Snake Tattoo Meaning
Snakes are found on every continent except for Antarctica.
Often feared, these creatures can have venom, can constrict prey to death, and have vicious-looking split tongues with long slippery bodies.
So why would someone want a tattoo of a snake, if they are such horrible animals?
Well, though many meanings associated with snakes are related to their evil connotations, many people love snakes and even have them as pets.
I guess when it comes to snakes, you either love them or hate them.
Either way, they certainly can make great tattoos and have many interesting meanings such as:
- Rebirth/Circle of Life
A main theme in snake tattoos is the meaning of rebirth, or the snake representing the circle of life.
Snakes are seen as an animal that regenerates and lives for a long time.
Snakes are survivors and predators, who take life and give it.
Snakes can pop out at any time and are always waiting to strike.
Therefore, they have the symbolism of unpredictability, meaning for many tattoos that you are a person who doesn’t play by the rules.
No matter where you are in the world, snakes are considered mysterious creatures because they slither on the ground and seem to appear out of nowhere.
Snake tattoos can mean that you are a mysterious person who keeps a low profile and has many secrets.
- Your Dark Side/Sin
Finally, there is the obvious Christian connotation for snakes representing sin.
Not only that, snakes lead to thoughts of the dark side of life and a snake tattoo can represent that part of yourself that you may not like but want to be more comfortable with.
Snake Tattoo Meanings Across Various Cultures
Since snakes exist all over the world in many variations of their species, each culture has come up with its own meanings related to the snake.
Here’s what the snake tattoo means to different cultures around the world:
Japanese Snake Tattoo Meanings
Although for many, seeing a snake would undoubtedly be a bad omen, it’s the opposite for Japanese snake tattoos.
In fact, snake tattoos to the Japanese mean good luck!
They are also viewed as guardians of treasure, so Japanese snake tattoos are often posed with valuable items.
Not only can a Japanese snake tattoo bring you good luck in wealth and protection of your riches, but it can also represent knowledge.
It is important to note one of the most important snake motifs, the Battle Royal tattoo, which pairs a snake with eagles, panthers, and other vicious creatures.
These animals are in an intense fight and the snake is one of the central components.
When done in a Japanese style, this tattoo is highly colorful and lively.
Its meaning is the fact that its wearer can face any challenge and when a battle arises; you will be ready to fight and won’t be a coward when confronted with aggression.
Snake Tattoo Meaning in Hinduism
In India, snakes have been known to kill many by their bite and were once the most common cause of death.
Therefore, ancient Indians both feared and respected snakes.
In Hinduism, the God Indra has control over all snakes.
Also, a God named Vasuki is regarded as the king of snakes.
As you can see, snakes are a vital part of Hindu culture.
As for the snake as a tattoo, in Hindu culture, the tattoo can symbolize anything from infinity, desire, kundalini energy (sexual energy), destructive tendencies, the pain of harsh words, misfortune, and the relationship between death and time.
All of these different meanings have to do with the movement of energy in the body and the Gods’ relationship with snakes.
Aztec Snake Tattoo Meaning
An Aztec snake tattoo often looks similar to the statues of snakes that the Aztecs had: the tattoo often has many blocks, representing stones, and forming the snake’s head and mouth.
The stone snake also commonly has a headdress with feathers flowing behind its large face.
The Aztecs worshiped a double-headed serpent and the two heads may have represented the Earth and the underworld.
The meaning of this two-headed snake was rebirth because the snake can shed its skin and almost have a new body form.
The Aztec snake tattoo can also symbolize energy, wisdom, and power.
The Aztecs worshiped the God Quetzalcoatl, who’s name means ‘precious snake’.
He was the God of light and life itself, as well as the winds and the west.
He was one of the most important Gods to the Aztecs, making him have a strong symbolism in tattoos.
In fact, a Quetzalcoatl tattoo may also represent being wise in life and having a good life in general.
Chinese Snake Tattoo Meaning
Chinese snake tattoos are mostly colorful and wrap around in a pleasing shape, with their mouths open and the serpent’s tongue flying outward.
