These days, tattoos belong in just about any sub culture.
Different people get inked for different reasons as it becomes more acceptable to have tattoos.
You may see someone with a tattoo to commemorate their favorite movie or TV character.
Maybe some will use them to commit to a religious belief of even a life partner.
Still others may have no reason at all for getting a tattoo, they just happen to like the image.
In a world where it’s as common to see tea cups and knitting needles as it is to see a skull and crossbones, we forget that most traditional tattoo art can be a little on the spooky or scary side.
Tattoos of yesteryear often included daggers, spider webs, and slogans like “death before dishonor.”
Many people who are drawn to body modification are also into spooky aesthetics.
That’s perhaps why it’s more common to see Halloween tattoos than it is any other design.
Tattooed people in the past have been judged, and even today a tattoo may get you a dirty look from someone with more conservative values.
There are companies where tattoos continue to be seen as unprofessional, and even people on dating sites who specify no tattoos.
There’s something in owning that feeling of “otherness.”
Halloween is the one time of year when you can present however you like free of scrutiny, so it’s only natural that tattooed folks are fans of the holiday.
And when Halloween and tattoo art meet, that’s when the magic happens.
But Halloween hasn’t always been Halloween, and for the truly spooky at heart, these tattoos are tributes to Samhain- the pagan celebration.
Getting a tattoo of a Samhain symbol is a badass way to officially declare your rejection of all things considered “acceptable.”
It’s also just a fun way to commemorate your favorite time of year! Let’s explore.
What is Samhain?
Samhain is one of the larger holidays within the pagan wheel of the year.
These days there are those who identify as Pagan, Wiccan, or many other sub sects of Witchcraft who live by this wheel.
Samhain is a Sabbat wherein witches will acknowledge the days becoming shorter, and prepare for the Winter ahead.
It is a time to harvest everything that was grown in the summer, and give thanks to the sun.
It is also considered to be a time of year when the veil between the living and the dead is the thinnest.
Many of the rituals for Samhain include communicating with the dead.
One very beautiful ritual is known as the “dumb supper,” so named because guests do not speak at the supper.
They set an empty space for a deceased loved one, and sit in silence with their presence.
At the end of the ritual, everyone says a prayer for the loved ones and exit the room in silence.
Where Did Halloween Costumes Come From?
While Samhain may seem like a solemn time, it has become the celebratory event it is today for a reason.
Samhain may be the holiday that makes the most sense in tattoo form because a tattoo is something of a disguise.
You are choosing to change your body to reflect the way you feel on the inside, which is exactly what any kid who picks out their Halloween costume is doing.
Really, a Samhain tattoo (or a love for Samhain in general) represents a love for rebelling against the norm, and acknowledging the dark side of life. Samhain is a way to befriend death.
But why do we dress up as ghoulish creatures for Halloween?
Samhain has Celtic origins, and in Celtic traditions fairy folk were really mischievous, sometimes even evil.
Because this is a time of year when our world and the magical world intertwine, people wore costumes to avoid being kidnapped or meddled with by fae folk.
Costumes were traditionally scary, because it only made sense to look as frightening as possible for any demons or evil spirits who may be lurking about.
Trick or Treating came from a tradition of walking door to door to sing to the dead, something the homeowner would reward with a soul cake.
This would typically be either a dried fruit cake, or a shortbread like dessert.
How did Samhain become Halloween?
In short, the Christian church has never been a fan of Paganism.
Many Christian holidays and “feast days” are planned strategically around Pagan festivals to distract and dissuade people from these traditions.
Samhain became “All Hallow’s Eve” which eventually became Halloween- a more sanitized update on the Pagan classic.
Common Symbols in Samhain Tattoos
So, you’ve decided to rage against the machine with a Samhain tattoo to commemorate your spooky self. Congratulations!
A Samhain tattoo can really be anything that gets you in an October mood, but here are a few common themes.
For obvious reasons, a cartoon-y (or not so cartoon-y, depending on your art style) ghost can be a fun way to pay homage to the origins of Halloween.
A Black Cat
In Celtic mythology, there is a fairy creature known as The Cat Sìth who likes to steal human souls. (go to Celtic Tattoos for more!)
The Cat Sìth is a cat with black fur and a white spot on its chest.
One legend refers to this cat’s 9 lives, and another suggests that The Cat Sìth is a witch who can shape shift.
On Samhain, it was important to find ways to keep this demonic cat away, or at least distracted, from all the fresh souls wandering the earth.
Pumpkins are a traditional fall vegetable, so any gourd is good for a Samhain tattoo!
An homage to the original “soul cakes,” Samhain wouldn’t be the same without a little sugar.
Samhain Tattoo Ideas
Samhain is a time of year to let your freak flag fly, and get in touch with your ancestors.
Having a Samhain tattoo keeps a little of that magic by your side at all times- so why not embrace it?
Not sure what kind of tattoo to get?
Check out our gallery for some spooky inspiration!