The end of October marks the date of a holiday called the Day of the Dead (also called Dia de los Muertos). This overlaps with Halloween and ends on the second of November. Deeply rooted in Mexican religious beliefs, the tradition merged ancient Aztec rituals with the European Halloween. The original holiday was in the middle of August, but merged with Halloween due to their similar themes. It honors the death of ancestors with food, songs, dances, and all kinds of parties. Day of the Dead tattoos center around Santa Muerte, or the Lady of the Dead.
Day of the Dead Tattoos Meaning
Although most tattoos show a living girl with markings of skeletons, roses, and jewels, they actually serve to revere the skeleton. Once you die, your skeleton endures longer than any other part of your body. Unlike European cultures, these artists treat the skeleton with pure respect, since the only proof someone graced the planet rests within their bones. One of the artists who popularized the concept, David de la Torre, explained that, “Death brings this neutralizing force; Everyone is equal in the end. Sometimes people have to be reminded.”
Day of the Dead Skull Tattoos
The goddess Mictecacihuatl, the ‘original’ skeleton lady, ruled over death. People heavily associated her with skulls. Also called Lady of the dead, she took care of the underworld and ruled everything during the month of August (or its Aztec equivalent). Other references to the goddess include the sugar skulls that you see frequently leading up to Halloween. The sugar skulls in particular form an important part of the day.
Day of the Dead Meanings and Symbols
Although many people focus on November 2nd as the main day of the holiday, it actually stretches through three distinct days. The first is All Hallows Eve—Halloween, in other words. On November 1st , everyone sets up altars for adults who died for All Saints Day. Finally, on November 2nd, everyone celebrates All Souls Day. At the same time, some people honor Day of the Innocents on November 1st and a general Day of the Dead on November 2nd. The exact belief and date varies depending on the family.
Dia de Los Muertos Tattoos
Even though people practice differently, every one starts the Day of the Dead by making an altar. The altar respects the deceased. It could be someone who died recently or someone who died long ago, or it could be a great many people, so long as they were dead and remembered. The altars are made especially for children—or angelitos—who died while they were still innocent. They are covered with the flowers of the dead, Marigolds, as well as a special bread made for them called Muertos. Then, they place sugar skulls, cut out skeletons, tissue paper in the shape of flowers, and all kinds of extra foods. At the end of the Holiday, everything gets eaten…after all, the dead had their fill.
Should You Go for It?
When getting Day of the Dead tattoos, there are plenty of ways to go about it. You can decorate the face of someone you love, setting up an altar on your own skin. Or, you could get a tattoo of La Calavera Catrina or Mictecahuhuatl. You could even get a sugar skull, which lends itself well to tattoo designs!
As always, thanks for reading, and be sure to check out the rest of our galleries like the Tattoo Removal Before and After one!