What’s Behind the Skull and Crossbones Symbol?

The Skull and Crossbones


“There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.” Proverbs 16:25.

Recently the skull and crossbones symbol has caught my attention. While visiting one of my relatives, I saw its image displayed on various items around her house.   I next noticed it as a pendant beautifully displayed around my pedicurist’s neck as a jeweled object. Then, while holding a puppy I noticed there were multiples of this image printed on his collar and behold the same jeweled image appeared around his owner’s neck. So I decided to do some research as to its symbolic meaning.

According to an online ehow contributor by Jason Chavis:

 “The image of the skull and crossbones has a long tradition throughout the world, and has come to be synonymous with death. Originally a warning left at the entrance to graveyards, the image was adopted by many groups over the years to strike fear into their enemies or to symbolize an organization. Famously adopted by pirates, it has been used by military factions, secret societies and to warn people against poisons.” 

Some speculate deeper and associate its meaning to occult spiritual power rooted in ancient traditions as sited by journalist Richard Cassaro:

“The Skull & Cross Bones is an ancient symbol with a powerful, hidden meaning. Today the Skull & Cross Bones signifies “poison” and we’re warned to “stay away.” But this is an intentional deception by the elite to hide the symbol’s true meaning. In fact, the Skull & Cross Bones is an ancient instrument used by sorcerers to gain spiritual power.”

I guess the symbol could be displayed on most anything as I’ve seen it online printed even on baby paraphernalia.  In my research, the one meaning that is paramount is “death”.  So why would we proudly and willfully display the death symbol in our homes, on baby articles, wear it as jewelry, and tattoo our bodies with a symbol that means death?

As a Christian, I was also surprised to discover religious organizations have displayed the symbol beneath the crucifix. What is interesting to note is that Jesus’ crucifixion and death took place in Golgotha which means “the place of the skull”where many men suffered and died.  So what is its significance, if any, and why is the symbol popular today?

I believe that for most people it is just “trendy” to wear the symbol. If you ask anyone why they wear it or display it they will usually give you no reason.  At the same time, I remember being appalled witnessing the Christian cross worn by the pop vocalist Madonna when her hit record “ Like a Virgin” was popular in the 80’s. The cross displayed between her cleavage was to me a mockery of what I held dear. And then I note many even today continue to wear the cross not in mockery but in ignorance as to its spiritual significance.

Mockery of the Crucifix

I came to the conclusion that to the trendy both symbols  have no meaning.  But to the believer it displays their life’s faith.  Believers who attach spiritual meaning to the Skull & Crossbones may be expressing,“ Seize the Moment”, or “Eat, Drink, and be Merry for tomorrow I may die.”; noted in the film (Dead Poet’s Society). Whereas on the other hand the Cross to the Christian means triumph over death and eternal life through Christ’s sacrifice.

Take notice of the Skull’s foundation.  The head rests on the foundational bones that resemble an X.  The “X” denotes “wrong or incorrect” or an “unknown value”. So man meets with death because he is either ignorant  of the truth or has chosen to journey down the wrong path.  Scripture says:

“There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.”  Proverbs 16:25.

The Christian cross on the other hand is foundational for “Truth”.  Jesus said:

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:6.

 The Cross is  a “positive” (+) symbol denoting first a connection with the eternal “Father” and then with “Mankind”. The cross is the foundation that seals our eternal fate.  There is no death head resting on the cross because Jesus’ death and resurrection has made Him “Head” of the “Body”, whereby Christ Jesus was resurrected and will also resurrect His Body, the Church. (Ephesians 1:13, Colossians 1:18 )

Jesus came to separate us from the fate of death by providing payment for our sins  through His shed blood.  The grave could not hold Him because He  never sinned and fulfilled all requirements of God’s Law”. (Matthew 5:17, Philippians 2:8, John 10:17-18)

We can’t ward off evil or conger up its power by wearing a symbol.  Neither can we have eternal life by wearing a cross , going to church or praying the rosary and reciting “Hail Marys”.

The only Way to live positively ( John 10:10) is through Faith in believing in God’s only Son, Jesus Christ, who conquered death and sin for us  through His own death and resurrection.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16 NIV

See the flipbook – “His Cross”is a Positive Sign
Know How to be in Right Relationship with God and Others.



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About Doula Faith

I am first and foremost a child of God, "born again" into the Kingdom of God through faith in my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. He has called me to be an "Encourager" of faith in His Son, Jesus Christ. I have learned through some painful trials of His unconditional love. The apple of my eye, is Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Living Word.
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58 Responses to What’s Behind the Skull and Crossbones Symbol?

