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Grim reaper tattoo design
Did You Know?
Kenyon Lee Martin, the famous American basketball player has a Grim Reaper tattoo on his left shoulder. In his tattoo, the reaper is holding a basketball. According to him, the tattoo signifies that he fears no one in the game and that, "Kenyon Martin is the place layups go to die", as quoted by him in an interview with The Enquirer.
Death, especially the doubt whether there is life after death or not, remains a mystery that humanity keeps pondering about. Grim reaper tattoos are for people who have accepted death as a reality of life and respect it as the ultimate leveler. Personally, I have always been intrigued with this symbolism of the reaper as a messenger of impending doom and a manifestation of death itself. Today, tattoo designs featuring the death messenger have become increasingly popular among tattoo lovers who like to symbolize their beliefs through their body.

The grim reaper is always shown as a cloaked figure with a skull for a face, bony hands, and a scythe, with which he reaps the 'harvest of souls'. This is one of the most primordial symbol of death. He is the very manifestation of the fear of doom. Since medieval times, this symbolism has been around in the collective human psyche. He is supposed to be the harbinger of death, who carries the souls of people and transports them to their ultimate destination, which is either hell, heaven, or a limbo.
13 Cool Grim Reaper Tattoo Designs Explained
The symbolism of this death merchant has equivalents in every culture and civilizations that arose on Earth. Tribal designs will be different from what symbolizes death in the European mythology. To me, at a certain level, as I understand it, the reaper is just doing his job and he is as helpless as we are. His grimness arises from the sorry job he is assigned, which includes liberating people from their earthly bondage, while he himself is bonded for eternity. The following tattoo designs will give you an idea of how this theme can look scary, cool, inspirational, offbeat, and amusing, all with a dash of creativity and tattooing techniques.
Female Grim Reaper with a Baby
Grim Reaper holding a baby Grim Reaper
There has always been a debate in terms of the gender of the Grim Reaper. While the figure has widely been accepted as a male one, there are some cultures where this psychopomp is considered to be a female. For instance, in Poland, death is symbolized as an old skeletal woman, whose appearance is quite similar to that of the traditional Grim Reaper. The word they use for death is a female word Śmierć. The design shown above is an unusual depiction of the femininity of this death symbol, as she holds a baby Grim Reaper.
A Reminder Tattoo on Wrist
Small Grim Reaper tattoo on wrist
A tattoo on the wrist generally acts as a constant reminder, especially during times that make you 'look down'. This tattoo theme is one among the few themes that can be designed in varied sizes, big or small. If you look at this particular tattoo, the bold black strokes with artistically written words, "Memento Mori", which means, "Remember that you will die" or "Remember that you are mortal", act as a reminder that we are mortals at the end of the day, and each day of life is a blessing that we should make the most of.
... With an Hourglass and Scythe
Grim Reaper with an hourglass tattoo design
Traditionally, a Grim Reaper is symbolized carrying a scythe which he uses to harvest the souls of mortals whose time is up on Earth. The hourglass incorporated in the design is symbolic of our limited time on earth, and that in time, we will be accompanied by the reaper to reach our final destination―Heaven or hell. Many times, the hourglass is also replaced with a clock. You can also do your own changes and get the scythe replaced by a machine gun, or any other weapon that is synonymous with your way if seeing death.
A Colorful-yet-dark Look
Grim Reaper tattoo on arm done in a watercolor effect
Colored tattoos, especially those with the watercolor effect are in vogue these days. Why not use this tattoo technique for this theme? I mean, death needn't be colorless for every eye, everyone sees it in a different way and it wouldn't be wrong to say that it indeed has different shades to it. The tattoo above wonderfully reflects the whole aura of death. It successfully reminds of a calamity or pestilence on a city, or perhaps the medieval plague that killed innumerable. It would be interesting for you to know that it was from this medieval plague that the origin of Grim Reaper came into existence.
The Horse Rider
Grim Reaper on a horse
The Bible mentions death as the fourth horse rider among the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. The English Standard Version of the scripture describes death in the Book of Revelation (6:7-8): "When he opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, 'Come!' And I looked, and behold, a pale horse! And its rider's name was Death, and Hades followed him. And they were given authority over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by wild beasts of the earth." While the scripture says that death rode a pale-green horse, the depiction of the Grim Reaper riding a black horse isn't uncommon, as the color black represents the 'Black Plague'. This tattoo gives this mysterious feel to the wearer, which truly is the nature of the rider named death. You never know when it may come riding swiftly on a horse and take you to the next level. Well, on a comical note, it is evident that it is not only a knight in shining armor, or a prince charming that comes riding on a horse; death too, may have the same style of arrival!
