Are you considering getting a snake tattoo and wondering what it might symbolize? Whether you’re captivated by the sinuous power of a serpent or the mythical history of the ouroboros, snake tattoo meaning is rich with symbolic associations.
In this post, we’ll explore the alluring realm of snake tattoo meaning and symbolism. Of course, every tattoo has its own unique meanings for the person whose skin it adorns. However, delving into the symbolism tied to the subject of your tattoo can imbue it with even deeper layers of significance beyond its artistic allure.
If you’d like more details on snake symbolism, be sure to check out my comprehensive post about snake meaning and the snake spirit animal. And if you want more details on what the symbol of the ouroboros means – a snake eating its tail – you can view that post here.
Table of Contents
What does a snake tattoo symbolize?
Here are some qualities that a snake, ouroboros, or serpent tattoo embodies. We’ll go into more detail on these below:
- Primal Energy
- Healing and Renewal
- Eternity and Infinity
- The Cycles of Nature
1. Snake Tattoo Meaning: Primal Energy
Snakes are also symbols of primal energy, which is referred to as kundalini in Hinduism. This primal energy is viewed as a healing form of divine spiritual energy, which is sourced at the base of the spine.
The symbol for this energy is a coiled snake that is waiting to unwind. So, a beautiful design for a snake tattoo is a coiled cobra unwinding on your back or stomach. In fact, many yoga practitioners believe that awaking this energy in your body can put you on the path to enlightenment. So, a snake tattoo that represents primal energy is a powerful personal symbol.
Because snakes stay connected to the Earth as they travel, and many live underground, they are also symbols of the Earth itself. In Native American cultures, the snake possesses extraordinary knowledge because they can “hear” what is happening on Earth. So, a snake tattoo is a special symbol for those who feel grounded and deeply connected to the Earth.
Of course, snakes are quiet as they slither along the ground. Even a rattlesnake only makes noise to give a warning of their presence. So, a snake tattoo is fitting symbols for someone who considers themselves the strong, silent type or for one who values subtlety and discretion.
Most of us are familiar with the story from The Book of Genesis when Eve is charmed by the serpent. Or, we’ve seen film or artwork of snake charmers supposedly soothing a cobra with their flute. Thus, a snake tattoo is also the perfect symbol for someone who is charming, mysterious, or alluring!
5. Healing and Renewal
A snake tattoo can also be a symbol of healing and renewal. You might be familiar with the symbol of the staff of Asclepius, which is a rod with one snake wrapped around it, or the staff of Hermes, which is a winged rod with two snakes. Asclepius was a god of medicine in ancient Greece. And Hermes was a god of wealth, luck, fertility, and travel. Thus, these symbols have come to be used commonly as a symbol for doctors or medicine.
The ancient Greeks, as well as other cultures, associated snakes with healing and medicine. One of the reasons is that ancient healers believed that exposure to snake venom could make a person stronger, if it didn’t kill them first. Another reason is that snakes shed their skin and regrow a new one.
Furthermore, the Aboriginal Australians and the Hopi Native Americans viewed snakes as symbols of fertility and renewal. You can read about the Aboriginal Australians’ Rainbow Serpent in my post on snake symbolism.1
Thus, a snake or serpent tattoo is a beautiful symbol for your own body’s ability to heal itself or your ability to recover after emotional trauma or another challenge.
6. Snake Tattoo Meaning: Protection
The snake is an expert at self-protection. Their ability to strike with a combination of bite and deadly venom is one of the key reasons that snakes put fear into the hearts of many people. This quality coupled with the snake’s ability to shed their skin and even regrow their tail makes them a formidable force of nature.
So, a snake tattoo is a powerful symbol of protection. This protection might relate to physical protection. Or it could also relate to protecting your emotional, financial, or even creative boundaries.
Snake tattoo meaning also includes wisdom.
Snakes have inhabited the Earth for nearly 130 million years. So, for as long as we have been here, there have been snakes. This is possibly why many ancient cultures, including the Celts and Native Americans, viewed snakes as holders of ancient wisdom and knowledge. The Celts believed that snakes and serpents originated from under the Earth, and thus, they intimately knew the world’s secrets and had universal wisdom.2
Thus, your snake or serpent tattoo can be a demonstration that you feel you are an old soul or that you are a perpetual seeker or knowledge, greater understanding, and wisdom.
Ouroboros (Snake Eating Its Tail) Tattoo Meaning
A beautiful design for a snake tattoo is the symbol of the ouroboros, which is a snake eating its tail. An ouroboros makes for the perfect arm or leg tattoo, as the symbol is a circular pattern. However, it can be intriguing wherever you decide to place it!
This ouroboros symbol appears in the artwork and other antiquities of cultures around the world, and it has been around for at least 7,000 years.3 Because of the symbol’s cultural ubiquity, an ouroboros tattoo can have various meanings. Here are some examples:
8. Ouroboros Tattoo Meaning: Eternity and Infinity
An ouroboros tattoo symbolizes the concepts of eternity and infinity because the image of a serpent devouring its own tail implies a perpetual loop.
As a symbol of eternity, your ouroboros tattoo could represent the eternal love of soulmates or the eternal nature of the soul itself. It might also represent the cyclical nature of the seasons or the planets orbiting the sun.
As a symbol of infinity, your ouroboros tattoo might represent something on a grand scale, such as your love for someone or unending faith.
As it is a symbol for eternity, an ouroboros tattoo can also embody the idea of immortality, such as the immortal nature of the soul or the idea of birth, death, and rebirth.
An ouroboros tattoo can also represent the timeless nature of how ideas and actions can be passed from generation to generation, reminding us that what we do today can be everlasting.
As referenced earlier, an ouroboros tattoo can also be a symbol of reincarnation and the cycle of life, death, and rebirth. In addition, snakes themselves, because they shed their skin and grow a new one, are symbols of rebirth.
11. Ouroboros Tattoo Meaning: Self-reliance
An ouroboros tattoo is also a compelling symbol of self-reliance. The symbol seems to imply that the snake can feed itself. Thus, your ouroboros tattoo can be a testament to your independence and ability to take care of yourself.
12. The Cycles of Nature
In many ways, nature itself is an ouroboros, as the planets rotate around a sun and the seasons change from one to the next only to start over again. So, like a flower wreath, an ouroboros tattoo is a beautiful tribute to nature and its miraculous ability to regenerate.
Ancient people, including the Aboriginal Australians, believe that rainbows encircled the entire world. This mythology also ties into the myths of a number of cultures about a giant serpent circling the Earth to hold it together (which you can read about in my post on snake mythology and meanings.)
So, for some an ouroboros tattoo shares symbolism with a rainbow, or a rainbow respect, encircling the world and holding it together. You can read more about rainbow mythology in my post on rainbow meanings.)
Finally, an ouroboros tattoo can also symbolize wholeness and unity. So, it is an apt symbol that represents understanding the differences in each other and coming together as one, or coming full-circle to understand the interconnectedness of everything.
In summary, a snake, serpent, or ouroboros tattoo can encompass many thought-provoking meanings. Snakes make beautiful tattoo designs on the body because they can be portrayed in so many ways, such as wrapped around your arm or leg. And while your snake tattoo may be extraordinary in and of itself, being familiar with the rich symbolism associated with this reptile can hopefully bring even deeper meanings to your tattoo.
You might life these other articles on UniGuide:
- Snake Symbolism
- The Leviathan
- Bee Tattoo Meaning
- Jellyfish Tattoo Meaning
- Lion Tattoo Meaning
- 444 Tattoo Meaning