The Photographer’s Space


Accessories with skulls - varieties, meanings, properties

Modern fashion offers consumers thousands of products with different designs, both completely neutral and quite noticeable, which will certainly attract the attention of those around you. Among the latter are a ring and a bracelet with skulls from the collection of the Ukrainian brand Yantar Polissya - What are such trifles - an outrage on the verge of a foul or a powerful charm? What are they like and why are they so popular? The answers to these questions are in our article.

Перстень з рогу оленя та бурштину «Череп»

The history of the symbol is antiquity and paganism

Human remains have always been honored with special respect, interest and a little fear. Already in the days of the early Paleolithic, our ancestors had special territories for burials. So, one of the oldest graves known to archaeologists, found in a cave on the coast of Kenya (Africa), dates back to 78 millennium BC, and the deceased was carefully wrapped in what looked like a shroud, and a pillow was placed under the back of his head. At that stage of the development of civilization (in science it is called the "primitive herd"), such behavior was one of the few features that distinguished the Homo species from other animals.

Over time, the tradition of preserving and decorating relics only intensified, and the heads of the dead - the receptacles of consciousness - were treated with the greatest reverence. From the Bronze Age (3,300-600 BC) they were treated with herbal decoctions and tannins, polished, decorated with carvings or inlays, framed in wood, stone, and precious metals. Such artifacts are found all over the earth - from Australia to the Arctic. However, they were not just an aesthetic object - due to the resistance of bone tissues to decay, these creations were also used for religious purposes, embodying the power of the family, vital energy, luck, talents or good health. Hence the custom of collecting and using the skulls of fallen enemies as bowls: according to ancient beliefs, they brought victory to their owner and protected them from attacks. Scalps planted on stakes or fences warded off evil spirits and ailments, buried in the field - gave a rich harvest and prevented drought, and buried under the foundation of a house or shore supports of a bridge - contributed to their durability and strength.
The duality of interpretation was also observed in later periods. Ishtar (Inanna, Astarte - the main goddess in Sumero-Akkadian mythology) was depicted standing on a pile of skulls, hinting that she patronizes both war and carnal love, childbirth and the afterlife. The refreshed head with blood flowing from the eye sockets belongs to the fierce destroyer Kali (Durga), who was also considered a mother figure in the Hindu pantheon. The Egyptian Isis sent fertility and cared for the dead, which is why miniature skeletons dance under her feet on temple frescoes. The Greeks revered Athena Pallas - the owner of knowledge and law, who was born from the forehead of Zeus, split by a migraine, and her own aegis (overlay on a battle shield) became the head of the Chthonian monster Medusa Gorgon with snakes instead of hair.


The skull is an important detail of Scandinavian mythology. The Vikings in a similar form - without flesh, but with a beard and in a horned helmet - depicted ancestors who give useful advice to their descendants. Most likely, the basis of the story is in the saga of the giant Mimir, whose severed but still living and talking head guarded the source of wisdom. In addition, this part of the body played a central role in cosmogony (the creation of the universe): from the top of the giant Ymir, the sky was created, from the brain - clouds, and hair turned into trees, bushes and grass. Germanic tribes planted such remains on a pole and carved runes on them to curse their opponents. And among the Celts, Scythians and Huns, relics won in a brutal battle became a measure of military success - they were displayed at the entrance to the tent, hung from horse harnesses and belts so that the souls of the fallen would not find peace and serve the victor forever.

In the Roman Empire, the skull represented the vicissitudes of Fortune and the inexorable passage of time. Banquet halls, baths, and even public houses were decorated with mosaics and panels with this theme, so that their visitors would appreciate every moment of life and enjoy it to the fullest. A similar sign could be seen on the flags of the legionnaires - there he reminded that one should not get too excited about a fleeting triumph. Later, this emblem was used in almost all branches of the army - infantry, cavalry, aviation, assault, landing and tank units - with the reference: "We perish, but our glory is immortal."

In South America, the skull is a symbol of sacred sacrifice and the seed from which the next generation will grow. In the pre-Columbian culture of the Aztecs, there were mass sacrifices on an incredible scale, while bodies were only building material - palisades-zompantli, temples and towers were built from severed heads. One of them was excavated in the very center of Mexico City (the capital of Mexico): 5 meters in diameter and 4-5 meters high. Similar buildings were also found in the Mayan city of Chichen Itza (located in the north of the Yucatan Peninsula) - the largest of them was 35 m long and 14 m wide.

Черепа, зняті з цомпантлі і складені на зразок вежі
Skulls removed from tsompantli and stacked like a tower

It is interesting that there are almost the same buildings in Europe - only the skulls for them are, of course, taken from people who have already died. These are ossuaries (in the literal translation - "ossuaries") - crypts or chapels, the interior of which is made of skeletonized remains to save space in the cemetery. The most famous such sights are the crypt of the Capuchins in Santa Maria della Concepcion (Rome, Italy), the Gothic monastery in Sedlec (Czech Republic) and the huge catacombs in Paris (there are fragments of almost 6 million bodies!).