  1. Jeff Schulmeister says:

    In ancient times, the dead were buried, and then the bodies were recovered later and placed in “ossuary” boxes, which were small. So the larger leg bones were crossed and the skull placed on top. Indeed, this refers to Golgotha.
    These ossuaries were discovered by the Knights Templar after the conquest of the Holy Lands, and they took it as their symbol. A constant reminder of their mortality.
    “Virtus Junxit mors non separabis” (Virtue has joined together, death shall not separate)

    • Thank you for your comment. I’ve also heard how after the body remained in tombs the family would after a year go in and remove the bones and place them in a box as you mentioned.
      This was a custom of families so they could continue using the family tomb.
      “The ossuary
      After visiting the tomb on the third day the body was left untouched for a year, by which time it had decomposed. The bones were then collected and stored in an ossuary, a ‘bone box’, with the large bones at the bottom and the smaller bones and skull placed on top.”
      Above quote is from this resource:

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  5. Gerv says:

    Hi Doula, I end up with this page because I’m actually looking for the origin of this symbol and if its associated with occult or other religion. I know the meaning of this is symbol of death and other people putting different meanings of this. I would like to know if this is really bad if there is any relation to occult, witchcraft or other pagan religion or its just a simple symbol with a negative meaning. Because I think if this symbol has relation to those occult and etc that i mentioned it would be bad, I know there is a difference between physical object or just a visual that you can see on monitors screen. I would like to know how would you judge this symbol of you see this in video games not on material things. I know God is greater and his love endures forever. And Romans 8:38-39 says nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God. I think those bad symbol has nothing to do with us because of the love of God. But if its against the knowledge of God why will you keep those material that has this symbol. Its just I’m not sure what will happen or result if you keep those things.. I would like to as base on your insight if because I have video game that every time the opponent got shoot or died, the symbol of skull and cross bone will pop up, just like a indicator that the opponent is dead. I would like to know if this game is bad because of those symbol? Because those symbols bothers me as a Christian. I’m not sure how would you compare those virtual games compare to those items that have this symbol? if there is any difference or just the same. Thank You

    • Dear Gerv,
      The person who has come to faith in Jesus Christ by confessing their sins and accepting Him as Lord and Savior, is a child of God. And you are correct in stating there is nothing that is powerful enough to separate us from His unconditional love. So with this knowledge we also want to please Him and represent Him truthfully in all things. I believe this is your desire, since you are questioning the association of death symbols and also your involvement with virtual games which involve simulations of killing an opponent.
      Therefore, let’s explore what God’s Word has to say about such things. Concerning symbols depicting evil, it is not the symbol itself which gives it the power, but rather the significance a person bestows upon it. Evil works through trusting in anything other than God. But God warns us to have nothing to do with anything appearing wrong or evil. (1 Thessalonians 5:22)
      For example: a cross can have many meanings to those who wear it. To one, it may remind them of Christ’s death on the cross and their salvation through faith in His death. To another, it could just be a piece of jewelry, with no meaning to the wearer, other than it is faddish. But to the one who believes that by wearing the cross, it gives them protection, then it becomes a talisman- (an object held to act as a charm to avert evil and bring good fortune) which scriptures warn to avoid. Wearing a cross does not have the power to protect nor ward off evil.
      Faith in Jesus Christ and his sacrifice on the cross enables the believer to overcome temptation through the power of His shed blood which covers all our sins the moment we repent and believe and confess Him as our Lord and Savior (Romans 10:8-10).
      What protects a Christian (one who places their faith and trust in Jesus Christ) is putting on the armor of God not a cross or any symbol (Ephesians 6: 10-17)
      Now as for what would God have us to do concerning these things, let’s refer to the Word of God.
      This is what the Word says:
      “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”
      1 Corinthians 10:31
      So, we should ask ourselves, does this please and honor God, this thing I say or do.
      “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.” 2 Corinthians 5:20
      The Word says we are to be occupied with the things of God.
      “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” Colossians 3: 1- 4
      “I have the right to do anything,” you say–but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”–but not everything is constructive. 1 Corinthians 10:23
      We can be occupied with things which bring us closer in relationship with Jesus Christ, or we can be occupied with the things of this world, to the extent, our minds are influenced by them, and we no longer represent Christ. That is why it is so important to pray concerning everything, and to study the Word of God so we can know the things He would have us do.
      When we accept Jesus Christ as our personal Savior, we receive His Holy Spirit, The Holy Spirit transforms our mind to think like Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit will prompt us when we are occupied with anything which is not of God and could harm us. Therefore, It’s important to pay attention to those promptings.
      Gerv, I believe you have answered your own question when you stated:
      “Those symbols bother me as a Christian.”
      “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:30-32
      Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.
      Philippians 4:8

