Throughout history, the skull symbol held special meaning in religion, art and the world of decorative design, it is typical in different traditions, to repetitively observe the use and wearing of skulls, there are multiple meanings around the item, and today we will talk about some representations that involve this mythical image.
First, maybe you are asking, where does it come from? Well, it is common to see it featured into the myths of cultures from the Aztec or Mayan to the tribal grouping of North America. And it is also seeing in Indian, Buddhism, Celtic and other traditions that we will be explaining about in this article.
Skulls in Eastern Traditions:
In most of the Eastern traditions, the symbol of the skull is connected not only to the representation of death, evil, fear and mortality, but also symbolize the complete opposite as, protection, power and gratitude toward life.
In Mexico, skulls are decorated in garish patterns and colors to celebrate the dead. The Day of the Dead, also known as annual “Día de Los Muertos” is the time for families to dress up, come together, celebrate and party for the lives of those they have lost. During this time skulls are decorated and placed around the gravestones of the deceased to make whimsical decorations that commemorate death instead of mourning lost friends and relatives.
Aside of its symbolism, the skull stands as a constant reminder that nobody can scape from death. For exchange, in Christian religion, there are some Rosaries that can include skulls, this represents the Latin expression “Memento Mori”, meaning “Remember that you shall die”; this kind of Rosaries, serve as a reminder to live life conscious of judgement after death.
Skulls in Indian Culture:
In the Indian culture, the skulls play a vital role in religious illustrations, they are often ornamenting ancient god or goddess as their skull bracelets, pendants, necklaces, rings, weapons, etc., showing their ability to conquer death.
In the traditions of Hindu, Chinese, and Tibetan, countless divine Goddesses and Gods wear skull necklaces and pendants, skull bracelets, skull weapons etc.
Skulls in Buddhism:
As the representation of skulls in Hinduism is straightforward but in Tibetan Buddhism and Buddhism it is little deeper with their unique perspectives. As similar to Hinduism, skulls are generally linked to representing ornaments around god and goddesses, which is commonly known as Munda malas.
In Buddhism, the skulls instead of meaning loss or death, it shows the vital Buddhist symbol of emptiness, that in this culture, emptiness is the quality of the universe.
There is an easy spotted difference in the Buddhist skull, they have four canine teeth depicted as the symbol of biting through of the four maras while the single skull represents different functions and forms in Tibetan iconography.
Skulls in Celtic traditions:
In the culture of Celtics, skulls are viewed as the seat of power and soul, some sources mention the skulls as the soul house.
According to the mythology of the Celtics, the number five (5), is considered to have magical properties. There are five openings in the human skull viz, a mouth, two nose cavities, and two eyes, thus special interest to Celtics. Practically, there are three main holes in the skull, a mouth and two eyes. So that the number three is considered to be a scared number in their mythology. And when these three holes are connected, they come up with a triangle that popularly represents a Celtic theme known as Trinity. Celts always believe that the three openings in the skull show creation, magic, and transformation that endlessly happen across life.
The circle nature form of the skull head and the eyes, are strongly related to the circle culture of Celtics; this shows life’s cyclical nature and also the feeling of togetherness in their communities.
In addition to these, the oracle shape of mouth and eyes of the skull viewed or represented as the gateways for receiving knowledge. The logic behind this belief is that everything that we see comes through our eyes and shows our strongest method of accepting knowledge and learning that we, the humans possess naturally.
Still, skulls have huge symbolic meaning and status around the world and are most likely we will continue to see new and modern forms that appear in the mythology, art, and culture of all different religions and varieties.