You have every reason to feel discomfort when looking at this macabre image because, for most of us, it has come to symbolize danger and death . . . although this was not always the case.
The origin of this image is sketchy but some believe it could have come from the sarcophagus of Tutankhamun in ancient Egypt. He is depicted holding a flail and a crook that are crossed upon his chest. The flail was used to show authority and the crook was used by animal tenders to safely coral stray animals without hurting them.
Early Christians generally used the image to symbolize death which explains why it can be found on many Christian catacombs.
In the Middle Ages, the symbol of a skull with two bones crossed behind it was adopted by the Knights Templar which was one of the largest charities in the world for nearly two centuries.
The Masons have also adopted the symbol and hold fast to a legend that the skull and bones are that of Jackes de Molay, the last Grand Master of the Knights who was burned alive by the Church. When the Templars came for his body, they found only his skull and two femurs. To this day it remains a popular Masonic image used in initiation rituals as a symbol of rebirth.
It also became a favored symbol of pirates and was known as the “Jolly Roger”.
Over the centuries it has been adopted by occultists, witches, and other nefarious sorts, but the modern-day trend of skull and crossbones began with the release of the hit movie series, Pirates of the Caribbean, starring Johnny Depp. Since that time, it can be found on clothing for men, women, children, and even pets. These images are usually much softer looking than the typical, stark black and white images found on poison labels.
Just so you know you are not alone in your discomfort, I have come across numerous complaints from people of all ages about this new trend which many find to be macabre and depressing – and who can blame them?
Regardless of how chic the image is being made to look, for many people, it will always represent danger and death – not exactly something that belongs on a baby’s onesie.