Sugar Skull Tattoo Ideas and Symbolism
Posted on June 11 2019
You may have seen sugar skulls before and thought they looked cool but didn't know what they were. Or, you may already know a bit about them, in which case you can scroll down for the tattoo ideas you came here for!
However, everyone knows that when getting a tattoo, symbolism is important. Each one has its own story. Sugar skulls are part of the Mexican holiday Día de Muertos, which happens annually on Saturday 2nd November. In Mexican culture, death is viewed as a natural part of the human cycle. Sugar skulls are an integral part of the altars - ofrendas - that people assemble to commemorate their dead. People also put up papel picado, make a trail of Mexican marigold petals and add the favourite foods and drinks of the people the altar was made for.
The reason for the sugar skulls goes back to the prehistoric times when the skull was an influential figure in Mesoamerican societies like the Aztecs in many aspects and depictions. Such cultures believed in the spiritual life after death; thus, skulls were an offering to the deity of the underworld, Mictlantecuhtli, who would assure safe passage into the land he ruled. It's not unusual to encounter sugar skulls that are decorated and coloured with Mictlantecuhtli's face!
These traditions were lost with the arrival of the Spanish conquerors, though a part of them was kept alive through sustaining the figure of the skull in a sweet confection that people can place on their ofrendas as part of their offerings to the dead.
Sugar skulls are usually made from a paste called alfeñique: a mixture of sugar, hot water and lemon, plus other ingredients, that creates a malleable mass akin to caramel. While sugar skulls are found everywhere in Mexico, some states prefer to use other components such as almonds, honey and gummies.
Small sugar skulls represent children, while bigger skulls represent adults and elders. Everything about Día de Muertos is bright and colourful, especially the decorations. The reason why is because people celebrate the lives led by those who are no longer with us. Sugar skulls are decorated in all kinds of colours. When people paint their faces as if they are sugar skulls, the colours they use embody a special meaning.
- Red is used to represent our blood.
- Orange is for the sun.
- Yellow symbolises the Mexican marigold (which signifies death), and purple indicates pain, though some cultures associate purple with richness and royalty.
Some sugar skulls have names written on them to honour a deceased person's memory. If you are given a sugar skull while you're still alive, don't worry, they're not planning anything morbid! They're just reserving your spot in the afterlife for you!
Now, onto the tattoos! Here are five sugar skull designs that are sure to spark your inspiration!