Snakes are often misinterpreted as a sign of bad luck or death.
However, snakes have been featured in many cultures and popular culture with less sinister meanings, and even revered in some cultures for their wisdom. As a result, snakes have become a popular subject for tattoos due to their symbolic representation and deeper meanings.
If you want to know the meaning of all tattoos, check out our complete tattoo meanings list (with pictures).
Snake Tattoo Meaning- What Does a Snake Tattoo Symbolize?
Snakes have been a significant symbol throughout history, appearing in poems, stories, songs, and more, with different meanings behind them.
They can represent various concepts, including:
While cultures may differ on the exact meaning, snakes are often considered sacred creatures that hold a significant place in the cycle of life. As such, snake tattoos have grown in popularity due to their rich symbolism.
Snake Symbolism Across Cultures and History
Snakes have held significant meanings throughout history and across different cultures.
Rain and lightning
For instance, Native American and African cultures associate snakes with rain and lightning.
Symbol of wisdom and protection
West Africans view snakes as symbols of wisdom and guardians of sacred temples while Buddhism features the meditating Buddha being protected by a divine serpent.
Symbol of Death and Medicine
Greek mythology ties the Greek god Asclepius with the snake and uses the rod of Asclepius, a staff wrapped with a snake, as a symbol of health and medicine adopted by various healthcare organizations worldwide.
Transformation and rebirth
Snakes also represent transformation and rebirth as they shed their old skin and emerge anew. This makes snake tattoos a popular choice for those seeking to symbolize the idea of starting afresh.
Immortality and fertility
Snakes have been used as symbols of immortality and fertility across many cultures and mythologies.
- In Norse and Dahomeyen cultures, the image of a snake biting its own tail represents the cycle of life.
- In Egyptian mythology, the snake appears as the god Mehen who coils around the sun god Ra.
- Snakes are also viewed as agents of fertility and prosperity because of their association with the earth and life itself.
- The Hopi people of North America performed a snake dance to renew the fertility of nature, while other cultures see snakes as the umbilical cord that ties humans to Mother Earth.
- Snakes are even depicted as familiars for deities like Mother Earth.
Snake Tattoo Meaning: The Case of Japan
Snakes have different meanings and beliefs across various cultures, and this applies to Japanese culture as well.
In Japan, snake tattoos are believed to offer protection against illness or bad luck.
The Japanese word for snake is “hebi,” and they are considered allies that help kill rats that can harm crops on a farm.
Snakes are also respected in Japanese religion, where straw snakes are created to guard the entrances of shrines. Benzaiten, a water goddess, is one of the Seven Lucky Gods in Japanese religion, and white snakes are one of her avatars.
In ancient Japan, shedding its skin made the snake a symbol of rebirth and renewal, which still holds true today. The snake also appears in the Japanese zodiac, where those born in the year of the hebi are believed to be intuitive, mysterious, and lucky with money.
What Does a Snake and Dagger Tattoo Mean?
A snake and dagger tattoo is a symbol of battle and war. The dagger, despite its small size, is a deadly weapon that can be just as powerful as larger weapons. For many, this represents the constant cycle of overcoming challenges in life.
The snake is also a powerful image that adds another layer of sentiment and meaning when combined with the dagger.
Inspiration: 28 Snake Tattoo Designs
Fine line snake tattoo on sternum/underboob
Snake with skull
Old skull snake tattoo
Snake tattoo back piece
Neo traditional snake tattoo
Snake with flowers tattoo
Black and grey snake tattoo
Blackwork snake tattoo
Line work snake tattoo
Snake tattoo on shoulder/ collarbone
In summary, snake tattoos can have different meanings depending on their cultural and mythological associations. Whether you want a simple or intricate design, there are many options available to you. Knowing the various meanings behind a snake tattoo can help you select a design that reflects your personality.
So, if you’re thinking about getting a snake tattoo, take some time to explore your options and their meanings to find the perfect design for you.
Is it okay to have a snake tattoo?
Having a snake tattoo is perfectly okay if that is what you want. While some people may consider it bad luck, this is just a superstition and not based on any evidence. Ultimately, you should make the decision based on your own personal beliefs and preferences. If you like the design and it has significance for you, then there’s no reason not to get it.
What does a Double Snake Tattoo mean?
The meaning of a double snake tattoo is largely subjective and can vary depending on cultural and personal beliefs. Snakes are often associated with renewal and rebirth due to their shedding of skin, and can represent duality, balance, or spiritual awakening. While there is no concrete evidence to support these specific meanings, they have been recognized across different cultures and can be considered as evidence of the various interpretations of this design.
What does a Snake and Skull Tattoo mean?
The meaning of a snake and skull tattoo is subjective and can vary depending on personal beliefs. Generally, the skull represents mortality while the snake represents transformation or healing. Together, the tattoo can represent the transience of life or overcoming difficult experiences.