I got a fascinating request for information on the symbolism of snake and skull in Mexican mythology/culture to which I respond:
At its simplest, the symbolism of snake and skull in Mexican mythology is a timeless message of impermanence.
More specifically, the symbolic meaning of skull and rattlesnake imagery deals with the human saga of conquering death only to discover the only option is to surrender to life.
In Mexico, the skull is a representation of impermanence, transition, and freedom. It signifies the liberation of worldly burdens. The annual Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebrations of Mexico in which the skull is a prominent feature, is an extension of this liberation theme. This is a time when veil separating the dead from the living is at its thinnest. A time in which life and death meet, and loved ones are reunited.
Here the skull represents the faint shadows our physical remnant leaves behind upon our death. Beyond those gaping dark sockets is the life beyond what our eyes have seen.
Mexican tradition honors the cycle of life and death – their symbols such as the skull are testimonies to their profound insight into such complex concepts.
The symbolism of the snake or rattlesnake is another extension of the unique Mexican perspective on life, death and the transition between the two.
Mexican mythology indicates the snake is a symbol of veneration, worship and honor. Often a symbol of great power, resurrection and rebirth, the snake continues to be a powerful emblem of renewal and transition.
Further, the snake is recognized as a symbol of humanity as a whole. Interestingly, the Mexican perspective provides hope for mankind to aspire to great heights as it correlates the shedding of the serpent’s skin to man’s ability to change his own circumstances and overcome adversity.
To summarize the symbolic meaning of the snake and skull in the Mexican mythological realms indicate:
Duality between mans identification with conflict between life and death
The impermanence (illusion) associated with this conflict
Man’s ability to recognize this message of impermanence
Man’s ability to utilize the power available to him to over come this conflict
Ultimate ascension & surpassing of conflict & illusion altogether.
You may also be interested in my page on Halloween Symbols and their Meanings here.