Snake Tattoo Meaning
It should be no surprise then that since there have been tattoos, there have been snake tattoos.
Snakes are found on every continent except for Antarctica.
Looking into the mythology of yesteryear, it seems people have always been fascinated by snakes.
Often feared, these creatures can have venom, can constrict prey, 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 not.
The snake remains a popular motif in tattoos to this day, with plenty of traditional and contemporary styles to choose from.
In this article, we’ll look at some of the meanings of snake tattoos and share ideas for snake tattoo designs and placement.
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.
The first and most obvious meaning of a snake tattoo is change or rebirth.
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.
Both traditional Irezumi and neo-Japanese tattoos often incorporate animals and mythical creatures such as birds, fish, and dragons.
The snake also appears frequently in these intricate designs, usually in coiled or winding motifs similar to Japanese dragons.
Snake Tattoo Meaning in Hinduism
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, misfortune, and the relationship between ephemerality 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, whose 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.
Quetzalcoatl tattoos often represent the forces of nature, particularly the rain, water, and winds.
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 the 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 tight twine 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.
Celtic Snake Tattoos
Knot tattoos are a very common choice for Celtic tattoo designs, so it makes sense that the snake would also be a popular animal for this style.
The Irish Celts believed the snake to be a symbol for healing, wisdom, and rebirth due to the shedding of its skin.
Formed of interlocking patterns, these intricate tattoos are normally black and white and share a similar complex style to Viking tattoos.
Uraeus Tattoos (Egyptian Snake)
Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs and symbols are frequently used in tattoo art.
The Uraeus is a symbol associated with the early Egyptian serpent goddess, Wadjet.
Representing royalty and divine authority, the Uraeus is a cobra in an upright pose – sometimes with a sun disc and large horns atop its head.
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 jones.
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 limb 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 temporality and the adversity of life.
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 the final exit.
The caduceus is the name of the staff of the ancient Greek messenger god Hermes.
It is a short staff entwined with two serpents and detailed with wings at the top.
It bears a great similarity to the Rod of Asclepius, which you may recognize as the main symbol of healthcare in the USA.
Both symbols represent medicine, with the only difference being the number of snakes (the Rod of Asclepius only having one).
Appearing on multiple flags and coats of arms, Caduceus tattoo is one of the most recognizable snake symbols, making it a popular tattoo choice.
Though Nāga may appear in stories and artwork from any country that embraces these practices, they are most common to South Asian and Southeast Asian traditions.
The serpent that Nāga most closely resembles is a Cobra, sometimes with many heads.
Depending on the religious tradition, Nāga may be portrayed as a human with snakes on their heads and necks, half human half snake, or completely snake-like in appearance.
Nāga tattoos are beautiful and ornate.
One rule of thumb you can follow if you are certain you want a Nāga tattoo but want to be as respectful as possible is to consider the placement of your tattoo.
Above the waist tattoos are generally considered more respectful, as this part of your body is higher off the ground.
Nāga tattoos can symbolize so many things, depending on the practice and region.
Ultimately, they can be seen as a symbol of protection, and being an earthly assistant to divine beings.
Most Nāga tattoos are in black and grey with pops of color and are fairly traditional in appearance.
“Don’t tread on me” Snake Tattoos (Gadsden Flag)
If you live in the USA, you may already be familiar with the Gadsden flag.
Named after the politician Christopher Gadsden, it was designed in 1775 during the American Revolution and used by the Continental Marines.
These days, it’s mostly associated with gun rights activists and has become a common tattoo symbol for firearms enthusiasts.
It’s also used to represent support for the US military.
It depicts a coiled snake with the motto “don’t tread on me” underneath.
Although snake tattoos based on myths and legends are always popular, many choose to get tattoos based on real types of snakes.
There are many different groups of snakes in the wild, but some are more common than others when it comes to getting inked.
Let’s take a look at four of the most popular types of snake.
The venomous cobra is a master hunter known for its fierceness and agility.
In the halls of Ancient Egypt, it was considered a royal animal that would protect the pharaohs and even follow them into the afterlife.
One of the reasons it’s such a popular type of snake tattoo is its hood, which gives it a distinctive look.
Coral Snake Tattoos
The coral snake is another type of snake that’s popular due to its distinctive look.
There are two groups of coral snakes found in Asia and the Americas, and both have bold red, black and yellow markings.
