A Japanese chest panel with a Halloween theme is something you won’t find in any traditional Japanese tattoo book. Here, the macabre mixes into a backdrop of orange flames and grey clouds. The Halloween theme may only appear that way, however, since different cultures interpret these same images in very different ways.
In most places of the world, the bat does find itself a part of darker symbolism, which is understandable. Its activity at night and ability to fly in darkness have made it suspicious, even sinister, to people for ages. And yet, among the ancient Maya of Central America it was revered as a type of guardian god and in the Far East is a symbol of both good luck and longevity.
Likewise, the skull is more complicated than it might first seem. Of all the skeletal parts, the skull is uniquely human. Its symbolism, as with the skeleton, is one of human death. Many organizations have used the skull in their symbolism, typically as a means of intimidation or fierceness. But many cultures have actually worshipped skulls as sources of power, displayed them as war trophies, and even used them as chalices for sacred drinks.
In tattoo artwork, they are used as substitutes for all types of faces or heads, and might even be used as beads on necklaces. In general, though, they take on the same symbolism of the skeleton–a memento mori (Latin for “remember you must die”), i.e., a reminder of our mortality.