  6. Brian Walton says:

    I have been told that the reason for the Skull and Crossed Bones was because in the time of Jesus and prior, when a person died, their body was left to decompose until all that was left were the bones, which they would then put into a box, however, the femurs were too big to be put in straight so ended up being crossed, then finally the skull would be placed in the middle at the top. Hence, Skull and Crossbones. This practice was carried on prior to the Templars and Pirates, the earliest being Tristan Da Cunha, who sail out of Portigal where what was left of the Templars protected in return for letting them berth there. He decided in repayment that he would go off and plunder other countrie to pay for his keep, so to speak, It was on one of these raids that as he was returning he was attacked by pirates who then discovered the symbol of the bones and adopted it as theirs. Also he scuppered on of his ships to stop them from getting the gold and other goodies. There is a lot more to this story than meets the eye.
    Brian Walton, PS My address is Knight Templars in Dover, right next to the remains of a Templar Church.

  7. Bernard Gustavis says:

    I don’t know why you give a skull and cross bones such power it’s just a symbol I’ve had one since 18 years old in the form of an army tattoo I’m christian and been my whole life it hasn’t lessen my spiritual or my daily prayer life it was a thing of my past I was saved when I got it Jesus is the symbol of life and no other is stronger than His love for us let em wear whatever on the outer man it’s not a problem for our GOD he’s fixing us from within without.

  8. Bob says:

    Still would like to know WHY the skull represents our Troops, could someone please email me a answer!

    • Transplant1 says:

      I am Scottish and I am amazed that most people here do not know why we have this symbol “Remember man thou art but dust and to dust thou will return” .

  9. Dylan says:

    Hi I recently found this blog. I know someone who is a Freemason and they tend to have the skull and crossbones as one of their famous symbols. Do you know why they use the skull and crossbones at all? I know that the majority of Freemasons are Christians. Also it is usually surrounded by a cross with the words “In Hoc Signo Vinces”. Alternatively it is sometimes in the middle of the square and compass instead of the usual “G”. Is there something sinister to all of this? Check out the links that I have sent to see what I am talking about.

  10. Fiona ..the ice pirate says:

    Hi,l have been searching understanding on the skull and cross bones..as since l have become a Christian in the true understanding who God is..l am truly alive…tho l have a Bussiness called ice Pirates and it is a fun summer cart..tho other Christians struggled with my flags..l sat with our Lord Apon it..and thru the last 3 years as l still reflect ..l see myself as being that pirate dead in the world and awoken to true life with Jesus Christ our Lord..so my testimony is the love that shines from within as children say things like..daddy lve never meet such a wonderful pirate…in spirit and truth ..God bless you all..amen

    • Kila says:

      Pirates have nothing to do with God. We are to be transformed by the renewing of our mind. We are not to be of this world. It is not good to justify yourselve to make you feel good. Give God the glory and all of the praise through whatever you do.

      • Dylan, The Skull and Crossbones symbol has nothing to do with Freemasonry. The Freemasons do not have it on any of their symbols. The letter “G” in the center of their symbols means “Goodness” . Therefore, creating this symbol using the crossbones is a complete contradiction and misrepresentation of the origin of their symbol.
        The square means “virtue”, and the compass means to keep one’s passions within limitations and not to be controlled by them.
        The words,” In Hoc Signo Vinces” is a Latin phrase meaning, ” In this sign you will conquer” originating from a vision Constantine had of a bright cross giving confirmation to embrace Christianity.
        Cults and organizations will sometimes adopt ancient phrases and symbols to create their own.
        Persons will wear symbols they do not understand because it is faddish. Just like we see many displaying the crossbones symbol on their clothing and jewelry,as I mentioned in my blog.
        Freemasonry is an ancient secret society which does not openly reveal their rituals to the general public, but in its origin it has never associated itself with anything evil, quite the contrary; it is a group of men who vow to the commitment of virtue and morality based on scripture. However, it is not to be confused with Christianity, as it’s foundation is on “good works” rather than faith.
        Christians are justified by their faith in Christ Jesus and not their works (Romans 5: 1-2, Ephesians 2:8).
        There are Christians who may join the Freemasonry society for social reasons rather than doctrinal. But if anyone believes by joining any church or organization it will put them in good standing with God, they are deceived or ignorant.
        It is only through faith in Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection for the forgiveness of personal sins, one receives God’s salvation.
        My husband who once was a member of the Freemasons, confirms to me the crossbones symbol has never been displayed with any of their symbols. However, since each lodge is independent, the particular lodge your friend may be associated could have adopted the symbol in ignorance.
        There are movies and documentaries representing false accusations of Freemasonry as a cult and mystic society. This is false. But there may be organizations forming that try to adopt their symbolism and create their own secret society. Why your friend has these symbols I do not know. Perhaps you could ask him.
        Dylan, I hope my response has helped and thank you for your inquiry. May you grow in your knowledge and faith in Jesus Christ whose symbol is His sacrifice- the Cross.
        A good resource on Freemasonry : Freemasonry-Wikipedia

