Looking for a tattoo design that has powerful symbolism and can look great on any part of the body? If yes, ask your tattoo artist to get his machine ready. A snake tattoo is a perfect option. I came across incredible snake tattoo designs online, from low-key ones to extremely stylish and bold inking, there’s something for everyone.
People go for snake tattoos for different reasons. Yet, mostly it’s because of the powerful symbolism and unnerving vibe of the snake design. There is a multitude of popular snake tattoo designs. The most popular snake variety included in these designs is either the cobra, python, pit viper, or boas. The snake is either inked as a standalone figure or combined with a cultural, mythological, or another popular element. Moreover, snake tattoo designs are inked in different looks, including abstract, traditional, realistic, and folklore-based.
Snake Tattoo Symbolism
A snake-themed design is bound to have conflicting meanings. The snake symbol dates back to ancient times and the creature itself is complex. All the complexities, duality, and ambiguity behind the symbol make it even more interesting as a tattoo option.
Before moving ahead with the amazing snake tattoo designs, let’s begin with some of the popular symbolism. Also, towards the end of the article, there’s a faq section, to further enhance your knowledge about snake tattoos.
Life, Death, & Being Re-born
In the earliest of times, snakes were primarily associated with positive meanings. Snakes are known for shedding their skin and leaving the old skin behind as a single piece. Due to this natural phenomenon which is a means of being free of parasites and to aid new growth, snakes are symbolic of life, death, and rebirth as per several cultures.
A snake’s incredible transformation, as mentioned above, is the key influencer behind the huge popularity of snake tattoos. The symbolism: “rebirth,” is in recognition that a single cycle contains both life and death. Among the choices, there’s no better snake tattoo than the one which depicts rebirth through the ancient circular symbol ‘Ouroboros.’
There are interesting variations of the snake tattoo. For instance, an infinity symbol snake tattoo is the shape of the number ‘8,’ wherein two snakes are spotted, with each biting the other’s tail.
Healing & Wellness
As per Greek mythology, the snake plays a vital role in the healing process. Thus, as per Ancient Greek myths, the snake symbolizes health and healing due to the creature being associated with Asclepius, who is the god of medicine. Asclepius was extra kind to the snakes, as the Greeks perceived snakes to be sacred and wise. As per legend, the snakes reciprocated by teaching Asclepius the secret medicine knowledge. As a result, the modern-day medical fraternity often uses this symbol in their organizations.
In terms of snake designs for tattoos, a snake design that represents healing and wellness is the rod of Asclepius symbol. As a note to medical organizations, they shouldn’t confuse the Rod of Asclepius symbol with the closely resembling Caduceus symbol. The latter (Caduceus symbol) is associated with the god ‘Hermes,’ who symbolizes trade and commerce instead.
Guardian & Protector
In many parts of the world, the snake is a symbol of guardianship or protection. This stems from mythology, wherein snakes guarded jewels, temples, and entrances. This is because snakes, especially cobras, are incredible at defending their ground. And, they seldom give in when a threat is posed to them.
Devil & Danger
The negative meanings and symbolism of snakes emanate mainly out of Christian mythology. For, as per the Bible, a serpent is responsible for Eve’s defiance of the orders of God. Thus, a snake has an association with devilish and evil forces. So, if you wear a snake tattoo, then going by the recent popularity of the negative meanings emanating out of the Bible, your tattoo could mean danger, or someone who’s vengeful, vindictive, and generally unafraid to defy most rules.
20 Snake Tattoo Designs With Meaning
#1. Ouroboros Tattoo
The Ancient Egyptian circular symbol ‘Ouroboros’ is a fantastic tattoo idea signifying regeneration and the Universe’s interconnected disposition. The symbol emanates from the iconography of a snake (and sometimes a dragon or lizard) eating its tail. Later, through the passage of Greece, this meaningful symbol emerged into Western cultures as a significant Alchemy concept. Today, tattoo enthusiasts from all over the world love this choice for a tattoo. It’s the most incredible representation of a soul’s transmigration.
In the above image, the artist has done a remarkable job at tattooing the Ouroboros on the individual’s upper inside forearm. The intricate snakeskin details are inked to perfection with fine black and grey shading and intricate line work. In This type of design, it is most important to get the circle perfectly round, which we can see above.
#2. Infinity Symbol Tattoo (‘8’ Shaped Ouroboros Symbol)
The above black with negative spaces tattoo is that of the infinity symbol. This number ‘8’ shaped snake tattoo is a popular choice because it represents both perfection and the never-ending loop we know from our knowledge of mathematics. Tattoo enthusiasts relish this symbol for its symbolism: limitless and never-ending possibilities in one’s life.
