Death tattoos seem very ominous to most people. But ask anyone who deals with symbolism and they will tell you that death often represents the cycle of life. Death tattoos may not only be a symbol of the life cycle, or an image of Grim Reaper. They may also be a memorial to a lost loved one.
An example of this may be either a color or monotone portrait of a relative, friend, or even a well loved pet. These images may have symbols that are a reminder of the life of this individual and may also bear the dates of birth and death, and occasionally a poem or a quote that has a significant meaning.
Some people decide to use more esoteric images when choosing their death tattoos. A good example of this would be the tarot card which represents death. Though under certain circumstances this can be translated literally, the traditional meaning is a representation of a person being brought to his lowest form in life, only to be brought back up. This is a symbol of transformation. Although there are many variations of this card, one of the most recognizable images is that of a skeletal figure walking through a bone garden, trying desperately to reach the sunrise at the other end. It is important to remember when choosing a placement for this design that many tarot readers believe that a card drawn upside down bears the opposite meaning.
There are many symbols that may be used in death tattoos. These symbols can be a signifier of the passing of time such as clocks, hour glasses and candles. Some may be animals that have long been associated with death such as crows, vultures and bats. Some people prefer religious symbols such as gods like Ptah and Osiris, who governed the afterlife. In Buddhism, the wheel is a symbol of reincarnation; in Christianity, the visage of an angel is a symbol of lost spirits finding their way into heaven.
Many people also like to use images from the Day of the Dead celebration in Mexico. Skeletal figures are often used in these death tattoos, and they are usually quite colorful. Many of the colors used in these designs have a special meaning; purple signifies mourning, pink celebration, white for hope, and so on. An interesting image that may be used is the picture of a skeleton swathed in orange and red ribbon, walking up a path of marigold petals to its alter.
There are many reasons to get a tattoo of death. Most likely, though, these reasons will be less about actual death, and more about your understanding and appreciation for your life and the lives of those you hold dearest.