Tree tattoos symbolize many things in a beautiful way. They are deeply personal and can convey an individual’s cultural origins, spiritual or religious aspirations and beliefs. They represent many things vital about life, survival and ultimately death. Across all cultures and beliefs.
Trees are revered as symbolic totems whether it’s about producing food essential for the creation of or sustaining an existence, offering shelter from the elements, or simply representative in its own form.
Roots can signify a great support system for the basis of more complex things that will materialize from a strong foundation. A strapping trunk may suggest unwavering resiliency. Branches and twigs may depict continuity and connections to others. And a new bud can convey new beginnings. Also the type of tree says many things about the bearer.
The Meaning of Tree Tattoos
Although trees mean many different things to many different groups of people, all groups revere them as mystical icons and evolutionary objects of significant strength.
- The Egyptians regarded the tree of life to be symbolic of life and death. There are several trees in ancient Egyptian mythology that tell the story of this notion, among them the acacia, the sycamore and the tamarisk trees.
- The Celts saw the tree as a provider of food, shelter and warmth. They believed that life is ever continuing as is prevalent in the Celtic knot.
- Chinese mythology boasts a dragon and a phoenix as residents of its tree of life. The dragon embodies the soul of a person, while the phoenix represents resurrection and rebirth.
- The bodhi tree is the tree under which Buddha sat to attain Enlightenment. Buddhists may choose this particular tree for their tattoo design since it would have more meaning to them religiously.
- In Norse mythology is a gigantic tree called Yggdrasil. this ash tree is portrayed as having roots in the world literally under our feet, the trunk in the world in which we live, and branches that extend toward the heavens. Relying upon a rich nutrient source below the earth, suggestively the “spirit” of the earth, these roots supply the essentials for sustaining the lives of supernatural creatures said to live within the branches of the tree. The branches that reach the heavens connect these “worlds” together. There’s also a rich mythology about the residents of this tree, however, to really delve into this is another topic for another day.
- In Christianity, the tree of life has healing properties (Book of Revelation). For Catholics, the tree of life is symbolic for a humanity free from sin.
- Modern society can attribute the contemporary interpretations of the rree of life to Charles Darwin. His evolutionary tree of life was a diagram that showed the connection between species—in existence and extinct—and how they relate to each other over time.
The Tree of Life
The most well loved design is the tree of life tattoo. Many people who choose to get this tattoo see it as a representative of the interconnectedness of the world and our place in it. It is most often depicted as a tree with roots, a trunk, branches and twigs that grow outward and eventually connecting to the roots from which they originally sprouted forming a circular shape.
The coloring for a tree of life tattoo can range from black to wild variations of greens. Mostly, however it is one of the more simply decorated of the tree tattoos. It is thought to have a strong Celtic overtone in the overall rounded shape, and can be found almost anywhere on the body.
This may be the most popular of all the tree tattoos simply because it paints the big picture of what a tree symbolizes: a strong support system for abundant life, a fruitful existence that begets vitality and the means to continue this way over and over again. It implies strength, growth, the connection of all living things to a past and present, the link of all beings to one another and how all these things work together to spawn and sustain new life into an ever evolving circle of… you guessed it: life.
Palm Tree Tattoos
Another of the more popular tree tattoo designs is the palm tree tattoo. As they are a more elongated, rather than rounded, they are often featured on the arms and legs. Palm tree tattoos work beautifully alongside flower tattoos, and are a favorite for women, in particular.
The palm tree represents:
- Paradise, either spiritual or physical.
- A message of peace.
Oak Tree Tattoos
The mighty oak tree is also highly decorative as a tattoo, and is far rifer with meaning than the palm. It has been one of the most long-lasting symbols in the entire human race. The oak tree has had its place in ancient religions, and was and still is considered to have qualities of courage. However, oak tree tattoos are also beautifully decorative, and may have no more deeper meaning than the joy of a gorgeous tattoo.
The oak tree denotes:
- bravery, strength and victory. In the antebellum south, many duels were conducted under the shade of the great oak trees.
Willow Tree Tattoos
The willow is thought to symbolize spirituality. One of the most popular ways to use the willow in tree tattoos is to use it to symbolize the memory of a lost loved one. As the weeping willow has such long and hanging branches, many people prefer to have the trunk and main part of the willow tattooed on the back, with the branches dripping down the arms or neck. It is usually one of the larger of the tree tattoos, simply because of its beautiful hanging branches and overall shape.
Willow tattoos can mean:
Japanese Cherry Blossom Tree Tattoos
Perhaps the most beloved tree in the world is the cherry blossom tree, also called the sakura tree. This tree has been revered by Asian cultures for many centuries, and the cherry blossom tree tattoos are thought to show understanding and reverence for the cycle of life in all of its fleeting beauty.
One of the most delicate and beautiful of the tree tattoos, it is typically tattooed on the side or back, with branches leading up to the neck, shoulders or arms.
The nature of the symbolism and the design of the tree itself call for very delicate and intricate detail with well rendered pink blossoms. It is often filled with Japanese style shaping of the tree limbs, as this is thought to be the most pleasing form.
Flowering and Fruit Tree Tattoos
Maybe the tree of life reminds you too much of religion or that philosophy course in college you snoozed through. How about going for a simpler concept? The following are just a few tree tattoo ideas that might strike your fancy:
- Apple Tree — found in teachers’ classrooms everywhere while also purporting to keep the doctor away, the seemingly humble apple was the object of three Greek goddesses’ desires when they decided to bribe a young prince for the Golden Apple, which was to be awarded only to the most beautiful of the three. Not only did they set in motion the events that led to the Trojan War, they made the sought after fruit a symbol of beauty, youth, knowledge, temptation and sin.
- Magnolia — you’re independent, strong, beautiful, love nature and have weathered many storms. Why not consider a magnolia tree? Native to both America and Asia, this popular tree has been a symbol of beauty and resiliency for centuries.
- Birch Tree — if you’ve turned over a new leaf, no pun intended, the birch tree may appeal to you as it symbolizes rebirth, renewal and new beginnings.
Dead Tree Tattoos
The dead tree is usually used to memorialize the death of a close friend or family member, and is an artistic rendering of grief, mourning and loss. This tattoo is often in the form of a silhouette or shaded heavily. It can be placed anywhere on the body, but, like other tree tattoos, the back is a favorite spot for the dead tree. It is easy to incorporate other designs into the tree to add a darker image, such as:
- Owl, raven or another bird
If a tree isn't your idea of a quiet, discreet tattoo, yet you still want to have a symbolic design, you can use leaves instead. As a whole, leaves have a great deal of symbolic meaning in a tattoo. One leaf is thought to mean joy and happiness, fertility and growth. However, each of the leaves is said to have its special meaning, so before you choose just any leaves for a tattoo, consider the symbolism of these:
- Ivy leaves mean friendship.
- Bay leaves mean healing.
- Birch leaves means magic or purification.
- Elm leaves are thought to symbolize intuition into the natural world.
Whatever your personal or symbolic preferences in getting a tree tattoo, they are some of the most beautiful and artistic tattoos available. You can work them around existing tattoos in exciting and fun ways and can perhaps, finally see the forest for the trees.
Tree Tattoo Gallery
Here's a gallery with a selection of tree tattoos you will like, designs include willows, oaks, pine trees, family tree tattoos, psychedelic trees, all in combination with birds, hearts, skulls, etc.