  11. jack says:

    OR: As with a childs ‘pirate map’; ”X” marks the spot(at least since i aas a kid in 1960s). To target/draw focus.
    ‘…and to dust we shall return’ -death provides the reference for which life often is defined.
    If nothing else; A reminder of natural law.

  12. Cecil Stewart says:

    I have a Question. My favorite football team the Tampa Bay Buccaneers they have the skull and crossed sword. My wife told me while we were dating to stop wearing the Logo and wear the Vintage Bucs Logo she feels better about. Can you help me understand its just my fav Football team. Is it wrong to wear the team stuff and not like the team as well.

    • Dear Cecil,
      It would depend entirely on your own conscience and not mine. According to the Apostle Paul when there was a debate over whether or not Christians should eat food sacrificed to idols he mentions that in such matters, although it is permissible it may not be beneficial. Because, while it maybe permissible according to our own conscience, we must be careful to not do anything that might cause another Christian or even a nonbeliever to stumble. If you are in Christ Jesus it will be a matter between you and the Lord as to whether or not displaying the symbol is beneficial to your witness in Christ.
      (1 Corinthians 8, 1 Corinthians 10:23-24)
      The best thing to do is to pray about this matter while meditating on the Word of God (Psalm 119:105). The Lord will give you His Peace and clarify the matter as you wait on Him with confidence and faith. (Proverbs 3:5-6, Philippians 4: 5-7, Isaiah 64:4). But keep this in mind:

      “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:31

  13. Tawnya says:

    I constantly spent my half an hour to read this website’s posts every day along with a cup of coffee.

  14. Robert says:

    Thank you so much for explaining the skull and crossbones, I now have a better understanding of it’s different meanings. The only problem is, is that I still don’t know where it originated and why it actually came to be in the first place.

    • Robert , thanks for your comment. View the links I listed following the article. I believe u will find out more about how it originated from these resources. Hope this helps.

  15. Bob, Thank You!
    Mary- Doula Faith

  16. Star says:

    I So agree with you I have researched over and over on the subject because it bothers me so badly that my own children put t-shirts on my grandbabies and fill their house up with this evil! Thank you for your article. I’d love top see your opinion on monster high evil dolls!

  17. Nickylacee@gmail.com says:

    A sign of protection against the evil ones coming against you!

    • Nicky,
      I am not sure what you mean “a sign of protection against the evil ones coming against you”, but if you believe the symbol of the skull and the crossbones can ward off evil, you are mistaken. The only thing one can do to ward off evil is to have faith in Jesus Christ who destroyed the evil one by His sacrifice on the cross. The sign of His victory is His resurrection. All those who have faith in Him for the forgiveness of their sins will not remain in the grave, but upon His return, will also be resurrected. Evil does not protect against evil. As Jesus said, a house divided will fall.
      I pray you will read the gospel of John and be enlighten with His truth. I am praying for you.
      May the Lord open your eyes to the Truth and God’s salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

      • costian cupid says:

        What will you say to a child who thikinds that skull bones are not demonic?

        • Skull bones are not demonic. It’s how they are used or portrayed as symbols for the superstitious and for those who believe the symbol has the power to ward off evil that makes them a form of talisman. As my article explains there are many interpretations as to its meaning, nevertheless, there is definitely a trend of displaying it on most anything. So the crossbones and the skull are not evil in themselves. It’s what’s behind its usage and display that will determine that. Otherwise they are just bones without meaning unless you attach meaning. Ask the child what he/she thinks it means and why? Thank you for your question. Hope this helps.

