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How to Understand the Significance of Day of the Dead Tattoos

A Day of the Dead tattoo is a permanent reminder of loved ones who have passed away. Learn the significance of the symbols and get it in ink.

Instructions

  • Step 1: Know the work of Jose Guadalupe Posada. Posada was a Mexican artist known for his _calaveras_, or skulls. Much of his work has been adopted for use as Day of the Dead imagery, especially his "La Calavera Catrina," or "The Elegant Skull."
  • Step 2: Find an image that you feel a personal connection with that symbolizes how you feel about someone you've lost and get inked.
  • FACT: As of 2010, the world record for most tattoos went to Lucky Diamond Rich, who covered his already-completely-inked body with all black -- including his gums and eyelids.
  • Step 3: Know about Mictecacihuatl. A popular Day of the Dead symbol, this Lady of the Land of the Dead, was believed to be a protector of souls residing in the underworld. Known for escorting the souls of loved ones, she is often depicted in tattoos as a lady wearing a skull mask.
  • TIP: Pink, white, orange, and red -- symbolizing mourning, celebration, hope, sunlight, and the blood of life -- respectively, are popular tattoo colors.
  • Step 4: Don't be afraid of death -- accept it. One function of Day of the Dead rituals is to demystify -- and even embrace -- the idea of death. Try to see it as a continuation rather than an ending.
  • Step 5: Recognize symbols, such as skulls and skeletons, as popular Day of the Dead images. Typically, the icons are bright and colorful tattoos, rather than gloomy or creepy, to emphasize the celebratory nature with which people greet their passed loved ones.
  • Step 6: Know the origins of the Mexican Day of the Dead. The holiday blends Catholic and Mesoamerican mythologies and it is believed that, on November 2nd, the spirits of deceased loved ones come back to visit.

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