The Ouroboros symbol or the snake (or dragon or lizard) eating its tail is one of the oldest mystical symbols known to humankind. As mentioned in the previous section, the Ouroboros is the representation of the act of creation. In this case, further doses of perfection are added to the rebirth symbolism, shown by the ‘8’ or infinity loop in the above Ouroboros symbol.
#3. Rod of Asclepius Symbol Tattoo
The above thigh tattoo showing the Rod of the Asclepius symbol is a great choice if you’re on the hunt for a design that looks aesthetically and symbolically remarkable. This symbol dates back to Ancient Egypt. Today, it’s the prime representation as a symbol of many medical associations.
So, how did this symbol get associated with the field of medicine? Well, as mentioned earlier, the snake plays an important role in the healing process, as per Greek mythology. The snake is a symbol of health and healing. Asclepias — the god of medicine — loved and nurtured snakes just as the other ancients considered them as sacred, wise creatures. Myth has it, in return, he was taught the secret of medicine by the snakes.
#4. Caduceus Symbol Tattoo
The Caduceus symbol is mostly wrongfully associated with medicine. Whereas, in reality, it is the symbol of trade and commerce. Unlike the Rod of Asclepius symbol, this symbol is associated with the unification of opposites.
The Caduceus symbol is depicted with two snakes and a pair of wings. These elements symbolize an intent to serve others in a higher capacity. The symbolism of the wings is straightforwardly meant to show higher thoughts, the higher mind, and above all high integrity. In essence, the representation of the symbol also includes a connection between heaven and earth, better communication, power, a focus between duality, and unification.
In the above forearm tattoo, the Caduceus symbol looks immaculate. It’s done in intricate dot work by an expert tattooist. All the elements are combined to display the powerful meaning. These elements, of course, are the mind, the serpents, the wings, the heart, and the dynamics that combine them.
#5. Cute & Subtle Snake Tattoo
Those that don’t like to delve too much into the historical and religious symbolism of snakes, straightforwardly think of them as animals that kill. Their natural meaning, to many, might be the reason to get a snake tattoo in the first place. The above image is of a cute little snake. Yet, we all know about every snake’s venomous powers. The cool thing about such tattoo designs is that you can place them on most body parts. Also, they’re simpler, cheaper, quicker, and less painful than most other designs.
#6. Flower and Snake Half Sleeve Tattoo
A snake and heart tattoo symbolizes dangerous love and fertility. This large-sized, astonishing back piece is a bold representation of that meaning. An almost fullback piece, such as the above, is the ultimate snake tattoo idea for you.
#7. Huge Snake and Heart Tattoo On Back
Combining a beautiful, serene flower with a dangerous snake makes for an astonishing tattoo idea. Such depictions aim to symbolize the gentler and positive connotations of the snake symbol. These connotations include regeneration, transformation, fertility, change, and elegance.
#8. Snake and Golden Heart Tattoo
A heart represents love, passion, and joy. A golden heart is possessed by one who is exceptionally loving, passionate, and a spreader of happiness. In the above bicep tattoo, the snake is wrapped around the golden heart. The bicep is a muscular part of the body, an ideal placement for the curvy snake to be tattooed there. In all positive likelihood, the snake is protecting its ground. This is wonderful symbolism and an amazing tattoo idea.
#9. Cobra On Calf Tattoo
The speed, grace, and other unique characteristics of a cobra make cobra tattoos an exceptional choice. Additionally, it symbolizes certain positive traits like wisdom, strength, protection, unpredictability, and intuitiveness. Being a cunning hunter, the snake often also represents danger and evilness. In the above black and grey tattoo, the flowers add gentleness to reinforce a positive connotation to the overall tattoo imagery.
#10. Snake Tattoo On Hand
It’s painful to tattoo the hand, yet the hand, especially the upper side, is a popular tattoo location for a snake design. The drawback is the high level of exposure of the hand to water, sunlight, and friction. This implies a tattoo experience fading and loss of original shape quicker here than elsewhere on the body. Hence, a simple black and grey design, like the one above, would make a wiser choice for a hand tattoo. It would be easier to maintain and touch up over the years to come.
#11. Colorful Cobra Head Tattoo
Nothing gives off a more masculine and intimidating vibe than a snakehead tattoo, especially if the dangerous predator is inked in vibrant colors. As depicted above, this style of snake tattoo looks best inked vertically on the lower leg.