Sometimes the snake wrapped around flowers or enters boldly from a pattern of spiraling wind.
To the Chinese, the snake is a Zodiak sign with the colors black, red, and yellow.
The snake symbolizes mysteriousness because snakes can slither around and pop up in unexpected places.
This tattoo’s meaning is that you are someone who no one can quite figure out and that you like your privacy.
Also, Chinese snake tattoos can mean luck, the search for pure happiness in life, a long life, and fortune.
Snake Tattoo Meaning in Christianity
A Christian snake tattoo may show the snake in the garden of Eden.
It may also show the snake strangling a desperate animal or a bursting heart to show how evil the snake is in Christianity.
To Christians, the snake represents its crafty and cunning nature from the Bible where it lured Adam and Eve into a trap (for the most part, we all know this tale).
As a tattoo, it symbolizes the fight against evil and to always look to God when facing moral decisions instead of listening to sin, which is represented by the serpent.
Snake Tattoo Meaning in Norse Mythology
These tattoos have Norse symbols on the inside of the snake and the serpent is wrapped into a figure-eight or other tightly wound shape.
They are usually black or black and orange and are filled with Norse symbolism.
In Norse mythology, there is a terrifying serpent called the Jormungandr, which grew so large that it could grab all of Earth.
It is believed that, in a way, the world will start over/end when the serpent decides to release its grasp on the Earth.
Having this tattoo means that you believe the world will end and you probably would have some belief in this myth.
If not, you could just want a tattoo that symbolizes great power in the spirits of this world and the fact that one day the world will end.
Snake Tattoo Meaning in Gangs or Prison
To Russian prisoners, as well as many other incarcerated people around the world, a snake coiled around the neck or collar bones symbolizes a battle with addiction.
This tattoo may have a triangle pattern on the serpent’s body with interchanging grey and black triangles.
The snake’s head and the tip of its tail are in the front, and the serpent’s tongue sticks out menacingly.
The snake is also a common gang tattoo meaning anti-authoritarianism.
In other words, this tattoo means to the person who is wearing it that gangs should control society as well as other social groups instead of the government.
Tribal Snake Tattoo Meaning
Tribal snake tattoos can be designed in interesting ways: tribal tattoos can combine many tribal symbols and thick black lines to create the body of the snake.
The serpent may also be coiled tightly with its head sticking out at the top or may be climbing someone’s arm with a curving body.
These are typically done in black or grey ink, however, sometimes red is added.
The meaning of a tribal snake tattoo depends on the culture it represents.
It can mean anything from protection, the cycle of life, power, intelligence, or evil.
Typically the tribal snake is provided with a lot of power because the snake is a predator animal with much influence on societies, especially on ancient societies.
Snakes are represented in Greek mythology as a symbol of death and the evil that exists in the world. The Greeks used snakes in many of their decorations, including funerary decorations, as well as forming body parts of mythological creatures.
Greek Mythology Snake Tattoos
A Greek-style snake tattoo is typically shown as part of Medusa’s head or as part of the background of the image of a God or Goddess such as Athena.
When Athena is surrounded by snakes, for example, it emphasizes her Godlike qualities of being able to live forever and her ability to influence people’s lives from above.
When Greek tattoos are done alone they look like they belong on a Greek vase in their style and shape.
The meaning of these snake tattoos is immortality and that you do not have a fear of death.
Meanings of Different Snake Tattoo Designs
There are hundreds of snake designs, so we had to narrow it down to the most popular designs out there.
Tattoo artists can manipulate the body of the snake, its notorious tongue, and add accents to the snake to create new meanings or to emphasize the serpent’s own meanings.
Let’s check out some of the best snake designs:
- Cobra Snake Tattoo Meaning
Known to include the most venomous snake in the world, cobras are dangerous animals.
Because of their venomous nature, cobra tattoos often show their mouths open and their tongues flailing with menacing fangs.
These tattoos can be black or in color but always show the fangs.
Cobra tattoos can have different meanings depending on your gender.
