Snake Tattoo Meaning

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Brief Overview of Snake Symbolism

When you’re considering a snake tattoo, it’s vital to understand the extensive symbolism associated with these fascinating creatures. Snakes have been a part of human folklore, myths, and art for thousands of years, embodying a diverse range of meanings.

Some view the snake as a symbol of evil, bad luck, or temptation, while others see it as a representation of rebirth, healing, and transformation. The snake’s ability to shed its skin is synonymous with metamorphosis and growth. Its coiled form, ready to strike, can denote potential and latent energy. Understanding this symbolism can help you find the perfect idea for your snake tattoo.

Snake Tattoo on Upper Arm
Snake Tattoo on Upper Arm (Photo by Micael Faccio / CC BY)

The History and Cultural Significance of Snake Tattoos

A snake tattoo is more than just a piece of art; it carries centuries of cultural significance. Ancient cultures around the world held snakes in high regard, attributing them with divine and mystical properties.

They appeared in religious rituals, royal insignia, and tribal markings, often symbolizing power, wisdom, or protection. Recognizing this rich historical context adds depth to your snake tattoo, imbuing it with a sense of continuity and connection to the past.

The Symbolism of Snake Tattoos

Snake Tattoos in Different Cultures

Snake Tattoos in Psychoanalysis

In the realm of psychoanalysis, a snake tattoo can take on a different meaning. The snake, due to its phallic shape, is often interpreted as a symbol of sexuality and primal energy.

If you’re drawn to this interpretation, your snake tattoo could represent your connection to your deepest desires, your raw, instinctual nature, or your passion. It’s a bold choice, suggesting an embrace of your own sexuality and natural urges.

Snake Tattoos in Asiatic Philosophy: The Kundalini Snake

If you’re fascinated by Eastern philosophies, a Kundalini snake tattoo could be an intriguing choice. In these traditions, the Kundalini snake is coiled at the base of the spine, symbolizing dormant life energy waiting to be awakened through meditation.

Choosing a Kundalini snake for your tattoo could signify your spiritual journey or your quest to unlock your full potential.

Kundalini Serpent Coiled in Belly Around Sushumna Nadi (Thin White Vertical Line) With Ida and Pingala Nadis on either Side (White Vertical Lines) And Chakras Above
Kundalini Serpent Coiled in Belly Around Sushumna Nadi (Thin White Vertical Line) With Ida and Pingala Nadis on either Side (White Vertical Lines) And Chakras Above (Public Domain)

Snake Tattoos in Ancient Indian Tradition: Nagas

For those drawn to the mythologies of ancient India, a tattoo of a Naga, or snake deity, may be appealing. In Indian tradition, these snake-like demigods were seen as guardians of earthly treasures, often portrayed as human-snake hybrids.

Opting for a Naga snake tattoo could symbolize your protective nature, or your reverence for the treasures of life.

Snake Tattoos in Japanese Mythology: Yamata-no-orochi

Japanese mythology offers a captivating tale of the storm god Susano-o’s victory over the eight-headed snake, Yamata-no-orochi.

Should you choose a tattoo depicting this epic battle, it could symbolize your triumph over personal challenges or your capacity to overcome adversity. This unique Japanese snake tattoo serves as a constant reminder of your resilience and strength.

Japanese Snake Tattoo
Japanese Snake Tattoo (Photo by Micael Faccio / CC BY)

Snake Tattoos in Medieval Jewish Legend: Samael

In Jewish legend, the snake in the Garden of Eden is called Samael, associated with Lucifer, the Prince of Darkness.

A tattoo featuring Samael could represent your appreciation for ancient stories, your exploration of the duality of good and evil, or your recognition of the temptation that exists in life.

The Elements and Aspects of Snake Tattoos

The Shedding Skin: Symbol of Renewal and Life

One key aspect to consider for your snake tattoo is the snake shedding its skin. This powerful symbol of renewal and rebirth can speak to your personal growth, indicating your ability to shed old habits or past experiences and move forward with newfound wisdom.

