The Skull: A transcendant symbol of DEATH & LIFE

Life has a way of reminding us constantly of Loss and Death…and to honor that reality I have decided to Finish my Back Ink with a “Sugar Skull“…this did not come without much consideration and reflection on personal experience.
Quote from María Antonieta Sánchez de Escamilla:
Sometimes a child feels squeamish about death
and admits to fearing skulls and skeletons.
When this happens, I tell my pupils to touch themselves.
“Why are you afraid?”
, I ask,
“when each of you owns a skull and skeleton.
We all carry death within us.”
They feel themselves and they say: “Yes it’s true,
we too are made of bones.”
There is a History to the “Sugar Skull” beginning in Mexico, where my family is from…
Skulls themselves are such rich, fascinating, frightening and yet compelling symbols. Skull art and representation is most often present during the Mexican celebration of DAY OF THE DEAD, but interestingly the cult of the “skull” is almost universal; many cities around the world have preserved it due to the belief that in it the powers of the deceased can be found. In pre-Hispanic Mexico rituals were dedicated to them.
The Aztecs and other Meso-American civilizations kept skulls as trophies and displayed them during the ritual. The skulls were used to symbolize death and rebirth.
Unlike the Spaniards, who viewed death as the end of life, the natives viewed it as the continuation of life. Instead of fearing death, they embraced it.
To them, life was a dream and only in death did they become truly awake.
“The pre-Hispanic people honored duality as being dynamic,” said Christina Gonzalez, senior lecturer on Hispanic issues at Arizona State University. “They didn’t separate death from pain, wealth from poverty like they did in Western cultures.”
However, the Spaniards considered the ritual to be sacrilegious. They perceived the indigenous people to be barbaric and pagan.
In their attempts to convert them to Catholicism, the Spaniards tried to kill the ritual.

TODAY the skulls are made of CANDY and come in different sizes. Sugar is dissolved in water until it becomes a thick syrup which is then poured into molds. Once the sugar hardens it is decorated with colored sugar and brightly colored paper cut-ups. Finally, a Christian name is placed on the forehead of the skull. In this manner one can buy a candy skull with the name of a friend or relative so that they can “eat their skull.”
Candy skulls and figurines made of sugar are also used in the altars, symbolizing the deceased who are being honored. In the new offering in Morelos, candy skulls specifically symbolize the head of the honoree, whose body is represented by the altar.

But like the old Aztec spirits, the ritual refused to die.
THE SKULL also has literary meaning: Calaveras (short satiric poems, literally meaning “skulls”) are equally alive through the celebration of the Day of the Dead. These verses poke fun, in the form of an epitaph, at the defects of people who are presented as dead. This tradition that originated in colonial times has ties to certain religious expressions of the High European Middle Ages which can be seen in the Danza de la Muerte (Death’s Dance) and the indigenous pre-colonial beliefs that reflect death as an inseparable companion.
One of the best known calaveras, is the one dedicated to an ex-dictator of Mexico, General Porfirio Diaz:
“The English man is a skeleton
so is the Italian
and Maximilian;
the Roman Pontiff,
all cardinals
kinga, dukes and councilmen
and the Head of State
in the grave are all the same:
only a pile of skeletons.”
I recognize that this representation of the calaveras, is another reflection of the Lotus on my back, with one difference, rather than a symbol of “rising from death,” this ink is meant to represent acceptance of LOSS & DEATH in the moment, as beauty, as hardship, as LIFE.
THANK YOU…for joining me, through it all…with love always, cc.

3 thoughts on “The Skull: A transcendant symbol of DEATH & LIFE

  1. askshungooota80 says:

    This is a really great blog post about sugar skull tattoos. Good luck on your tattoo it sounds like a great design that you have thought about and have some good reasons to get. That means you will be sure to enjoy the final result. I have a blog post that features a sugar skull tattoo gallery on it that you might enjoy Anyway good analysis and description of the customs and traditional of the sugar skull. Love to see pictures of the final project.

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