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The current trend towards embracing the image of the skull got resurrected quite recently... less than twenty years ago actually, when a near-perfect milky white crystal skull was anonymously donated to the Smithsonian Museum. The skull was extensively tested and researched and found to be a genuine pre-Columbian artifact that led to some serious scholarly scrutiny of skulls. More importantly, the skull seems to have excited popular imagination simply because they seem so mysterious.
Skulls feature strongly in the myths of many cultures, from the Mayan or Aztec to the tribal groupings of North America. Theories about the origins of artifact skulls abound, and speculation about their being from the sunken continent of Atlantis is as popular as those who believe they come from some far away galaxy. In recent years of course, the Crystal Skull has even become a superstar, made popular by Steven Spielberg and his Indiana Jones sequel The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull!
To Asians of many race and tradition, the skull is a fearsome symbol - something to avoid and definitely something not to be brought into one’s physical space or even impinge onto anyone’s consciousness… so scary is the skull image that they have been too often featured in horror stories that suggest murder, death and especially black magic. Children are taught from young to avoid the skull image.
So how then do we account for the growing popularity and acceptance of the skull image, especially by the younger generation? Lest you have not noticed, skulls today are regarded as super cool symbols indeed!
They are popping up everywhere - on T-shirts, in pop art, as contemporary design wallpapers and soft furnishings, and even on jewellery! The contemporary skull image of today has become fashionable and super trendy, being picked up by serious designers. Ed Hardy does sell out Skull T-shirts that have become almost de rigeur amongst the young Hollywood set, and Jade Jagger’s skulls have generated something of a cult following. So have Damien Hirst’s skulls, becoming all the rage!
In art and fashion, skulls have become the new cool symbol! Christina Aguilera wears skulls for good luck while judging the highly successful The Voice. So does Alexa Chung and all the Twilight stars, as well as many of the top RAP Artistes!
Skulls became trendy in the United States after the movie Skulls successfully romanticized College secret societies – fraternity houses and sorority groups in the elite private schools of America who used Skulls to describe and represent themselves. Here the skull came to symbolize a certain elitist independence, a unique kind of branding and a very special mystique. Wearing custom-made skull rings, pendants or pins came to symbolize a secret “belonging” that even came to imply the possession of some kind of occult power.
|This “SOMETIMES SCARY” symbol of death has been popping up a lot recently.|
This should not come as a surprise, because everything that has historically surrounded and been associated with the skull is true – but whether it is Good TRUE or Bad TRUE depends entirely on one’s perception. The skull will bring death if that is what it means to you; or it can bring divine power if that is how you regard it.
To many of the Eastern traditions, the skull is an esoteric symbol used in secret rituals. Legends associate the skull with powerful Protector Deities; and in the Chinese, Hindu and Tibetan traditions, countless divine Gods and Goddesses associated with nothing but good wear skull necklaces, carry skull weapons and are adorned with skull jewellery. So to them, the Skull is definitely not an object of aversion.
To Buddhists, the skull signifies the definitive truth of impermanence. To followers of Mahayana and Tantric Buddhism, wearing the skull or having a beautiful skull nearby reminds them of the highly valued state of human existence, the incredibly precious nature of the human rebirth - as compared with rebirth in animal or hell realms. So to them, the skull is an auspicious symbol, signaling the importance of our life. Displaying a skull in our living space is thus a powerful reminder of impermanence. It can lead to a truly life changing realization that we must not waste our life, that we must make our lives meaningful.
From this perspective, the skull is a very auspicious object indeed, because in symbolizing impermanence, it represents an ultimate truth that helps us celebrate our life. People who wear skulls and who are drawn to skulls have an inner realization that marks them out as quite special people.
You may need to scratch beneath the surface, but when you encounter someone who displays the skull image with no inhibitions about doing so, chances are you will find a deep thinking soul who has an inner fearlessness and courage. The skull is a symbol of the physical head that remains after death has dissolved the body; it does not signify the soul or the mind or the mental continuom of people. But because the skull has “housed” a life, a consciousness, it is rich with the experience of human life.
On a very subtle and uncommon plane, this is thus the ultimate symbol of auspiciousness!
The following article is taken from the "Feng Shui World (May/June 2012)". To subscribe, please click here.