The Sugar Skull is a popular choice for a tattoo and is a design chosen for many different reasons. Traditionally, Sugar Skulls were created to honor our lost loved ones but also representation of anyone that has passed away.
This is only a small snippet of the history around Sugar Skulls, and our way of acknowledging ‘The Day of The Dead’ and ‘Halloween’ and the diversity of the Sugar Skull Tattoo. However choosing to have a Tattoo and a particular design should continue to be as individual and as personal as the Sugar Skull itself.
A little bit of Sugar Skull History
The Sugar Skull is one of the more recognizable figures or images that is seen during the Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) festivities in Central and Southern Mexico. With festivities lasting for a couple of days, starting, allegedly, with the gates of heaven opening at midnight on 31st October to enable the spirits of children to be reunited with their families for 24 hours. On the 2nd November adult spirits will then come down to join in with the festivities. The smaller sugar skulls placed on the ofrenda (alter) are to represent deceased children whilst the larger, and more ornate skulls that replace them represent lost adults. These dates coincide with recognizable dates within our own calendar, Halloween, All Saints and All Souls Day.
The Sugar Skull is used to decorate the ofrendas (alter) on Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), and was traditionally made from molded sugar. The skulls will often have the persons name written on the forehead and will also be placed either at the home or on the gravestone to encourage the return of that individual spirit. Believing that death is not the finality; but a move to a higher level of conscience; as a happier spirit is more likely to provide protection, good luck and wisdom to their families. The history of Sugar Art can be traced back to the Italian missionaries of the 17th century, where sugar lambs and angels were made to celebrate Easter, with Sugar Skulls being used for festivals by the 18th century.
The design of the Sugar Skull reflects the art style of the region and will depict the skulls smiling, they are adorned with sparkly ornaments, feathers and are decorated with swirls and dots of icing to enhancing the skulls features. The designs are brightly coloured, fanciful and highly ornate. Symbolism of a sugar skull is focused in the decoration around the eyes. Flowers to symbolize life and cobwebs death. Burning candles inside the eyes are used as a sign of remembrance.
Sugar Skull Tattoos
Tattooists have enjoyed using sugar skull for their artistic creativity for many years, making it a long-standing and popular choice for a tattoo design.
The marigold known as the “flower of the dead’ is the most common flower used for a more traditional sugar skull tattoo design.
Sugar skull tattoo designs are usually very colorful, just as they are in real life, and any colour combinations can be used.
Sugar skull tattoo designs are typically more of an animated shaped skull, but there are also plenty of designs where a realistic skull is used. It is said that women tend to choose the stylized shaped sugar skull tattoo while men seem to be more partial to the more realistic approach.
The eyes of the sugar skull tattoo designs may depict the eyes as flowers, hearts, candles, or diamonds and other precious stones.
Sugar skull tattoo designs, as with real sugar skulls will often include a multitude of related symbols such as stars, birds, flowers, hearts, vines etc. Many of which are chosen are significant to the person.