If you’ve undergone significant changes in your life, this element of a snake tattoo could serve as a poignant reminder of your transformation.

Old School Snake Around Palm Tree Tattoo
Old School Snake Around Palm Tree Tattoo (Photo by Shannon Archuleta / CC BY)

Snake’s Proximity to Water: Symbol of Fertility and Life

Another distinctive feature to think about is the snake’s association with water. In many cultures, the snake is linked to rivers and rainfall, symbols of life and fertility.

A snake tattoo that incorporates water elements could represent your creative energy, your life-giving qualities, or your connection to nature and the cycles of life.

The Coiled Snake: Symbol of Potential and Latent Energy

The image of a coiled snake, ready to strike, is a potent symbol of potential and latent energy.

If you’re someone who is always ready for action, or if you’re at a stage in your life where you’re preparing for significant changes, a coiled snake tattoo might be the perfect embodiment of your current state. It’s a powerful reminder of your inner strength and readiness to leap into the future.

Blue Snake Tattoo Done as a Cover Up
Blue Snake Tattoo Done as a Cover Up (Photo by Ettore Bechis / CC BY)

The Chinese Zodiac Snake: Symbol of Slyness and Wisdom

If you were born in a year governed by the snake in the Chinese zodiac, you might want to consider a snake tattoo that reflects this aspect. In Chinese astrology, the snake is associated with wisdom, but also considered sly and cunning.

This could symbolize your strategic mind, your ability to navigate complex situations, or your deep understanding of life’s intricacies.

Snake Tattoo Designs

Simplistic Snake Tattoos

Simplicity can often be the most striking choice when it comes to tattoo designs. A minimalist snake tattoo, maybe just a simple outline or a geometric representation, can be incredibly effective.

A simple snake tattoo could signify your preference for subtlety, your love for simplicity, or your belief in the power of understated elegance.

Small Snake Tattoo
Small Snake Tattoo (Photo by Steffan Fredrik Kylland / CC BY)

Detailed Snake Tattoos

If you’re the type who loves intricate designs, a highly detailed and realistic tattoo might be for you.

With each scale meticulously inked, this type of snake tattoo can represent your attention to detail, your appreciation for complexity, or your love for realism. It could also symbolize your belief that beauty lies in the details.

Snake Tattoos with Additional Elements

Adding other elements to your snake tattoo can further enhance its meaning. You could incorporate flowers, symbols, or other animals to create a unique snake tattoo that encapsulates your personal story or values.

Snake Coiled Around Sword Tattoo
Snake Coiled Around Sword Tattoo (Photo by Alexandria Perone / CC BY)

A snake head tattoo with a rose, for instance, could symbolize the delicate balance between beauty and danger. A snake wrapped around a staff, a symbol known as the Caduceus, could represent healing and medicine.

Large Scale Snake Tattoos

If you’re looking to make a bold statement, a large-scale snake tattoo might be your ideal choice. This could cover an entire arm, leg, or even your back.

A large snake tattoo could signify your daring nature, your willingness to stand out, or your commitment to your chosen symbolism.

Small and Subtle Snake Tattoos

A small and subtle snake tattoo can be just as impactful as a larger one. A snake wrist tattoo, or a tattoo design on the ankle (although the ankle bone can be a painful spot), or behind the ear, serves as a personal emblem that’s not immediately noticeable.

A small snake tattoo could symbolize your private nature, your preference for personal symbols, or your belief in the power of the unseen.

Interpreting Snake Tattoos Through Color Symbolism

The Vibrant Red Snake Tattoo: Passion and Danger

If you’re looking to get a snake tattoo that radiates energy, passion, and a sense of danger, consider a design that incorporates a red snake. The color red in a tattoo can indicate a fiery spirit, intense emotions, and a courageous heart.

When combined with a snake, it can represent your resilience in the face of adversity and your power to overcome. You’re passionate about life and unafraid to take risks – and your red snake tattoo can convey this to the world.