In nature, this pattern acts as a warning sign as coral snakes have the second most deadly venom in the world.
As a tattoo, a coral snake can be used to represent danger.
Rattlesnakes don’t need to warn off predators with their markings, the sound of their tail does the job just fine.
They are commonly found in the Americas, and some Native American tribes associate them with violence and acts of revenge.
Other tribes consider the rattlesnake to be a sacred animal with links to lightning and rain, whereas across the Pacific in Japan, the rattlesnake is often associated with a strong spirit and seen as a sign of protection.
Unlike the other snakes we’ve discussed so far, kingsnakes are non-venomous.
There are 45 subspecies of kingsnake, and many of these have vibrant patterns similar to the coral snake.
This also makes them a great choice for a tattoo, as you can really show off a range of colors, such as the reds, whites, and blacks of the scarlet kingsnake.
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.
Since snakes are such a popular choice for a tattoo subject, themes range from Medieval mythology and folklore to modern pop culture.
Here are some of the main themes to consider for a snake tattoo.
- Cobra Snake Tattoo Meaning
Known to include the most venomous snake in the world, cobras are unpredictable 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 venoms.
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 limb or neck.
The coiled snake tattoo’s meaning is pernicious.
It means that you have the power to react when provoked and that you are always ready to strike.
It can even mean that our dark side that when let out can be shattering.
A snake coils itself up when it’s ready to strike.
As a symbol, it’s often used to represent the defense of deterrence, which plays into the theme of danger in snake tattoos.
A lot of snake tattoos show the reptile coiled around an object such as a skull, a flower, or a sword.
- Sword & Snake Tattoo Meaning
A lot of snake tattoos include a sword or dagger in the design.
The reason for this? Well, mostly it’s just because it’s an interesting motif that looks great and plays into the theme of danger that a snake tattoo represents.
When a snake is wrapped around a sword in a tattoo, the imagery is sinister.
Swords are frequently seen in American traditional tattoos, making it an excellent choice when it comes to deciding the style of your tattoo.
Most of these tattoos position the snake with its head at the hilt of the weapon and its tail wrapping around the blade.
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 the end.
The sword tattoo symbolizes vigor and power, while the snake represents the ability to be caught by a predator and taken down.
This tattoo could either be used to express that you are a powerful person, or show yourself that you have no fears.
- 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 tattoo 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.
An evolution of the ouroboros symbol, infinity snake tattoos also represent eternity.
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 sound 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 tattoo 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.
Dragons and snakes share a number of similar characteristics, making them a perfect couple for a tattoo design.
Examples of these include tribal-style tattoos or Neo-Japanese tattoos with the creatures intertwined or fighting.
- 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 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 & Skull Tattoo Meaning
In art and tattoos, snakes have always been closely linked with the macabre.
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 ephemerality.
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 ephemerality because the venom of the snake could be lethal and the skull symbolizes the fragility of life.
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 ephemerality is combined with the snake’s meaning of fertility and being born again.
Skull tattoos are an obvious symbol of death, and throwing a snake into the mix can add to the Gothic theme of the tattoo due to the creature’s often deadly nature.
However, as we mentioned earlier, snakes can also be a symbol of rebirth, so the exact meaning of a skull and snake tattoo is up to you.
- Snake Skeleton Tattoos
The snake is a fearsome-looking creature when it’s alive, but a skeletal snake tattoo can look even more imposing.
Creating a truly Gothic look with the reptile’s fangs and bones on full display, a skeleton snake tattoo emphasizes the deadly nature of the creature and the themes of death and rebirth.
- Snake Tattoos with Flower Tattoos
Flowers are usually incorporated into tattoos to add an extra flourish to a design and some variety to the colors.
Specific types of flowers can also hold their own significance, with associations to different occasions and events.
Adding some flower tattoos to the design can really make your snake tattoo stand out.
- Rose and Snake Tattoos
With their bright red petals, rose tattoos symbolize love and romance.
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 powerful look with its fangs out.
The rose tattoo looks pretty, but the snake looks wild.
Love and disrelish is the meaning of this tattoo.
The rose tattoo obviously symbolizes love, while the snake represents the wildness that comes along with it.
You could get this tattoo if you were cast down by a relationship, or if you believe love comes along with a dark side.
This tattoo means that you were let down by love.
