The Mexican tradition of celebrating their dead loved ones is rather intriguing as it’s normally associated with sugar skull tattoos. Whereas skulls and death depict something to do with mourning, sugar skull tattoos depict festivity. So if you’d love to know more about this work of art, this article will summarize what sugar skull tattoos are and what they symbolize.
So, what exactly is this sugar skull tattoo?
Lately, they are gaining mainstream popularity since they come in all shapes and sizes. They are printed on t-shirts, jewelry and even on graffiti.
The term ”sugar” is used to point out to the fact that these skulls are made from clay molded sugar, decorated with feathers, colored beads, foils and icing and that they are an integral part of marking the day of the dead. These skulls symbolize honoring the spirits of those who’ve departed. The Mexicans believe that the spirit of the dead always visit the living on this particular date, hence must be honored.
The festivity is usually held between October 31st and November 1st and 2nd. They also believe that heaven opens its gates in October 31st, then the souls of little children are allowed to reunite with their families for a period of 24 hours. Adult souls are only permitted the following day.
This tradition traces back to between 2,500-3,000 years ago. They are traditionally known as ”Calavera”, a Spanish word that means skull. The general perception is that skulls are related to death. However, sugar skull tattoos are meant to honor, celebrate and remember. This day is dedicated to those who’ve entered the afterlife.
The term ”sugar skull”
This idea was inspired by the ancient tradition of making skull-shaped candies out of sugar. The skull is usually plain white, though decorative elements may be added to add the vibrancy. When these elements are added, the skull takes a lively look due to the presence of various colors.
The colors depict that the dead are not really dead and that they are happy in their afterlife. The full-sized sugar skulls are usually dedicated to adult spirits while the miniature ones are for children spirits.
Today, these tattoos are becoming popular among those who are obsessed with life, death and afterlife. Others also admire them since they are not dull and negative in any way. In fact, these tattoos feature a full range of artistic blend of shades, plus a skull-y smile that make them pretty vivacious.
Honoring those who are dead
Many tattoos have gotten their inspiration from the idea of honoring the dead. An individual may engrave them on their skin because they want to honor their loved ones who are no longer part of their lives. Now, a sugar skull tattoo would present the best way to honor those who have departed, with their names engraved alongside.
The uniqueness of this tattoo is that most (if not all) have smiles on them. So the belief is that when you honor someone with a smile, they also respond with a smile equally.
Where’s the interconnection between life and death?
The portrait-like picture of a person, incorporated with roses and skull-ish design is a clear representation of the inner struggle between life or beauty and ugliness or decay. They symbolize that after living a beautiful life, there’s death ahead. So they are ideal for people who are struggling to accept this fact.
Sugar skull tattoos use various elements to beautify the skull design. These are the very elements that makes them qualify to be called sugar skull tattoos. Artist design them using Marigold flower, especially in areas around the eyes to symbolize death. They also use cobwebs which acts as a contrasting element to the theme being represented. There are even times when burning candles are placed inside the eye circle to depict remembrance.
For many people, death is a scary experience they don’t want to associate themselves with. However, for others, it’s a spiritual truth that is inevitable after life. Today, there are many proofs of the belief that there’s life beyond physical death. In fact, the most current one is that of the Egyptians. The Egyptians ”mummified” their dead and even buried them with materials so that they could use them in the next world.
So, if you’re one of those who see death as a long spiritual journey, then this tattoo should be ideal for you as it doesn’t invoke any spooky or mournful feeling.
The return of those who are already gone
The idea of the day of the dead is to let them visit their families on the said dates. People believe that heaven opens its gates so that the souls of those who have departed can reunite with their families back on earth. Now, this tattoo simply depict that when someone dies, they will return and become a part of your life someday.
The acceptability of sugar skull tattoo
You don’t have to be a Christian or Catholic to appreciate such a tattoo. Artists have enjoyed working with sugar skull tattoos for years now. That’s because they are one type of art that one can freely play around with to produce even the most intricate designs.
Today, these tattoos are created for artistic purposes rather than religious purposes. Depending on what you want to think about them, they may either be too spiritual or just a fan part of living life. And if you feel that you want to get one engraved on your skin, there’s no one set of rules that guide their design or what should be added and what shouldn’t.
The shape of your sugar skull tattoo can either be that of an exaggerated Oaxacan style or more traditional square-chin shape. The Oaxacan style puts more emphasis on the protruding cheekbones. The artist can use anything they want as long as it’s a decorative element. So they can use geometric shapes, flowers, stitches, dots, lines, swirls and so forth. Just in case you’re running out of ideas on how to spruce up your sugar skull tattoo, consult with your artist for more inspiration. The more it stands out, the more meaning it will have to you.