The Mysterious Black Snake Tattoo: Knowledge and Secrecy

Are you a keeper of secrets and a seeker of profound knowledge? A black snake tattoo might just be the design you’re searching for. Black, an enigmatic and powerful color, often stands for the hidden, the mysterious, and the unknown.

Black Snake Head Tattoo
Black Snake Head Tattoo (Photo by Tony Alter / CC BY)

When combined with the symbolic snake, your tattoo could represent a deep quest for wisdom or it could be a sign of your ability to keep secrets. It’s a powerful symbol that says you’re not afraid to delve into the mysteries of life.

The Serene Blue Snake Tattoo: Wisdom and Healing

If your personal journey leans more towards wisdom and healing, a blue snake tattoo is a compelling choice. The color blue is often associated with tranquility, wisdom, and therapeutic healing.

When paired with a snake, it creates a symbol that speaks of calm wisdom and the power to heal – maybe you’re someone who brings peace to chaotic situations or you’re a natural healer. Your blue snake tattoo tells your story of wisdom and healing to the world.

Mythological Snake Tattoos and Their Meanings

The Medusa Tattoo: Transformation and Female Empowerment

A Medusa-inspired snake tattoo could be a powerful way to express your belief in transformation and female empowerment. Medusa, a woman transformed into a monster with snakes for hair in Greek mythology, is now widely regarded as a symbol of female strength and resistance.

Mosaic With Symbol of Gorgon
Mosaic With Symbol of Gorgon (Photo by Ad Meskens / CC BY)

If you see yourself as a strong, independent person who has undergone significant changes in life, a Medusa snake tattoo could be an empowering choice.

The Ouroboros Tattoo: Eternal Cycle of Life and Death

Have you ever considered an Ouroboros snake tattoo? The Ouroboros, an ancient symbol depicting a snake eating its own tail, represents the eternal cycle of life and death, renewal and rebirth. It tells the world that you understand and accept the transient nature of existence and the never-ending cycle of life.

Ouroboros Tattoo on Upper Back
Ouroboros Tattoo on Upper Back (Photo by Meredith Leigh Collins / CC BY)

It’s a powerful symbol for those who believe in life after death, reincarnation, or simply the idea that life is a cycle of changes and transformations.

Integrating Other Elements into Your Snake Tattoo

Snake and Dagger Tattoos: Defense and Resilience

If you’ve faced tough situations in life and come out stronger, consider a snake and dagger tattoo. The dagger is a symbol of protection and resilience, while the snake represents adaptability and transformation.

Together, they create a powerful symbol of your ability to protect yourself and adapt to life’s challenges. It’s a design that speaks volumes about your inner strength and your ability to rise above adversity.

Snake and Skull Tattoos: Mortality and the Afterlife

Thinking about mortality can be sobering, but it’s also a part of life. If you’re someone who acknowledges the inevitability of death and perhaps even believes in an afterlife, a snake and skull tattoo could be the perfect design for you.

The skull is a universal symbol of death and mortality, while the snake, with its ability to shed its skin, represents rebirth and renewal. Together, they can symbolize your acceptance of life’s ultimate truth and the possibility of life beyond death.

Placement Considerations for Snake Tattoos

Snake Tattoos on Arm: Strength and Protection

When you’re deciding on the placement of your snake tattoo, an arm design could be a powerful choice. The arm is a visible part of your body, and a snake tattoo here could become a prominent part of your identity.

It’s not just about visibility, though – an arm tattoo or a snake forearm tattoo can symbolize strength and capability. If your snake tattoo represents resilience, adaptability, or personal growth, placing it on your arm can underscore these attributes. It’s like wearing your power on your sleeve, quite literally.

Two Snake Tattoos on Forearm
Two Snake Tattoos on Forearm (Photo by Pamela Carls / CC BY)

Snake Tattoos on the Leg: A Symbol of Forward Movement

A snake tattoo on your leg can be a powerful statement about your journey and progress. Legs carry us forward in life, and a snake here can represent your ability to adapt and evolve as you move ahead.