For example, for men, a cobra tattoo means that you have a dark intelligence and a capable mind which can cause harm to others.
For women, the emphasis is more on the snake’s unpredictability and slyness.
It can also mean that you are a mysterious woman that hides your thought and attacks at a whim.
- Coral Snake Tattoo Meaning
Coral snakes are known for their colors: they are comprised of reddish-orange, yellow, and black stripes.
Therefore, these tattoos are not typically done with simply black ink because they wouldn’t capture the essence of the coral snake.
Artists play around with the body of this snake, moving its body in all sorts of shapes and variations of movement.
Coral snakes lay below the surface in leaves and bushes, coming out only to attack prey.
They do this by holding into their prey with their fangs for some time to release all of their venom.
The meaning of these colorful snakes is mysteriousness, because of their interesting hiding and attacking nature.
This tattoo also means that you are relentless– once you get hold of someone, you won’t let them go.
- Coiled Snake Tattoo Meaning
A coiled snake tattoo is a dynamic way for an artist to design a snake tattoo and offers a lot of choices in imagery.
For instance, the snake could be coiled around something like its prey or a symbol.
The snake could also be coiled around yourself– the snake could be wrapped around your arm or neck.
The coiled snake tattoo’s meaning is deadly.
It means that you have the power to attack when provoked and that you are always ready to strike.
It can even mean that our dark side that when let out can be destructive.
- Sword & Snake Tattoo Meaning
When a snake is wrapped around a sword in a tattoo, the imagery is very sinister and threatening.
It is even darker when the snake’s fangs and tongue are exposed, leaning over the top of the sword ready to strike at a moment’s notice.
The meaning of this tattoo is that you are not afraid of death.
The sword symbolizes violence and death, while the snake represents the ability to be caught by a predator and taken down.
This tattoo could either be used to intimidate people and make them feel that you are a powerful and dangerous person, or show yourself that you have no fear of pain and you are ready to face danger.
- Snake & Moon Tattoo Meaning
How does a moon fit in with a snake tattoo?
Well, the different variations of the moon may be in a semicircle around the snake’s head, or a crescent moon may be illustrated next to the snake, just as examples.
There are so many ways to design this type of tattoo.
The serpent may even be wrapped around the moon!
As far as the meaning of this tattoo, the moon itself symbolizes mystery because it is up in the sky and changes every day into a new shape.
Since the snake also symbolizes mysteriousness, this tattoo means that there are many unknowns in life and one of them is sinister like a serpent.
There is always the chance of evil to take a part in our lives, and we must always watch over ourselves as the moon does.
The moon offers protection, as does the serpent, from evil coming into our lives.
- Infinity Snake Tattoo Meaning
The infinity snake tattoo is just as it sounds: it’s a snake coiled into the shape of an infinity symbol.
There may be some light coloring like some greens or yellows in these tattoos, however, they use black ink for the most part.
Sometimes, in a more gruesome tattoo design, the snake is in an infinity symbol, and where it meets it is eating its own tail.
The infinity symbol represents rebirth or the cycle of life moving in one big circle that is never-ending.
The snake, because of the way it sheds its skin and lives for a long time, also represents rebirth.
Therefore, this tattoo means that you believe you will be born again or that time for a soul is endless.
You will always exist, and so will the universe.
If you believe in this philosophy of life or if it fits in at all with your religious beliefs, this would be a great tattoo for you.
- Dragon & Snake Tattoo Meaning
The dragon and the snake in a tattoo together sounds odd at first, but it actually makes a lot of sense.
They are both considered mystical in one way or another and they both are powerful and feared creatures.
As far as their design, they can be wrapped around one another, their bodies can be morphed together, or they can appear to be fighting.
You may be wondering– what’s the meaning of all this?
Well, the two creatures represent yin and yang.
The dragon represents fire and wild ambition, while the snake represents a more cunning and rational side.
These two powerful beings with different personalities when put together create balance.
- Snake & Peony Tattoo Meaning
Snake and peony tattoos can be very beautiful.
