The Symbol Of The Skull: Subculture Or Pop Culture

These days, we see the skull symbol emblazoned on everything from toddler socks to nightclub wear. In any American mall, youth specialty store or discount store, one can see it’s image in many forms. Jewelry, jackets, tee-shirts and other apparel sparkling with rhinestone or other artistic depictions. Heads aren’t not just for Halloween, any more!

Why all the interest? Skulls are hardly a sign of rebellion or devil worship, nowadays. Once a powerful symbol of death and intellectualism, the bony remains of the human head are now cliche, maybe even boring. Too mainstream for a true biker and and so ordinary, even in its many artistic depictions, that it doesn’t even satisfy the morbid curiosity of your average grade school student.

Skull imagery has long been associated with death and it’s transcendence; human spirituality, if you will. It is a reminder of our mortality, the transitory nature of life and by its existence after the end of chronological life, the limitations of human knowledge and understanding.

Skulls have also been given magical properties and religious significance throughout mankind’s existence. Skull necklaces have been worn by the people of many cultures to ward off evil deities, or alternatively, by the gods themselves, to communicate wrath and misfortune to those who oppose them. Christians associate skulls with penitent sainthood and the washing away of human sin. Freemasons use the emblem to symbolize their organization’s hierarchy, in addition to the transience of materialism.

Interestingly, the bones of the human head are more often expressed as icons of good luck or resurrection, than bad luck. The misfortune of death is ultimately followed by the possibility of final liberation in native American and Mexican folklore. The Day of the Dead, a popular Mexican tradition, celebrates the passing of ancestors and relatives, by the wearing of skulls in jewelry, as well as cranial consumption in fabulously morbid confections! Along the same lines, skulls may be used as gambling talisman, believed to reverse bad luck and symbolize luck in adversity, similar to black cats and the number seven, in gambling lore.

Most of us know skulls as emblems of danger, as depicted on a bottle of poison; hate as depicted at the entrance to Nazi death camps or fear, as expressed by the apocolyptic iconograpy displayed on tee-shirts. This symbolic artistry no longer inspires horror but can still draw attention to a myriad of social causes or antisocial angst, so wear your skulls proudly and let the rest of us guess at your message!

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