The Meaning of Tree Tattoos

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Tree symbology is a popular focus in tattooing
Tree symbology is a popular focus in tattooing (Image: Digital Vision./Digital Vision/Getty Images)

The image of a tree can have many meanings, and tree symbology is a popular focus in tattooing. Where a generalized tree may mean life or strength, the tattooing of specific trees can imply a more complex meaning.

Symbolic Origins

Many mythologies center around a tree; the Judeo-Christian creation story is a well known application for the "Tree of Life." This concept also appears in ancient Egypt, Palestine and Scandinavia. Tattoos incorporating these ideas often appear with tree roots and branches intertwined in a circle.

Other Myths

Buddha found enlightenment under a Bodhi tree, and, for Celtic people, trees were the ancestors of man. They believed them to have living spirits, and Celtic tree designs are popular tattoos. These designs also signify the beliefs of the Druids.

Modern Meanings

Tree tattoos provide a graphic means for personal storytelling. Some tree tattoos have stories detailed in the bark, while in others, the branches provide a perfect structure for a more literal significance, like a family tree or genealogical tattoo.

Artistic Applications

Tattoos of trees may be significantly complex with other shapes or symbols hiding within them; the gnarled branches of oak trees are popular for this purpose. Trees may also be used to weave together previous tattoos.

Specific Trees

The meaning of a tree tattoo may depend on the tree. Cypress trees symbolize an understanding of sacrifice, and the apple tree has long been associated with immortality. Cherry blossom tree tattoos are a symbol of feminine power, and willow trees are a symbol of mourning, healing and insight.

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