The snake is often wrapped around the peony in an aesthetically pleasing way, or flowing through a bouquet of the flowers.
This tattoo can be done in color or not, depending on what design pleases you the most.
The peony often is seen as a flower that represents femininity.
In the case of the snake and the peony put together, the snake could represent masculinity, therefore the image symbolized the balance of these two features of personality.
This leads to the meaning as well that life has a cycle that is full of balance.
- Snake & Rose Tattoo Meaning
This tattoo shows the snake coiled around the flower as well, in this case, a rose.
The difference here is the snake usually has a fierce look with its fangs out.
The rose looks pretty, but the snake looks dangerous and aggressive.
Love and hate is the meaning of this tattoo.
The rose tattoo obviously symbolizes love, while the snake represents the danger and hate that comes along with it.
You could get this tattoo if you were deeply hurt by a relationship, or if you believe love comes along with a dark side.
This tattoo means that you were wounded by love.
- Snake & Skull Tattoo Meaning
Both of these images bring out our dark side.
This tattoo has a snake wrapped around a skull– a powerful and evil snake surrounding a symbol of death.
Sometimes to add character the snake moves through the skull’s eyes and mouth, slithering through the skull in a cunning and wicked manner.
A snake and skull tattoo reminds us of our own mortality because the snake has venom that can kill you and the skull symbolizes someone who is already dead.
The snake also represents fertility, so, yet again, we come back to the snake tattoo symbolizes the circle of life a rebirth as the skull tattoo meaning of death is combined with the snake’s meaning of fertility and being born again.
- Snake & Lotus Tattoo Meaning
The snake in this tattoo is tangled in the lotus flower which often has a stem.
Sometimes the lotus flowers are simply placed on top of the snake in a proper placement so that the imagery makes sense.
This tattoo can be in black and white but it more impactful when the lotus flower is in color.
The lotus flower typically means spiritual enlightenment and peace on Earth.
This doesn’t seem to match what a snake tattoo typically means.
Therefore, when they are placed together in a tattoo design, they represent the opposites in life: life is about peace and destruction.
This sort of yin and yang meaning is a powerful one because it says of the wearer that you spiritually understand that life is split into these two concepts.
- Snake & Butterfly Tattoo Meaning
The snake and butterfly tattoo usually has the snake arranged in a pleasing way with its body crossed, tangled, or climbing upwards in waves.
The butterfly is typically to the right or left of the snake’s head, or even is sitting on top of its head.
Butterfly tattoos symbolize love, rebirth, and femininity.
This is compared with the snake, which can also symbolize rebirth and fertility, which is similar in meaning.
When the two are combined their meaning of rebirth is accentuated and this tends to be a feminine tattoo.
It can symbolize rebirth, such as a child being born new to this world, or for a woman the spiritual belief that they will be born again.
- Tiger & Snake Tattoo Meaning
With this tattoo, sometimes the snake and the tiger are fighting in a complicated battle with paws and tails flying.
Alternatively, the snake can be wrapped around the tiger’s head even going through its mouth with the tiger making a fierce face.
Often, the two animals are combined in a very colorful image.
The tiger is known as a dangerous and ferocious creature while the snake too is a predator known for killing its victims with venom or strangulation.
These two creatures share a quite scary attitude, and when placed together in a tattoo they represent danger, power, and the ability to succeed in what you are going after in life.
- Eagle & Snake Tattoo Meaning
The tattoo of an eagle and a snake often shows their faces meeting and their bodies facing each other.
Almost always on color, and often in the American Traditional style, this tattoo may show the two animals fighting, or the artist may choose to have the eagle perched on top of a slithering snake.
Interestingly, we mentioned the snake tattoo around the neck meaning a struggle with addiction, and the eagle tattoo also represents having the willpower to recover from illnesses, especially addiction.
Also, the eagle symbolized fearlessness.
Because of this, when placed along with a snake, this tattoo means that you are not afraid to face a difficult challenge, including addiction, mental health, unemployment, disease, grief, or whatever you are going through.