          • costian cupid says:

            He said it is just a picture but i do not believe because all his friends have the same picture on their profile, thank you for answering my question.

  18. Tim Tomecko says:

    I have a Skull and Crossed Swords Tattoo. I just thought Pirate stuff was a laugh, nothing spiritual. But I am a Born Again Christian also. I had the thing done during a stupid back slidden time in my life and now I am stuck with it…Getting it removed would be way more than I can afford… I guess this is what happens when you are uneducated…and stupid…

    • Tim,it is what you believe and your faith that’s important. God can use even this to explain His gospel. Just as my blog explains that Christ won victory over death, you can testify of your faith not in superstition or something as a graphic warding off evil, but an opportunity to lift up Christ. You can point to the cross and bones as the wrong way, and Christ’s death and resurrection as the right way. We all do things through ignorance, now that you have the truth, tell it. Use the tatoo to give testimony of God’s great love and victory over death. God can use it for good because we know all things work together for good to those who love Him and called according to His purpose. Also, remember in our confession of sin, we are also, always forgiven. Therefore there is no longer any condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:28, Romans 8:1, 1 John 1:9. There are things Satan means for evil which God can use for good. Use the tatoo as a way to explain your faith in Christ. God will give you wisdom when you pray. God’s blessings, brother.

  19. Lisa says:

    Great review and opinion. I ride motorcycles often & I see all kind of skull displays as they seem to be associated with ‘bikers’. I am a biker for Christ. It has never felt ‘right’ wearing skull patches, clothing, etc. That would be because of my devout Christain convictions, which I feel you validated & confirmed. I do my best to not judge anyone…..I also do my best to heed the nudge the Holy Spirit places in my heart! Thanx for taking the time to research and write this article 🙂
    God Bless.

    • Lisa, you are not alone, I believe we all at times send double messages. I have done so myself. The important thing is when we know it does not please the Lord, we acknowledge it as you have done so. The Lord will bless you for not compromising your convictions. Thank you for your comment.
      Mary-Doula Faith

  20. Juanica LaShea says:

    Awesome article. It helped me explain why my younger son should not wear a skull and crossbones t-shirt. We are Christians and I am teaching them not to blindly follow trends or What someone tells them but to research it for themselves and listen to the holy spirit as guidance. Blessings!

    • Star says:

      Good for you ! ! You have no idea how much it pains my heart to see Skulls and skeletons on my grandchildrenMy children were raised in a Christian home and they know better

    • Juanica,
      Thank you for your comment. I did allow my children as teenagers to display Madonna and the cross and my son to own a skateboard with the skull and crossbones. In other words, I compromised with the culture of this world. There were consequences not directly related but allowing these things to come into their life with my awareness, even though I spoke against evil, was detrimental to our relationship and their spiritual growth.
      I repented and God forgave me, but I still live with the consequences. I believe God wanted me to research this symbol so His people would not fall into the same trap as I did because of my compromise. Let’s pray for our children and grandchildren according to the Lord’s prayer: “And deliver us from evil”.
      Amazingly, my children remain in faith in Jesus Christ, because of His grace and as a result of abiding in His Word and prayer.
      Sometimes we compromise because the world’s influence is more dominant in our life than God’s Word. Certainly, that was the case for me. Now, first thing every morning, I get up early to pray and meditate on God’s Word. It’s through His Word we gain knowledge, wisdom and strength. Through Prayer we have fellowship with the One who gives us victory over all temptation and fear. Don’t compromise, Juanica, God will bless you with His Peace and Joy.
      Yours in Faith,
      Mary – Doula Faith

  21. Dole Baumgartner says:

    I recently found a Crucifix that hung over my moms bedroom door. I was shocked to see it has a skull & crossbones on it. Can you offer me any suggestions on finding it’s meaning? Thank You for anything you can advise me of.

    • Dole, I have researched the meaning as indicated above in my article: What’s Behind the Skull and Crossbones Symbol. You might want to read the scriptures I have indicated and the references posted. Thank You for your question. Doula Faith – Mary

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    • Thank You for your comment. In the management section of WordPress, I believe I indicated allowing search engines to access my blog. Also, I believe the tags are instrumental in finding my blog when readers research the internet. I hope this helps.
      Mary- Doula Faith

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  26. Sastesni says:

    There are many graves in Italy, even in the cathedrals with this symbol. Normally some of the older graves could have the symbol. I can forward a picture of such a grave.

  27. bob Isaksen says:


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