Christianity - from original sin to a fashionable attribute

In theology, the skull is called "Adam's head" because of the apocryphal legend that the ashes of the first man rested on Golgotha (whose name probably comes from the Aramaic word "gogulto" - "forehead place"). After a thousand years, the blood of Jesus Christ washed him, metaphorically redeeming the ancient defilement, correcting hellish torments and oblivion. Therefore, such a drawing is often present on Crucifixes, church utensils, monastic robes.

Medieval theologians equated the skull with the Holy Grail - the seat of innocence, purity and grace, and its loss illustrated the expulsion from paradise. It also marks biblical stories of the Last Judgment and the motif of the "Dance of Death", which arose after the terrible plague pandemic in 1346-1535 - in Europe alone, up to 60% of the population died from it. Cups were also made from the heads of locally respected saints - allegedly, drinking from them, one could be cured of epilepsy, leprosy, and fever.

In the icon painting, the skull is a sign of a recluse who rejected the worldly for the sake of spiritual search and reflection on the impermanence of existence. In the XVI-XVII centuries. this interpretation penetrated the secular painting of Flanders, the Netherlands, Spain and France, transforming into the philosophy of vanitas (from the Latin term "vanitas" - "vanity, nonsense, vanity"). It was based on a verse from the Book of Ecclesiastes (Old Testament): "Vanity is vanity - all is vanity!" (Eccl. 1:2), where the preacher complains about how small and insignificant human achievements, plans and dreams seem compared to the almighty Lord. No matter what heights a commander, scientist, king or poet reaches, death equalizes everyone, so one should not blindly pursue pleasures. To shade similar still lifes, objects with a similar interpretation were added to them - withering flowers, overripe fruits, broken dishes, extinguished candles, soap bubbles, a clock and medical instruments.

Among the Puritans (a branch of Protestantism, very common in England, and later in America), the skull was almost the only permitted type of decoration, because the adherents of this faith staunchly denied all kinds of luxury and excess. Therefore, dead heads with wings or surrounded by the sun's rays decorated both tombstones and pocket chronometers, buckles, tie pins, women's caskets and handkerchiefs, symbolizing the future resurrection and the forgiveness of all sins.

But in other religions, the range of interpretation is much wider. For example, among Buddhists, the skull is the source of the elixir of immortality and an element of the wheel of Sansara (the road that the soul takes in its quest to get rid of the shackles of karma). In Zoroastrianism (a teaching based on the revelation of the prophet Zarathustra), such remains are inhabited by dangerous deva spirits, which is why they must be kept in roofless mausoleums. Hindus, going away to an ashram (an abode of sages, located far from noisy settlements), took with them a skinless head to avoid temptations. And Muslims treat relics with no less respect than living people, while believing that fate can be read by the bending joints of the facial and occipital bones.

Art, design, industry - the skull in the XIX-XXI centuries.

With the onset of the Age of Enlightenment, the gloomy emblem loses its former sacredness. It is applied to pirate flags, chevrons of military brigades, emblems of secret societies and thieves' hideouts. But such liberalization opened the way for the creativity of numerous modern and postmodern artists, constructors, and designers. For example, in the works of Gustav Klimt, the skull is a threat that prevents happiness and destroys hope. Belgian graphic designer James Ensor replaced the characters with skeletons and carnival masks to emphasize the caricature of social roles. Battle artist Vasyl Vereshchagin depicted a pyramid of sun-dried heads against the background of ruins and burnt steppe on the canvas "Apotheosis of War" (aka "Triumph of Tamerlane"), dedicating it to "conquerors - past, present and future." And the Indian Subodh Gupta built stylized relics from dishes and kitchen appliances, trying to express the absurdity of consumer society.

Густав Клімт. Життя і смерть

Due to the improvement of technologies, there was a need for conventional designations for various industries. A schematic sketch of a skull with bones immediately suggested thoughts of danger, so they began to note poisonous and radioactive substances, high voltage, fast-moving machines, regime enterprises that require constant vigilance.

In the second half of the 20th century, the skull was perceived as a slightly daring original accessory worn by punks, bikers, rockers or goths. This stereotype was broken by "haute couture" collections - elite fashion designers could not pass up such a chance to diversify clothes. Similar prints, embroideries, logos and applications are on premium items from Ralph Lauren, Alexander McQueen, Philipp Plein.

Who needs skull jewelry and how do they affect the owner?

As a rule, such products are preferred by thoughtful, decisive, remarkable people who are confident in themselves and are not afraid of other people's judgment. They clearly understand their values and priorities and are ready to defend them. These individuals are charismatic, erudite, prudent and careful, able to analyze events and act in accordance with the rapidly changing situation. And if they falter at some point, a carefully chosen charm will come to the rescue!

However, wonderful creations have other effects. They soothe, calm, give stability, courage and foresight, suggest the right actions in difficult situations, increase intuition and reduce anxiety. With such accessories, you are not at risk of migraines, dental and eye diseases, inflammation of the nerves, depression, insomnia and sudden changes in emotions. In addition, the owner is also able to endow the amulet with a unique meaning - from individual personal experiences to philosophical views. Only you can decide what your favorite decoration will mean.