It’s understandable that people want to shield themselves from spooky and unpleasant things, and humdingers of death are precisely from this category. But what many of us don’t know is that skulls are more than death.
If you see someone flaunting a skull ring, bracelet, or pendant, it doesn’t mean that this person wants to die or wishes death to others. The precise meaning of this accessory is known only to this person but it’s because a skull is a multifaceted symbol. That being said, there are some common meanings of the skull, and you ought to know about them so that death heads don’t shock you anymore.
The Skull is Life
Paradoxically, but skulls are symbols of eternal life and resurrection in many ancient and modern cultures. It comes as no surprise that our ancestors believed in the magical properties of skulls and bones. After all, unlike flesh, they don’t deteriorate. And if something is indestructible, it must be eternal. That’s was the logic of ancient people.
From times immemorial, people wanted to live forever. For our ancestors, eternal life seemed attainable; they just needed a way to open the doors to the world of immortals. In their eyes, a skull was a key to this door. It was something like a binder between our world and the world where immortals live. If to use it in magical rituals and rites, it will give the gift of eternal life to a person who asks for it. You have probably seen human and animal skulls in the hands of shamans, or skull-clad altars in ancient shrines, now you understand why they are there.
It would seem like the civilized world gave up on the idea of eternal life but nope, we still want to live longer and protect our lives from the Grim Reaper. One of the modern cultures that believes in the anti-death properties of skulls is bikers. They don’t think that the skull is going to bestow anyone with life-that-never-ends though. What they believe is that the skull is able to protect from premature death. If a guy on a motorcycle carries a death mark (i.e. the skull), a Grim Reaper will never cross paths with him. For this reason, motorcyclists have a penchant for skull jewelry for bikers, as well as prints, decals, and tattoos depicting this powerful symbol.
The Skull is Intelligence
Just like Scarecrow of the Wizard of Ozz was longing for a brain, people keep searching for intelligence and wisdom. A skull is supposed to help in this search.
One of the most revered Olympic goddesses Athena represented wisdom and law. She patronized the bearers of knowledge and was the personification of knowledge that underlies the universe. She was born from the skull of Zeus and her shield carried the head of Medusa the Gorgon. In ancient Tibetan culture, gods were depicted with enlarged heads to testify to their boundless wisdom. These are a few examples from the past to illustrate that the head together with the skull were symbols of intelligence and wisdom.
In the Middle Ages, the position of the skull as a symbol of intelligence became even stronger. Medieval scientists learned that the brain is the center of mental activity, it controls all processes in the body, and it is the key to the intelligence of Homo Sapiens. Since the skull is a vessel of the brain, it acquired the meaning of wisdom as well. Medieval philosophical treatises on rationality often carried images of skulls. Skulls were depicted together with a snake. A serpent crawling out of an eye socket is a long-standing symbol of wisdom, life experience, and longevity.
The Skull is Bravery
Ancient tribesmen used the skulls of animals and humans to show how brave and fearless they were. The more skulls a man carried, the more courageous he was considered to be. No wonder, it takes a lot of courage to defeat so many enemies. Skulls became an indispensable attribute of warfare. Ancient Aztecs sacrificed the skulls of their enemies to the gods, Ancient Romans depicted skulls on their shields and amour, and pirates had the Jolly Roger flag to intimidate their victims and make them surrender. In the 20th century, a skull was an emblem of the Weimar Army and the troops of the Third Reich.
We have already mentioned that bikers wear skulls to escape death. One more reason why men on motorcycles revere this symbol is their military past. The founding fathers of the biker movement were decommissioned soldiers who fought on the battlefields of WWII. They used to draw skulls on military aircraft and trucks to intimidate the adversary, and when the war was over, they remained to live on their mean machines. But the main purpose of incorporating skulls into the insignia was to show that bikers are not scared of anyone. They are fearless, brave, and audacious.