They are also a key motif in Gothic style, with fashion labels such as Alexander McQueen adopting the flower as part of its identity, alongside skulls and insects.
This is perhaps due to the contrast between the rose’s beauty and the danger of its thorns.
A snake and rose tattoo builds on this theme and can represent passion or temptation.
- Peony and Snake Tattoos
The peony tattoo is often associated with good luck and prosperity, making it a popular flower to include in tattoos.
With Japanese and East-Asian tattoos, we see quite a lot of designs that pair dangerous creatures like lions and dragons with delicate symbols such as flowers.
This balance makes for a bold tattoo, particularly with a snake, which is seen as a protection against bad luck in Japan.
- 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’s more effective when the lotus flower is in color.
The lotus flower tattoo 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 depicted 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 wild face.
Often, the snake and tiger tattoos are combined in a very colorful image.
The tiger is known as an untamed creature while the snake too is a predator.
These two creatures share a quite scary attitude, and when placed together in a tattoo they represent unrestraint, 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 jones, and the eagle tattoo also represents having the willpower to recover.
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, mental health, unemployment, 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 wildness.
So when a snake tattoo is done purely in red, it represents the wild 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 challenging 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 snake and panther 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.
This tattoo is almost always done in color and is sometimes accented by traditional flower tattoos 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.
The panther and the snake seem to be natural enemies in tattoos.
Both top predators in places like Latin America, the pair have been known to fight when crossing paths in nature.
Most snake and panther tattoos show them engaged in battle, with the snake twisted around the big cat’s body or in between its ferocious jaws.
- 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.
Double-headed snakes have been a figure in art since the Aztecs, where serpents played a big part in Mixtec religion.
Some believe that the Aztec double-headed snake represented the Earth and the underworld.
Today in tattoo artwork, a double-headed snake is often used to represent the choices we make in life.
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 tattoo may be combined with triangles, plants, flower tattoos, 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.
It’s fitting that the ouroboros has existed as a symbol through countless cultures and eras to the present day.
The symbol, meaning tail-devourer in Greek, has actually been traced back to Ancient Egypt and is a key motif in Hindu mythology.
Its most common form is a snake in a circle eating its own tail, which represents eternity.
Common ouroboros tattoo placements include the back of the neck, the chest, and the forearm.
- 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 are the answer, and sin can creep up at any moment to get you when you least expect it.
Snake Tattoo Styles
Now that we’ve covered some of the main themes and meanings in snake tattoos, let’s explore the different types of snake tattoo designs.
- American Traditional Snake Tattoos
Snakes work particularly well with the reds, yellows, greens, and blacks often seen in American traditional tattoos, as these colors are typically found on many real types of snakes.
American traditional snake tattoos provide a visually distinct style that looks great on pretty much any skin tone due to the bold two-dimensional images and saturated hues.
- Blackwork Snake Tattoos
Blackwork snake tattoos can work just as well as colorful designs, especially if you’re trying to achieve a Gothic aesthetic.
Blackwork tattoos have their origins in Polynesian tribal tattooing but have evolved over time to include a broad range of graphic styles, with the only real requisite being a heavy use of black ink.
- Geometric Snake Tattoos
A geometric design can give your tattoo a contemporary edge through minimalist shapes and line-work.
Snakes are a great subject for a geometric tattoo, as their twisting form allows you to include multiple patterns.
- Watercolor Snake Tattoos
As the name implies, watercolor tattoos work best when there are many colors involved in the design.
Snakes are naturally vibrant animals, making them a good choice for a watercolor-style tattoo.
These are designed to look as if they have been painted and often include sweeping “brush strokes” and splashes of color.
- Tribal Snake Tattoos
A tribal tattoo is another style that focuses on bold patterns.
Originally from cultures such as Polynesia, Samoa, and the Maori, authentic tribal tattoos often tell an individual’s story, and we recommend you conduct your own research if you’re not from these cultures.
Many modern tribal tattoos share the same solid black patterns and lines without having as much significance.
A tribal tattoo can really show off the impressive markings on a snake’s back.
- New School Snake Tattoos
Originating in the 1970s, New School tattooing is a style with exaggerated, almost cartoonish, subjects and heavy use of color.
The New School style can give your snake tattoo a graffiti-like look that shows off the snake’s vivid markings and winding form in all its glory.
- Realistic Snake Tattoos
One design that will never go out of fashion is a realistic snake tattoo.
