and sass from Kathleen Volume 1

During the last decade skulls were a HOT design with trendy, fashion forward folks all over the Gods green earth. Starting with traditional tattoo style skulls designed by Ed Hardy, everywhere you eyeballed from 2002 until 2009 was layered in skulls images. To me, it always seemed a wee bit crazy that an image so iconic with death, manliness and outlaw biker culture was being worn on little girls t shirts emblazoned with rhinestones.
Sugar Skull / Day of the Dead Skull by Russell Fortier @ Lucky 7 Tattoo
in Kings Beach / North Lake Tahoe, California
Yet with this now tired clothing trend the tattooing of all types of skulls became hugely popular. So much so our staff puts-on average- one skull a week to skin still.  I believe that the "skulls on garments" trend in fashion played a part in making skulls good business at this moment in time. Of course skulls have been a mainstay in tattooing since rubbing soot in to cut skin started in tribes 10,000 years ago. One of the great qualities of any skull design is the timelessness of the skull image in any form.
Creepy Black &  Grey Skull by Corey Boobar @
Lucky 7 Tattoo, Kings Beach, North Lake Tahoe, California

Even when a skull tattoo is done poorly, perhaps with just a grainy looking outline and a few black holes for eyes, nose and mouth  - you still know exactly what the image is suppose to be. Not many shapes can be identified that quickly or universally. As small children we are taught that a "skull and crossbones" image meant the contents of that container was poison and therefore bad for us. Or if that same image was on a ships flag it is called a "JOLLY ROGER" and meant  pirates commanded the vessel.

Indian with Head Dress Tattoo by Ben Karnofsky @
Lucky 7 Tattoo Kings Beach / North Lake Tahoe, California

Skulls as an ageless symbol have a great number of positive and negative meanings in different cultures. Interestingly, except for marking poisons, there is no "common" meaning worldwide. Skulls meanings have been evolving ever so slowly from ancient antiquity to our modern times. Going back to the Aztecs , skulls were kept by warriors from battles. Then brought back to their village tribe as trophies to symbolize death and rebirth.  For the last 500 years Mexican culture has taken some bits from their forefathers in Aztec worship of their dead, added ritual from the Catholic religion brought over from the Spaniards who conquered and settled South America and added a bit of their own twist - all brought together to create "Day of the Dead." Skulls and skeletons are the symbols of this celebration honoring departed loved ones each year on November 1st. A tradition treat for this holiday are candy skulls, with the name of your loved one written on the skull of your sugary confection. These treats are to be eaten by the dead souls earth bound loved ones.

Traditional Americana style Sugar Skull for "Day of the Dead"
By Corey Boobar @ Lucky 7 Tattoo and Piercing,
Kings Beach, / North Lake Tahoe, California

Other ancient cultures have used skulls as chalices for sacred drinks while worshiping , celebrating victories or displaying the skulls of their enemies to intimidate others. or to show their tribes "fierceness."
It is said by a few sources online that some outlaw bikers believe tattooing a skull on their forearm helped them cheat death. Personally I think that is bogus, but hey, it sounds good huh?! In London of the middle ages many of the population could not read or write. Businesses and craftsmen used universal symbols to let lower classes and the illiterate  know what each storefront or trades person did. Some prostitutes of this era used a skull with no lower jawbone as a wordless way to advertise that they were a "working girl." Wonder how that "logo" was decided upon?

Carpe Diem Grateful Dead Skull by
Corey Boobar @ Lucky 7 Tattoo
Triple Skull in One by Corey Boobar
Lucky 7 Tattoo, Kings Beach, North Lake Tahoe, Ca.
                                                                                                          Remembering back to Halloween of my childhood (before parents got over protective and created "safe" Halloween) my mom use to bust out all sorts of cool, scary decorations. My personal favorite was a skeleton with movable limbs that glowed in the dark. I use to pose him as a model. My brother would always make it look like it was grabbing its my mothers great embarrassment. Funny I never thought about how gruesome some of the images were from "All Hallows Eve." All the bones were just part of the celebration of this fun Autumn ritual as a kid.

Under bite Skull with Massive Fangs By Russell Fortier @
Lucky 7 Tattoo & Piercing, Kings Beach / North Lake Tahoe, California

Black and Grey Double Tartarus Skulls by Russell Fortier @
Lucky 7 Tattoo and Piercing, Kings Beach / North Lake Tahoe, California

The beautiful Hindu goddess Kali has a Garland of skulls around her neck when in her "fighting" form. She is quite the warrior, even shown eating the innards of her husband at times. Yet this Goddess also is known to offer worshipers "Life." Part of Kali's spiritual make up also includes "Time and Change." The skulls themselves are to represent "Karma." I LOVE that!

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