Traditional Snake Tattoo: Symbolism, Styles and Designs

Just picture it: a colorful, bold snake tattoo adorning your skin, marking its territory, and becoming an extension of your identity. Doesn’t the thought of it just send shivers up your spine? A traditional snake tattoo can be a lot more than just an attractive body art. It can also be a fascinating way to express your beliefs, showcase your strength, and make a long-lasting impression.

Snake tattoos have been around for centuries, and there are many reasons why they continue to be a popular choice among tattoo enthusiasts today. Let’s take a closer look at some of the most interesting aspects of traditional snake tattoos, the reasons behind their symbolism, and the different styles you can opt for when getting inked.

A Slither of Symbolism: Understanding the Meaning of Snake Tattoos

When you see a snake tattoo, what kind of emotions does it evoke in your mind? For many, the image of a snake invokes a sense of fear, mystery, or power. But the symbolism of the snake is more complex than just that – in various cultures around the world, snakes symbolize different things, ranging from wisdom to transformation.

Ancient Significance: The Serpent’s Role in Folklore and Mythology

As we journey back into history, we’ll find snakes playing significant roles in various mythologies, religions, and cultural beliefs – and this ancient connection adds an intriguing layer to the symbolism of snake tattoos.

In ancient Greek and Roman mythology, for instance, the serpent represents duality: Asclepius held a staff entwined with serpents to symbolize healing and medicine, while the two serpents winding around the caduceus of Hermes represented both wisdom and trickery. In Egyptian mythology, snakes symbolized royalty and divine authority, and they were often included in crowns and other regal accessories.

The Yin and the Yang: Balance and Duality in Snake Tattoos

Just as their symbolism draws from ancient myths and legends, snake tattoos carry with them a sense of balance and duality. Because a snake sheds its skin regularly, it has come to symbolize transformation, rebirth, and renewal. Additionally, in many spiritual practices, a snake coiled around itself represents the unstoppable life force and cyclic nature of existence.

Moreover, the contrasting nature of a snake – its venom can heal or kill – represents the potent, dual nature of life: good and bad, light and dark, life and death. This complex symbolism makes snake tattoos all the more alluring and enticing for those who are drawn to its mysterious aura.

A Symbol of Strength: The Underlying Power of Snake Tattoos

Another commonly associated characteristic of snakes is their impressive and undeniable strength. The manner in which they silently slither through their environments showcases a quiet but powerful presence that is hard to ignore. They patiently wait for the perfect moment to strike, an effective predator.

This sense of power, resilience, and patience is often what attracts many to snake tattoos. For some, having a snake tattoo inked on their skin means they are harnessing that fearsome energy and channeling it into their own lives.

Styles and Designs: Choosing your Traditional Snake Tattoo

Now that we’ve explored the rich symbolism and powerful meanings behind snake tattoos let’s explore the different styles and some of examples for you to choose from.

Traditional American Snake Tattoos – Old School

For many tattoo enthusiasts, traditional snake tattoos bring to mind images of old-school designs that are often associated with the classic Americana tattoo style. These tattoos usually feature bold outlines, a limited color palette, and a more straightforward rendition of the snake.

These timeless designs are perfect for those looking for an effortlessly cool and classic tattoo that will never go out of style. You can choose from a wide range of old-school snake tattoo designs, incorporating elements like roses, daggers, and skulls to add further meaning and visual appeal. Here are some of examples.

Snake wrapped around an anchor on the arm

This traditional American snake tattoo features a bold and menacing snake coiled around a sturdy anchor. The design displays the reptile’s powerful body wrapped gracefully around the anchor, symbolizing strength and resilience. The anchor’s classic form represents stability and a solid foundation. With its vivid colors, detailed shading, and intricate linework, this tattoo will make a striking statement and can inspire feelings of unwavering determination and courage in the face of adversity.

Snake wrapped around an anchor

Snake and dagger with a red rose

A fierce snake intertwined with a sharp-edged dagger forms the captivating centerpiece of this traditional American snake tattoo design. The serpent’s menacing gaze and the weapon’s lethal threat are tempered by the beautiful red rose blooming at their juncture, representing both danger and passion. This vivid and dynamic design is perfect for the bicep, symbolizing the complex layers of love, strength, and enduring loyalty.

Snake and dagger with a red rose

Sailor Jerry style snake and panther

This classic Sailor Jerry-inspired tattoo showcases a ferocious snake and a powerful panther locked in an eternal struggle. The snake’s sinister coils contrast with the poised aggression of the panther, capturing the essence of combat and triumph over adversity. Positioned on upper arm, this powerful and timeless piece represents courage, resilience, and a fierce determination to overcome any challenge life throws your way.

Sailor Jerry style snake and panther

Vibrant rattlesnake on forearm

With its rattle raised and ready to strike, the vibrant rattlesnake tattoo design serves as a powerful reminder of one’s strength and tenacity. Fierce and solitary, the rattlesnake showcases incredible attention to detail in its coiled body and distinctive markings on the canvas of the forearm. This striking traditional American snake tattoo serves as a symbol of one’s strong will to protect what truly matters.