Whether you decide to go for a milk snake, rattlesnake, or cobra, the great thing about realistic tattoos is the level of detail you can put into them through shading and color.
- Neo-traditional Snake Tattoos
An evolution of the traditional tattoo style, Neo-traditional tattoos make use of the same vivid colors and bold lines, while using minimal shading.
Neo-traditional snake tattoos share some similarities with new school designs, but they’re less cartoonish and show the snake with realistic proportions.
Snake Tattoo Ideas
You should have plenty of tattoo styles and themes to choose from, so now it’s time to get inspired and think about some potential snake tattoos in greater detail.
We’ve included a few of our favorite ideas here to get you started.
- Small Snake Tattoos
If you’re new to tattooing or want to go for something subtle that doesn’t draw too much attention, we recommend a small snake tattoo.
Popular placement ideas for small snake tattoos include the neck, the hand, and just behind the ear.
If you’re going for a realistic style, you could take inspiration from some real small snakes like the rosy boa, corn snake, or ball python.
- Simple Snake Tattoos
Snake tattoos don’t have to be elaborate or in-your-face, some of the best snake tattoo designs are kept simple.
A good idea for a minimal snake tattoo is to create a design that focuses on the snake’s silhouette; you can use black ink with blank spaces in between acting as lighting.
Alternatively, you could ditch shading altogether and go for an outline of a snake.
- Black & Grey Snake Tattoos
Snakes are naturally colorful creatures, but vibrant tattoos aren’t everyone’s style.
Black and grey snake tattoos can look excellent when using a realistic or illustrative style.
Popular placements for black and grey snake tattoos include the forearm and side of the abdomen.
- White-ink Snake Tattoos
White ink tattoos are a great option for dark skin tones or for creating a subtle design on lighter skin.
White ink is often used to add highlights to a tattoo, but some of our favorite snake tattoos go in a different direction and show a fully black and fully white snake entwined.
Not only is this visually striking, but it also has some nice Yin and Yang symbolism.
- Snake Tattoos around the Arm (Bracelet Snake Tattoo)
A serpent’s shape lends itself perfectly to a bracelet tattoo, which wraps around your arm or wrist.
You could go for an ouroboros design that shows the snake biting its own tail, or a realistic design with the snake’s head and tail pointing in opposite directions.
- Cute Snake Tattoos
Snakes don’t have to be the scary creature that some people see them as!
While a fearsome snake tattoo can look great, so can a cute snake tattoo.
Try using pastel colors or a New School style to give your snake tattoo an adorable look.
- Red Snake Tattoos
Red is a color often seen on a snake’s markings, so it becomes a good choice of ink for your tattoo.
There are lots of different ways to work red into your tattoo design, from a realistic snake with red and black stripes to a simple snake tattoo that only uses red ink.
Another popular choice is to have two snakes entwined in red and black ink.
- Snake Tattoo Sleeve
As we’ve mentioned in some of our other posts, the best sleeves tend to include an animal or object that can wrap around the arm.
And what better example of this is there than a snake?
You can go as simple or complex as you like with a snake sleeve, showing just the serpent itself or other elements like flowers or geometric patterns.
Figuring out where on your body you want to get a tattoo is an important step.
Depending on style and size, there are some placement options that work better than others for a snake tattoo.
Here are our top picks for snake tattoo body placement.
- Snake Leg Tattoos
The leg is a good placement choice for a snake tattoo, particularly when going for a realistic design, as there’s plenty of room to add detail.
Popular leg placement options for snake tattoos include the calf and the thigh.
- Snake Forearm Tattoos
The forearm is a classic spot to get a snake tattoo, as you can have the reptile slithering around your arm or wrapped around your wrist in a bracelet style.
Some of the best forearm snake tattoos we’ve seen start at the elbow and end with the snake’s head on the back of the hand.
- Snake Chest Tattoos
You have several different options when considering a snake chest tattoo.
Firstly, you can go symmetrical with two snakes on either side of your chest.
Secondly, you can cover the whole of your chest with a twisting snake tattoo, either in color or in black ink.
A third option is to go for a simple snake tattoo in the middle of your sternum.
Remember, chest tattoos can be quite painful but you also have the benefit of being able to easily cover them up.
- Snake Back Tattoos
Most back tattoos place the snake between the shoulder blades and up the spine.