#12. Tribal Snake Tattoo
The tribal array of tattoos are mostly inspired by the tribes of cultures such as Egyptian, Indian, Polynesian, Nordic, Hawaiian, Viking, Mesoamerican, and African. Emanating out of that traditional array, there are also modern tribal tattoos like the one above.
Both traditional and modern tribal designs are inspired mainly by nature, especially plants and animals. The snake is a popular element in tribal patterns due to its slithery, long reptilian body that can suit most body placements.
#13. Rose and Snake Upper Back Tattoo
Roses are associated with love. When you combine a rose with a snake, the meaning transforms into intense romance, temptation, and deep passion. What follows is the loss of beauty and innocence. Need I say more!
#14. Skull and Snake Forearm Tattoo
Skulls imagery and skull tattoos are associated with death and mortality. It’s a reminder that our lives are not permanent. When the skull and snake are combined, the depiction is that of the beautiful cycle of life, death, and rebirth. Like the snake and rose combination, this badass tattoo concept also has a killer Gothic appeal. It’s noteworthy, if, in the design, the snake is in the skull’s eye, the symbolism changes to knowledge.
#15. Snake Skeleton Tattoo
The snake skeleton tattoo is another quirky, badass idea. This concept looks awesome wrapped around your shoulder, arm, or bicep. This tattoo represents a lot of duplicity and duality. On the one hand, it can represent knowledge, while on the other, death and decay. On the whole, it looks unique and super cool, to say the least!
#16. Snake Eye Tattoo
Like a dragon eye tattoo, a snake eye tattoo has special significance. It’s another unique option if you’re searching for amazing snake tattoo ideas. Any reptilian eye is intimidating, especially that of a snake. The snake eye is typically tattooed in green ink to give off a bold, realistic look. Furthermore, the scales around the eye add to the depth and realistic look.
#17. Realistic Snake Tattoo
That may look like a real snake on the man’s arm, but it’s instead a realistic tattoo. The artist’s talent and expertise couldn’t be more enthralling. Onlookers terrified by the animal would freak out at first sight! Such an amazing outcome is the result of immaculate shading, detailing, and 3D techniques.
#18. Colorful, Realistic Snake and Plant Tattoo
This is another masterpiece of a realistic snake tattoo. This time, more vivid, colored ink has been incorporated. Such 3D imagery looks best on body placements most suitable for large tattoos. These include the leg, back, and chest.
#19. Miniature Snake Tattoo
Don’t want the snake to look too apparent, why not go for a small design in black ink? With a small tattoo, especially one that’s placed in a hidden area, you can go to work every day, worry-free. It’s a minimal and discrete choice that looks cool on your hidden areas or your finger, hand, or back of the ear, for instance.
#20. Rattlesnake Skeleton Tattoo On Upper Back
Once again, the meanings of rebirth, change, resurrection, immortality, potency, fertility, and transformation hold here as well. The rattlesnake is a venomous snake species native to the Americas. The anatomy specialist artist has done a splendid job inking the above upper back piece with the intricate snake skeleton.
Snake Tattoo FAQs
Among all snake species, vipers and cobras are among the most treacherous varieties. The viper symbolizes evil traits. Take the young viper, to begin with. It symbolizes a child going against the will of its parents. On the whole, vipers’ instinctive and deadly sting makes them extremely dangerous snakes. They are considered an enemy more than anything else.
Across many African cultures, pythons are sacred, revered animals. Many African religions forbid the torturing and killing of pythons. Thus, it’s a huge plus to wear a python tattoo, especially if you’re African, or hailing from an African religion or culture. In other countries, the might and size of pythons make them popular tattoo ideas, besides of course possessing the general traits of a snake.
In this article, the symbolism of a snake has been made sufficiently clear. Yet, what if the tattoo is of a snake wrapped around a dagger? That kind of depiction could have multiple meanings. Swords represent courage, strength, and protection, while a snake signifies life, knowledge, wisdom, fertility, etc. When combined, they mean “protecting life,” or “wise strength,” for instance. It could even represent Caduceus or Rod of Asclepius as shown in designs 3 and 4 in our above snake tattoo list, respectively.
In this article, you viewed images of 20 of the best snake tattoo designs I encountered online. The idea was to grant you sufficient inspiration so that you, along with your artist, could come up with a unique piece for your next tattoo. The artist source is mentioned beneath each imagery so that you can explore more works by each artist directly.