Snake Tattoo Designs & Their Meaning
Snakes have a reputation for being equally fascinating and frightening. Snake tattoos can embody either of those qualities, either showing off their sly, secretive side or leaning more towards their traits of healing and luck.
We’ll talk about the true nature of snakes so you understand exactly what your snake tattoo represents. We’ll also give you some ideas on the best colors, styles, and placements to make your tattoo stand out.
The Meaning of Snakes
Contrary to popular belief, snakes have many positive meanings.
Snakes shed their skin a few times per year. This is very symbolic of getting rid of that which no longer serves us.
Although tattoos of shedding snakes are not common, these creatures are often used in the tat world to represent new beginnings.
The distinction between old and new can be made using different colors in a snake tattoo. A two-tone snake can be a symbol of before and after if the tail-end is black only and the head is in vibrant color to represent new, good beginnings.
Those who have been through difficult times may get a tattoo of a snake emerging from a dark object such as a skull, to represent leaving trouble behind and moving forward.
There are two snake symbols that represent healing.
Rod of Asclepius
The Rod of Asclepius is a well-known medical symbol that is seen on ambulances and medical centers. It consists of a snake winding around a rod. In Ancient Greece, where the symbol originated, snakes were seen as signs of healing, rebirth, and regeneration.
People in the medical profession may get a Rod of Asclepius tattoo to represent their work.
It is sometimes confused with the caduceus, which is two snakes around a winged rod and has origins that are not medical in nature.
The Ancient Egyptian Ouroboros is the image of a snake eating its own tail. This symbolizes the infinite circle of life. Birth, life, death, and reincarnation are represented in this never-ending snake figure.
This can have great spiritual significance and it’s a wonderful tattoo option for those who feel strongly connected to past lives.
Both the Greeks and the Egyptians saw snakes as protectors. Statues or artworks of serpents are often found at ancient burial sites as they were considered the guardians of the underworld.
A coiled cobra is also often seen on the crowns of Pharaohs and is an emblem of one of their prominent goddesses.
A common protection-themed snake tattoo is when the serpent is posed to strike, protecting the wearer. A King Cobra tattoo design is appropriate as they’re believed to protect the snake charmer from other snake attacks.
The Japanese see snakes as a sign of good luck, and what can be a more effective combination than protection and luck?
Snakes are notoriously secretive and prefer to hide than be out in the open. They’re nocturnal and do most of their moving about under cover of darkness.
Tattoos that represent the private and secretive nature of snakes are often on a part of the body that isn’t seen by the general public.
Most snakes are venomous. Although most won’t bite unless in self-defense, their deadly nature is well-known.
They also have the reputation of being the catalyst for the downfall of mankind in the Garden of Eden. In Christianity, the snake tempted Eve with the forbidden apple.
Popular Snake Tattoo Designs
There are many snakes designs to choose from, and here are some of the most popular:
The snake by itself can represent something very specific to the person. It’s direct and to the point, with no distractions.
Snake Paired with Other Elements
Snakes don’t have to be alone in a tattoo. Pair them with:
A serpent paired with a skull mixes the ideas of death and new beginnings.
It’s a powerful reminder of mortality and that in the end, we’re not much mightier than the lowly snake.
Snakes and roses together are the ultimate symbol of temptation.
Roses are a symbol of innocence, and the snake, a symbol of destruction and ruin of purity.
Just as the serpent took away mankind’s innocence in the Garden of Eden, this tattoo represents the loss of that purity to temptation.
Flowers or Leaves
A snake with flowers or leaves can emphasize the secretive nature of the creature.
Often, the two are entwined, and the snake is partially covered by the foliage. It symbolizes the beauty that secrecy can contain. It might be an abstract concept but it certainly makes for a beautiful tattoo.
Those familiar with the medical field or Ancient Egyptian lore may be captivated by the Ouroboros or the Rod of Asclepius.
Having one of these tattooed on yourself is a constant reminder of the importance of helping, healing and the infinite circle of life.
The snake is unique in the interesting way in that it can be molded around the body to create a very unusual tat. It can coil around the body, around a limb, or as simple as around a finger.
Common Snake Tattoo Colors
Although the color of your tat is up to personal choice, some colors are quite symbolic when used in conjunction with a snake tattoo design.
Black can represent the darker, more venomous side of the snake. You can pair it with a solid, more tribal design for a sharp, striking image. Or consider something shaded and detailed for a seductive, secretive picture.
This kind of sharp, single-color design shows off the strength, power, and unflinching confidence a snake has. It’s great for someone who wants to show off these qualities rather than the intricacies of the creature.
A tribal design such as an artistic rendering of a snake is great for those with a connection to Native American culture. It represents not only the animal but also the art of the tribe.
A one-color tattoo can show off some incredible texture and detail if done well. This kind of nuance can express the secretive and seductive nature of the snake.
Red represents passion and power. A red snake can have a sexual element, which is heightened by the phallic shape of the creature.
It can also have a spiritual meaning. The raw, powerful Kundalini energy is represented by the snake.
Your snake tattoo can be any color that resonates with you. Other common color meanings that could be associated with snakes include:
- Yellow for wisdom and willpower.
- Green for healing and positivity.
- Blue for truth and purity.
- Purple for passion.
Common Body Placement for Snake Tattoos
The area of your body you place your snake tattoo on is completely up to you. Some parts work better than others for an eye-catching effect, though.
Here’s a list of some common snake tattoo placements:
The back is a great place for a coiled snake. It’s like having eyes in the back of your head and makes a great representation of that protective element.
It’s also a large, smooth area that’s perfect for tattoos filled with detail. Textured, shaded tats look awesome here.
The chest is a popular place for medical-themed tattoos such as the Rod of Asclepius. It’s close to the heart and has an extra meaning to those who work in the healing or medical profession.
It can be tricky to work a big tattoo onto the chest, but it can definitely be done. Small to medium tats work well here.
Limbs are uniquely interesting when it comes to snake tattoos. The snake is a long, winding creature so a tattoo of a snake winding around a limb can be amazingly vivid.
The head of the snake displayed on the shoulder, with the body curling around the arm down to the wrist is effective and arresting.
It’s one of the few occasions where you can get a really large single-element tattoo over the entire arm.
A snake tattoo on the leg can be similar to the arm. The snake’s head over the knee can be particularly effective, but in this case, it works better having the head at the bottom of the leg.
The snakeskin pattern can also look great over large areas such as the leg.
If you’re really brave, you could go for a winding snake that runs from top to toe.
It’s the perfect animal for this kind of full-body tattoo and can be very creatively arranged to cover most of the body with a single tattoo.