Black ink tattoos are a popular choice for snake back tattoos, many of which feature floral embellishments for the snake to hide in.
As the back is such a large canvas, you can get really creative with different styles and colors should you wish to.
- Snake Finger Tattoos
In contrast to something as large as a back tattoo, snakes can also fit perfectly onto a small area of the body like your finger.
You’ll probably want to keep your design relatively simple, but you can choose to have the snake on the top of your finger or coiled around it like a ring.
Which finger you choose is up to you, but by far the most popular we’ve seen is the middle finger (for obvious reasons).
- Snake Thigh Tattoos
As we mentioned earlier, the thigh is a popular placement choice for a snake tattoo.
Skull and snake tattoos work well with this area of the body, as do floral and Neo-traditional designs.
- Snake Neck Tattoos
You can either go large or small with a snake neck tattoo.
Some of the best small tattoos are situated at the back of the neck or close to the ear, ranging from simple cute designs to detailed snake and sword motifs.
Larger snake neck tattoos tend to be done in a Japanese or traditional American style, with the snake’s open jaws at the side of the neck.
Snake Tattoos in Pop Culture
The snake isn’t just a popular symbol in ancient art and mythology – it’s appeared in countless forms throughout modern literature, movies, TV, and fashion.
Let’s take a look at some of the most iconic snake tattoo ideas in the zeitgeist.
- Gucci Snake Tattoos
Luxury fashion label Gucci has adopted the kingsnake as one of its recurring motifs, with the red, white and black reptile appearing on the brand’s designer clothes and accessories.
The use of the kingsnake comes from Creative Director Alessandro Michele’s love for animals and was chosen for its ties to power and sensuality in Roman mythology.
The Gucci kingsnake logo makes a great tattoo for fans of the Italian brand, as it’s subtle enough to pass as a regular snake tattoo while being a nod to those in the know.
- Harry Potter Snake Tattoos
Snakes are a huge theme in the Harry Potter series by JK Rowling.
Not only is a snake the official mascot for Slytherin house at Hogwarts, but the Death Eaters are identified by the Dark Mark: a magical tattoo of a snake and skull on the forearm.
We’re not sure we’d want to be associated with Voldermort’s followers, but the tattoo itself is undeniably cool.
Let’s not forget that snakes have been adversaries for Harry on multiple occasions, with the basilisk in the Chamber of Secrets, and Nagini, Voldemort’s Maledictus pet.
- ‘Join, or Die’ Snake Tattoos
Created by Benjamin Franklin in 1754, ‘Join, or Die’ is a political cartoon designed to emphasize the importance of unity in America.
It shows a snake cut up into eight segments, which represent the American colonies or regions.
The cartoon was very influential in encouraging the fight for independence leading up to and during the American Revolutionary War.
Today, it has become a popular tattoo design that represents patriotism and a strong spirit.
Is It Bad Luck to Have a Snake Tattoo?
A common superstition is that snake tattoos will bring you bad luck.
This is probably due to the negative connotations of snakes in certain religions like Christianity, where the devil appears as a serpent in the garden of Eden.
Some followers of Hinduism also believe that snake tattoos can mean bad luck, but there are no overt rules against snake tattoos in particular and this is by no means a common belief throughout the faith.
A snake tattoo may be a bad omen to some, but the meaning couldn’t be more different in Japan.
According to Japanese tradition, a snake tattoo can be a symbol of protection against bad luck or illness, as well as symbolizing wisdom and strength.
There are some tattoos that superstitious tattoo artists generally believe to be bad luck, but snakes are rarely ever among them.
As with any tattoo, the exact meaning is largely up to the person getting it done.
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 fangs, bring a lot of character to a tattoo.
Snakes may be scary to some people and are often viewed as intimidating, but as we’ve proved they can make for a meaningful tattoo that means more than that.
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.
There are so many ways to express yourself with a snake tattoo.
The scaly animal has been a key motif in tattoo artwork since ancient times and we see no sign of it ever going out of fashion.
You can draw inspiration from different historical tattoo styles and mythological serpents or pay respects to your favorite franchises with a pop culture tattoo.
Whether you decide to go for a fearsome version of the animal coiled and ready to strike, a contemporary geometric version, or a cute and friendly-looking snake, we hope this article has given you plenty of inspiration for your next tattoo.
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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!