- Red Snake Tattoo Meaning
Red snake tattoos are beautiful, especially on the rib cage.
They can be very simple, such as just a brief outline of a snake using red lines.
This tattoo may also be a snake outlined in black lines and partially filled in with the color red.
Red, especially in the animal kingdom, typically means danger.
So when a snake tattoo is done purely in red, it represents the dangerous nature of snakes and their venom and shows that the wearer of this tattoo is not afraid of a little risk.
It could also symbolize that you have overcome a dangerous event in life and have arisen victorious and perhaps not unharmed, but unphased because you didn’t let it get to you.
- Panther & Snake Tattoo Meaning
The panther and snake tattoo often shows the two animals in battle with each other, mouths open and teeth and fangs out for the fight.
Sometimes the snake is wrapped around the panther, trying to strangle it to death.
This tattoo is almost always done in color and is sometimes accented by flowers with leaves or stems.
The panther is a savage being, and like a snake, is a strong predator.
When the two predators are combined into one tattoo, they represent the unpredictability of an attack.
This tattoo means that life is overall unpredictable, and should not be taken lightly.
It can also represent the battle between two sides of your personality when the design shows the two animals fighting.
- Two-Headed Snake Tattoo Meaning
The two-headed snake tattoo is one of the more interesting snake tattoo designs because it allows the artist a lot of options to create a beautiful image.
Often in black and white, the two heads face away from each other, face forward, or more rarely face each other.
This tattoo often has a flower placed at the spot where their heads connect, or the two-headed snake is even traveling through an image of someone’s hand.
In Aztec tattoos, the double-headed snake represented intelligence.
However, typically in cultures, this type of snake symbolizes transformation, rebirth, and renewal.
The two heads show that the snake can multiply itself which suggests thoughts of rebirth and renewal of the body and the mind.
This tattoo represents the spiritual meaning of rebirth and the cycle of life.
- Ouroboros Tattoo Meaning
The Ouroborus is a snake eating its own tail.
This imagery is often symmetrical, showing the snake in a perfect circle with its mouth at its tail.
Also, the snake may be eating itself in a figure eight positioning.
The ouroboros may be combined with triangles, plants, flowers, moons, and more symbols which add aesthetic value and sometimes may even add to its meaning.
This tattoo’s meaning is perhaps quite clear.
It means rebirth or regeneration, referring to the cycle of life.
As the snake eats itself, it forms a circle or figure-eight of constant eating and re-growing.
The ouroboros tattoo means that life will go on and no one can stop history from repeating itself.
- Rooster & Snake Tattoo Meaning
This tattoo is usually a big colorful battle.
Feathers and venom flying, this tattoo is all about a fight between two mean and aggressive animals.
The colors used are usually reds, yellow, and oranges.
Many people may not be aware of this, but roosters fight.
They fight for dominance constantly and with great aggression.
Since most of these tattoos show these two animals in a battle, perhaps a battle for dominance, this tattoo could symbolize the battle to fight sin within oneself.
It is a constant fight to keep evil away, and these two fighting show that peace and love is that answer, and sin can creep up at any moment to get you when you least expect it.
Snake tattoos are great for many reasons.
They can be feminine or masculine, making them a versatile tattoo image.
Also, their bodies can be morphed into many different shapes which helps create meaning and make beautiful images.
Not to mention their faces, which have a long tongue and fierce fangs which bring a lot of character to a tattoo.
Snakes may be scary to some people and are often viewed as evil or dangerous, but as we’ve proved they can make for a meaningful tattoo that means more than simple danger or fear.
Snake tattoos have a lot of symbolism for many cultures and can be created in some excellent designs, providing a lot of designs to choose from.
Alyssa Renee Hardy is a writer, curator, and photographer who publishes articles on the topics of the arts, culture, and social justice. She graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology with a degree in fashion business and art history and museum professions. Her experience working with a variety of art institutions, her world travel, and her inquisitive nature provides her with a unique insight. Check out her about page, she would love to connect with you!