... What Glows in the Dark
Grim Reaper tattoo on neck
A black figure that comes out in the darkness of night, wearing a dark black cloak .... With a look where all one can see is darkness, what stands out is the empty gaze of the Grim Reaper's eyes, and the scythe that it caries along. This portrayal can work great for tattoos inked using the glow-in-the-dark technique. This design idea may also emphasize on the fact that no darkness is too dark to overshadow the presence of the reaper, or, in other words, death.
The Sporty-modern Touch!
Grim Reaper on car tattoo design
I think this is an absolutely modernized version of the Grim Reaper who loves wheels instead of four legs! This design is perhaps an inspiration from the Ghost Rider, the flaming wheels of the vehicle (which was a bike in the movie) and the whole stunt-like look of the design is super cool in every way. A great option for those who love wheels!
The Vibrant Look of The Grim Reaper
Funky Grim Reaper tattoo
What is absolutely lovable about this tattoo is the depiction of this dull, dark, and scary carrier of souls. This tattoo is apt for those who have accepted that death is a part of the cycle of life, and there is nothing to be grim about it. The complementing quote, "Done with the dull" seems like the bearer has given his/her view on life and death a new, refreshing, and colorful makeover. That's what we all must do, stop being dull and monotonous and live life with full zest and vibrancy. And most importantly, stop seeing death as dark and negative. As a matter of fact, death is the door to a new beginning. We might as well try and look at the bright side of it.
The Grim Reaper's Dance
Funny Grim Reaper tattoo design
Did you know that there is a late-medieval allegory known as Danse Macabre, which emphasizes on the fact that no matter where you come from, you may be a king, soldier, priest, or labor, at the end of it all, you have to let go of all the earthly possessions and fame and dance with death? In this tattoo, this meaning is symbolized somewhat comically, with a cartoon-ish depiction of the Grim Reaper along with some musical notes and a humble request to dance.
... With Lantern on a Boat
Grim reaper on boat tattoo
According to legend and folklore, it is the Grim Reaper's job to take the souls from the world of the living and carry them on a boat to the river that separates the world of the living from the world of the dead. It is also said that this conductor needs to be given a price for this task, or else the souls are left in the middle of nowhere, wandering in limbo with no access to enter the afterlife. This tattoo is a reminder of this journey we must take after our spirit leaves the flesh.
... Grim Reaper with Wings
Grim Reaper with wings tattoo design
The Grim Reaper is often called the Angel of Death. This name is what leads to the depiction of this psychopomp with huge black wings. Alternately, this design can also depict Satan, also known as 'The fallen angel' who is known for bringing evil and death into this world.
... With a Tattered Effect
Tattered Grim Reaper tattoo on back
Such tattoos depict the roughness of a message quite efficaciously with the tattered look. Even if we let alone the design or the theme, the effect itself is enough to make it look totally awesome and intense when it comes to its overall appeal. Another symbolism of this effect combined with this tattoo could be this: We all have the fear of death within us. And, at one time or the other, this fear crops up from within, making us feel all the more vulnerable and perturbed. The evil smile and the stretching out of the hands make it seem as if this fear is calling us towards it. Can we overcome?
The Time to Face Death
Grim Reaper clock tattoo design
A personal favorite, this design is simply phenomenal when it comes to depicting the very moment when we face death. The creative infusion of the elements―A clock, human face, and the Grim Reaper―remarkably portrays this inevitable time in everyone's life. In fact, this tattoo could be just ideal for those who have faced death and managed to get a second chance with life.
These are just the few among the innumerable ideas that can be formulated using this theme, each having a unique meaning to it, depending upon the way it has been portrayed and the elements that have been used. However, we would like to caution those who wish to sport this theme. Many people view it as a negative tattoo, perhaps associating it with Satanic cults and practices. Therefore, make sure that you work with a good tattoo artist, who successfully perceives your ideas, and composes them in a manner that clearly reflects the message behind your Grim Reaper tattoo. All the best!