For many of us, our introduction to the crocodile comes in the story of Peter Pan (1904), in which the villain, Captain Hook, has lost a hand to a croc, and later loses his very life. Both are seen as hypocritical murderers. But to be consumed by such a powerful beast rings of human sacrifice in which the victim believes he's died an exalted death.
Alligators and crocodiles are both members of the 'crocodilian' family, one of the few species on earth that don't hesitate to treat humans as food. That puts them at the top of the food chain, challenging human supremacy.
Alligators and crocodiles are powerful symbols of stealth, patience, and 'hidden danger'. Their protruding, retractable eyes are like binoculars, resting just above the water's surface, while the bulk of the reptile remains invisible under water. When they strike, they're extremely accurate and efficient, as if they possess an underwater radar. With an excellent sense of sound, and with sensory organs all over their bodies, they can extrapolate the vibrations of its prey into a deadly attack plan. As an opportunistic ambush predator, the crocodile will remain submerged anywhere from thirty minutes up to two hours.
Psychologists find crocodilians an obvious symbol of our unconscious thoughts, urges and desires. Showing up in dreams, an alligator or crocodile might signify something known on an intuitive level, something not yet risen into consciousness, but which threatens to strike without mercy. Jungian analysts have a name for this unconscious and unwelcome part of ourselves - the 'Shadow'.
Sporting a 'crocodilian' tattoo might suggest that there's more to you than meets the eye. But that might be interpreted more as a warning than a welcome.