Whether you’ve overcome obstacles, transformed yourself, or simply grown as a person, a snake wrapped on your leg can be a symbol of your personal journey and a testament to your forward movement in life.

Choosing a Snake Tattoo on Your Back

If you’re considering a larger, more intricate snake tattoo, your back could be the ideal canvas. A snake tattoo here can represent personal growth and transformation that others might not immediately see but is integral to who you are.

Just as a snake sheds its skin, you might have shed old habits or ways of thinking, growing into a new, improved version of yourself. A back tattoo allows you to carry this symbol of transformation with you, reminding you of your journey and growth.

The Intimate and Personal Nature of a Snake Tattoo on the Chest

A snake chest tattoo can be an intimate and personal symbol. Your chest is close to your heart, often associated with love, courage, and your core self. A snake tattoo here can represent deep-seated transformation, passionate beliefs, or a courageous heart.

It could be a symbol of love, an emblem of personal growth that’s close to your heart, or a sign of courage and resilience. A chest tattoo is a deeply personal choice, and a snake design here can be a powerful expression of your innermost beliefs and experiences.


Choosing to get a snake tattoo is a powerful decision. As you’ve seen, snakes carry deep and varied symbolism across different cultures and philosophies. By understanding these meanings, you can make an informed choice about the design and elements of your snake tattoo. Whether it’s a symbol of transformation, a nod to your birth year in the Chinese zodiac, or a tribute to ancient legends, your snake tattoo can be a deeply personal emblem of your beliefs, experiences, or aspirations.

Snake with Apple Tattoo
Snake with Apple Tattoo (Photo by Tony Alter / CC BY)

Remember, your snake tattoo can represent anything you want it to – it’s your body art and your story. Whether you opt for a simple outline or an intricate, large-scale design, the most important thing is that your snake tattoo resonates with you on a personal level. It’s a way of wearing your history, your triumphs, your struggles, or your dreams on your skin.

In the end, the meaning of your snake tattoo is as unique and individual as you are. It’s a mark of your journey, a symbol of your growth, and a testament to your strength. So, whether you’re a lover of mythology, a student of psychoanalysis, a spiritual seeker, or someone who simply admires the beauty and complexity of snakes, a snake tattoo can be a powerful and meaningful choice.

Give your tattoo the thought it deserves and embrace the process of choosing your design. That way, you’ll end up with a unique snake tattoo that you’ll be proud to wear for the rest of your life. Enjoy the journey and welcome to the fascinating world of snake tattoos.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I combine my snake tattoo with other symbols?

Absolutely. Snake tattoos are versatile and can be combined with other symbols to add layers of meaning. For example, if you choose to incorporate an apple, it can symbolize knowledge or temptation, drawing from the biblical story of Adam and Eve. A skull can represent mortality, making the snake a symbol of life’s cycle. Remember, your tattoo should be a reflection of your personal journey and beliefs. Combining different symbols allows you to create a design that’s uniquely yours.

I’m not sure which type of snake I want in my tattoo. Does the species of the snake matter?

Yes, the species of the snake can add another layer of meaning to your tattoo. Each type of snake carries its own symbolism. For instance, a cobra, with its hood and potential for danger, can symbolize power and authority. On the other hand, a python, known for its strength and hunting prowess, can represent stealth, strategy, and patience. The choice of species can be a great way to fine-tune the symbolism and personalize your snake tattoo.

How can I ensure that my snake tattoo ages well?

While this does not directly involve aftercare, the aging of your tattoo depends on several factors. First, the quality of the ink and skill of your tattoo artist plays a crucial role. Second, the area where you get the tattoo can also influence how well it ages. Areas with thinner skin or those exposed to a lot of sun and friction might fade faster. Detailed designs might also blur over time. To ensure your snake tattoo remains vibrant and clear for as long as possible, consider its placement and design carefully, and always protect it from excessive sun exposure.

May 11, 2023