The Meaning behind the Skull and Crossbones

Skull and Crossbones is a Lasting Symbol

The skull and crossbones is one of the most universally known symbols.  It is a symbol of death, it tells you to stay away, in many ways it is a warning.  But where did the symbol start?  How has the meaning changed over all of these years?  Why does it seem that the skull and crossbones is more popular now than it ever has been.

skull and crossbones pendant

Where did the symbol begin?

 It is hard to imagine just were such a widely adopted symbol comes from, or who was the first to "design" the symbol.  This is one such symbol.  Skulls and bones have been used for thousands of years.  The Etruscans used skulls and bones as symbols to tell a store of life and death.  The Mayans also showed the symbols in their art and sculpture.  But this is not where the symbol really became popular.


The symbol was places along the entrances of graveyards and on tombstones.  This symbolized a feeling of the Middle Ages known as "Momento Mori".  This was also called the dance with death.  We are mortal and must remember that so we can really live.

Skull and Crossbones

From that the symbol started to branch out.  What was once supposed to be a reminder of life and rebirth became associated to danger.  The most popular use of the symbol is during the age of exploration and it's use by pirates.  Pirates adopted this symbol to strike fear into their prey.  The symbol became the Jolly Roger.

Fear and Warning

The symbol went from living your life and prepare for rebirth to death and fear.  The skull and crossbones now means piracy, fear, warning and poison.  The symbol is also used by secret societies and military branches.  

DePaula Trading

I use the skull in artwork a lot.  So much so, I felt the need to write this blog post.  To me the skull and crossbones means what it originally meant, to live life to the fullest.