Life and Death Tattoos

Life and Death ambigram

A tattoo symbolizing life and death can be drawn from nearly any inspiration or culture. From the popular ambigram design to a tribal circle tattoo, life and death tattoos hold a fascination for many.

Types of Life and Death Tattoos

The concept of life and death being two halves of the same coin has fascinated cultures for centuries. While some see this as one circle that a spirit must journey through, others see it as direct opposites locked in a constant battle. No matter what your personal fascination is with the dual concept of life and death, there are several ways to display this in a tattoo.

Ambigram Tattoos

The tattoo of life and death is one of the most utilized and recognized of a style of tattoo known as the ambigram. An ambigram tattoo creates an optical illusion of words written in a stylized script as one tattoo. Ambigrams can be done in a number of ways including:

  • One word written so it can be read right side up or upside down. This style is also known as "rotational".
  • Two words with opposite meanings, such as the Life and Death tattoo, which is another version of the rotational ambigram.
  • One word written in two different languages, which can be viewed rotationally or as a mirror image.
  • One word which can be read backwards and forwards as a mirror image.

The life and death tattoo is a highly stylized text tattoo that can read life or death depending on which side is facing up. The tattoo is usually done in black work and can be placed anywhere on the body, although some ambigram enthusiasts argue the wrist or arm is the best placement, because it can be turned at will.

Zen Circle of Life Tattoo

Zen circles are a popular way to display life and tranquility. The hand does not lift from the page as a circle is drawn, imparting the personal characteristics of the drawer. A tattooed Zen circle of life and death may be drawn by the artist hundreds of times on paper before transferring it to the skin. The finished design is usually a variation of a circle which has tribal spikes or swirls radiating off of it. There is no break in the cycle of life and death and no break in the tattoo.

Skull Tattoos

While skull tattoos have their own history and following, they can also be used to represent a type of life and death. Skulls with living features, such as hair bows or a top hat, help to bridge the gap between life and death and can help further the fascination and image. The tattoo of the skull can also accompany another life and death tattoo, such as an ambigram or Zen circle.

Other Life and Death Images

The concept of life and death and what it may mean to a person can shift and vary tremendously. Consider any of these life and death images for your tattoo, if you want to make a less obvious statement.

  • Koi Fish in water
  • Balanced scales
  • A Celtic cross with a circle around it
  • The Chinese characters for life and death
  • An angel

Personalizing the Image

If the concept of life and death is one that has captured your imagination, make sure to put your own mark on a life and death tattoo. This may mean placing an ambigram where it is continually read in one direction, or it may mean attaching a banner with your personal motto to another tattoo design. However you decide to wear a symbol of life and death make sure to truly own the image.

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Life and Death Tattoos