The tree of life is one of those classical symbols that is recognized by all. The origin of the tree of life is unknown, though we can find it across cultures, religions and philosophies. Although the meaning and design of this powerful symbol differs slightly per culture or religion, it always symbolizes the same basic idea: everything in life comes from the same source and is interconnected.
Although there isn’t one specific design or even kind of tree used for these tattoos, all tree of life tattoos have undeniable similarities. For example, they always include the whole tree, from roots to leaves. In Celtic designs, roots and branches are often weaved into Celtic knots, forming a circle. The intertwining circles in the design help emphasize the theme of cyclical life and progressive growth.
At its core, the tree of life represents human life. The tree, with its connection to everything around it, is used as a metaphor for the relationship between a human and its surroundings. This could symbolize the connection between man and nature, the connection between man and God, but also the idea that all living creatures are somehow connected. Throughout different cultures and religions, the tree of life symbolizes ideas about human nature, such as salvation, oneness, wisdom, abundance, progression, and eternity.
Sometimes, the roots and branches are given a different background, in order to show the different worlds in which they exist. Trees, in general, represent life whereas trees portrayed with roots are are associated with growth and development. Roots often signify the starting point. In tree of life tattoos, they often represent birth. For people from religious backgrounds, the roots are often in hell, whereas the branches and leaves are up in heaven. The leaves that are included in tree of life tattoos symbolize rebirth and new beginnings. This is a reminder that there are always opportunities in the future, just as a tree gets new leaves every year. Sometimes, people choose a specific kind of tree for their tree of life tattoo. The ash tree is a commonly used tree for tattoos. It gives your tattoo the additional meaning of strength and protection. Ash trees grow incredibly tall and wide and have looming branches and leaves, shielding whoever stands beneath them from the outside world.
A tree of life tattoo can be placed anywhere on the body, as it is beautiful to portray it big and detailed, but also in a small circular tattoo on smaller canvasses like the wrist or ankle. Traditional, Celtic designs are often black, but colored trees of life or trees with a watercolour background are becoming more popular. Sometimes, other elements of nature, like birds, are included to show the deeper connection between human and nature.
As with any tattoo, its meaning also depends on the wearer. Tattoos are often a very personal form of self-expression. This means that only the owner of a tattoo knows its real meaning.