Tree Tattoos: Designs, Ideas, Meanings, and Photos
The Tree Tattoo: Meaning and History
Trees have been extremely important to most cultures throughout history. The tree has always been viewed as a symbol of life, and tree tattoos date back centuries to the origins of tattooing.
The tree is one of the richest symbols, and in a tattoo, it can symbolize many different things at once. Its meaning depends both on the tattoo and the one who has it. There are many different kinds of trees, each with its own associations, although overall, they symbolize regeneration, rejuvenation, and life.
We get these meanings from the cycles of the tree. Watching the tree over the course of a year helps us more fully understand all the things the tattoo could mean. In spring, it begins to grow leaves and flowers. During the summer, it is in full leaf. By fall, its changes are dramatic: the vibrant green leaves turn beautiful colors, as if to say goodbye before they fall to the ground. In winter, the tree is bare, but as a new spring dawns, it comes to life once again. This cycle can represent the circle of life and is a powerful symbol to keep in mind (or on your body) as a reminder.
In some ancient cultures, the tree tattoo represented one's social rank or social grouping and was a symbol of nobility. Because many cultures of the past believed that the tree was sacred, those tattoos were also considered sacred. If someone who was not of a noble bloodline was caught with a tree tattoo, they would be punished, perhaps to the death.
Tree tattoos can be designed many different ways: Some focus on the bark of the tree, while others portray the branches; some have many leaves, while others may have very few or none. Some tree tattoos may portray a forest, an orchard, or one single tree, and some include the roots. Flowers or other designs might also be incorporated.
As the twig is bent the tree inclines.— Virgil
Notice that the stiffest tree is most easily cracked, while the bamboo or willow survives by bending with the wind.— Bruce Lee
Are you, are you, coming to the tree
Where they strung up a man they say murdered three.
Strange things did happen here no stranger would it be
If we met at midnight in the hanging tree.— The Hanging Tree
Popular Tree Tattoos
There are many different types of trees to choose from: The oak, maple, and pine, just to name a few. However, as a tattoo, certain trees are inked more than others. The trees below are some of the most popular trees used for tattoo designs.
- tree of life
Some tree tattoos may only portray the branches of a tree, which may or may not contain leaves or flowers. One example is the cherry tree or cherry blossom tattoo. Cherry trees can be found throughout Asia and in Japan, and their significance goes back hundreds of years. Because they bloom all at once in a brief yet beautiful explosion of blossoms, they have come to symbolize the transience of life. The blossoms ("sakura" in Japanese) represent life's fragility and beauty, so this tattoo may serve as a reminder that although life is overwhelmingly beautiful, it is also short. The cherry blossom tattoo can also represent fecundity and femininity. Although these tattoos are popular in Asia, they are also popular in many other parts of the world.
Some tattoos include the bark, branches, and the roots of the tree. One example of this is the tree of life tattoo, which symbolizes strength, knowledge, vitality, and reincarnation. Depictions of the tree of life can be found in many different ancient cultures and in various world theologies, mythologies, and philosophies: It refers to the interconnectedness of all life and serves as a metaphor for our common evolutionary descent. The term tree of life may also be used as a synonym for sacred tree or tree of knowledge which is said to connect all forms of creation, and connect heaven and the underworld. The Celts strongly believed that trees have spirits, which is why this tattoo is often designed with traditional Celtic designs, which have no ending or beginning and represent the never-ending cycle of life, which is symbolized as well with interconnecting roots and branches.
There are many other symbolic trees that may be used for tree tattoo designs:
- The cypress can symbolize remembrance and understanding.
- The beautiful willow represents mourning, insight, and healing.
- The ash (with bark that can be used for many things, from furniture to baseball bats) symbolizes sacrifice, sensitivity, and awareness.
- Palm trees are global symbols of beaches and the tropics and represent truth, honor, aspiration, and fertility.
- The sacred Bodhi tree (also known as the world tree) symbolizes enlightenment and the potential that you have within you. It is extremely important to Buddhism and is a great tattoo for anyone that needs a little encouragement, as the Bodhi tree can remind you to always follow your heart and your dreams. It can also symbolize spirituality and longevity.
The family tree: usually portrayed with deep roots and branches, often inked with family members' names or dates of birth. If you choose this tattoo, you may want to have your last name incorporated somewhere in the design.
And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.— Anaïs Nin
Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.— Warren Buffett
Tree Tattoo Meanings
Circle of Life
Life without love is like a tree without blossoms or fruit.— Khalil Gibran
Before You Tattoo
There are several very important things you should do before you get inked.
- Make sure you take the time to do research. You want to make sure that you fully understand what your tattoo represents. You don't want to get a tattoo and find out later that it doesn't mean what you first thought.
- Don't rush to get inked! If you are not sure what you want, don't get inked. Make sure you give the idea time. So many people get a tattoo on impulse or get one they are not completely sure of and end up with huge regrets about their decision.
- Take your time, do your research, and make your choice. Once you know what you want, take the time to look at as many tattoo designs as possible. You want to make sure your tattoo perfectly represents your individual style. A tattoo artist can work with you if one of their designs doesn't fit your vision.
Getting a tattoo is a big step and a lifelong decision. If you feel that a tree tattoo is not for you or you want to look at more tattoo designs, please feel free to follow the links below to view many additional symbols, designs, ideas, and meanings.
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Once there was a tree... and she loved a little boy.... And the tree was happy.— Shel Silverstein, The Giving Tree