Vibrant rattlesnake

Traditional snake and heart with wings on the chest

Featuring a beautifully twisting snake emerging from a sacred heart with wings spread wide, this traditional American snake tattoo embodies the tension between dark and light, love and danger. The heart’s richly colored flames and the ethereal wings behind it symbolize the passionate fire that exists within love’s transformative powers. Set against the backdrop of the chest, this design is a stunning homage to the persevering strength and vulnerability of the human heart.

Traditional snake and heart with wings

Native American Snake Tattoos

These tattoos incorporate the rich symbolism of serpents within Native American culture, where the snake often represents healing and transformation. The designs often feature intricate detail and traditional tribal patterns, tying the wearer to this ancient wisdom.

Snake enclosing tribal dreamcatcher on the back

This distinctive tattoo features a snake enclosing a traditional tribal dreamcatcher, skillfully inked on the back. The serpent’s sinuous body gracefully intertwines the dreamcatcher, symbolizing protection, power and wisdom. Within the iconic woven design, sacred feathers are prominently displayed, adding to the overall spiritual essence of the tattoo. The detailed artwork highlights the beauty of both the snake and dreamcatcher, creating an eye-catching Native American inspired piece.
Snake enclosing dreamcatcher

Native wolf and snake intertwining

Symbolizing strength, loyalty, and the natural world, this Native American inspired design showcases the powerful bond between a wolf and a snake. The image depicts the fierce wolf and the agile snake intertwined, emphasizing the harmony and balance between these contrasting creatures. Rich with dynamic lines and intricate shading, this compelling tattoo embodies the interconnectedness of life and the duality of strength and wisdom.

Native wolf and snake

Serpent and eagle

Inspired by Native American mythology, this exceptional tattoo design unites the legendary feathered serpent and the mighty eagle. Masterfully etched high on the upper back, the detailed artwork captures the power, courage, and divine presence of these spiritual creatures. Dancing with undulating lines, the feathered serpent coils effortlessly around the soaring eagle, forming a breathtaking interplay of celestial symbols and dynamic imagery set against the skin.

 Eagle and snake Tattoo

Snake and the sun

Radiating warmth and vitality, this Native American influenced tattoo design features a bold tribal sun and an elegant snake. The sun’s rays burst forth in bold geometric patterns, signifying illumination and life-giving energy. Encompassing the sun, the intricately detailed serpent symbolizes renewal, transformation, and protection, expertly encapsulating the wisdom and spiritual nature of these ancient symbols.

Snake and sun

Native American snake and arrow

Powerful and evocative, this Native American inspired tattoo design features a snake an arrow pieced an snake head, signifying protection, precision, and strength. The combination of these striking elements represents a warrior’s heart and the spiritual connection to the natural world. With stunning attention to detail, the tattoo artist captures the intricate markings of the serpent and the fierce form of the arrow, creating a memorable emblem that is both symbolic and visually arresting.
Snake and arrow

Japanese Irezumi: A Traditional Twist on Snake Tattoos

For those with a penchant for Japanese mythology and folklore, interconnected snake tattoos that draw inspiration from Irezumi – the traditional Japanese tattoo art – could be an excellent choice. These tattoos often feature the snake as the central subject, accompanied by similarly-styled floral elements, backgrounds, and other traditional symbols.

Japanese snake tattoos are incredibly visually engaging, showing off the skillful craftsmanship and artistic finesse required to bring the intricate details to life. They make a bold statement while simultaneously showcasing your appreciation for ancient cultural symbolism and tattooing traditions.

Snake and peony flowers on sleeve

An elegant combination of beauty and danger is displayed with a snake gracefully intertwined amongst vibrant peony flowers on sleeve. The snake’s fierce expression contrasts against the delicate petals, adding a unique and alluring quality to the design. The discreet colors of the flowers create a sense of harmony, making this tattoo a perfect balance of femininity and power.
Japanese Snake and peony flowers sleeve tattoo

Snake among chrysanthemum tattoo on the back

A mesmerizing scene unfolds with a snake slithering gently amongst delicate chrysanthemum on the back. The vivid pinks and soft whites of the chrysanthemum flowers contrast against the dark-scaled snake, creating a sense of balance and harmony in the design. This tattoo embodies the ever-changing nature of life, as well as the juxtaposition between danger and beauty.

Japanese Snake with chrysanthemum Tattoo


Traditional snake tattoos are not just eye-catching, but they carry with them a rich and diverse historical symbolism that is sure to leave a lasting impression. By choosing a snake tattoo as your body art, you’re embracing its mysterious aura, its powerful strength, and its sense of balance and duality.

Whether you decide on a classic Americana snake, a Japanese Irezumi-style piece, or a highly realistic rendition of a serpent, your snake tattoo will surely become an eternal part of your skin and personal narrative. So go ahead – let the snake slither into your life, and celebrate its timeless beauty with the perfect traditional snake tattoo.

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