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  • Writer's pictureMandira Antar

Tattoo symbols/The tree of life

Updated: Sep 3, 2023

Black, grey, triangle, dotting mandala style custom design
Tree of Life lower back black and grey tattoo design

The symbol of tree in a tattoo... I am really excited about this post!!! More ancient than the human race, always connected to the mother earth, representation of nature, necessary to help us breath, nurturing with it's fruits, giving shelter, spreading the colour green, the indicator of seasons changing... the tree is a powerful and significant symbol in so many ways... I can write about the tree in general, the type of each tree and it's meaning or about the tree of life, a cultural, religious and mystical symbol that is present in most of ancient cultures and religions as well as a beloved tattoo choice for many. The tree of life is also referred as the sacred tree, the tree of knowledge, the tree of immortality, the world tree, or the cosmic tree. Greeks, Egyptians, Assyrians, Mayas, Scandinavians, Celts, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists have a sacred tree reference in their myths, sacred books and cultures. Those trees are to be worshipped and honoured, they symbolise the ultimate connection between the earth and the sky as well as interconnection to everything that is. It is interesting that for every civilisation a different tree has been chosen which makes sense (various continents, flora, countries, ages...)

Egyptians considered the Persea tree (Ished) as the sacred symbol of life and death. It contained the key to the Divine Plan and Order which was known to anyone that could eat its fruits along with guaranteed eternal life. The tree can be found in the Sun temple in Heliopolis and holds the secrets of everyone's destiny. Its fruit symbolised the "Sacred Heart" of Horus. The phoenix was thought to rise from the burning persea tree at Heliopolis.

For Christians it is known as the tree of knowledge, the forbidden tree in the Eden's garden (intermediate Heaven) from the Old Testament as well as the tree of life in the Revelation . So in the beginning it symbolised the connection between humans and their God and eating the fruit of it defying God's order has condemned them to the cycle of life, death and sin. But after the revelation it is given to those who accomplish as a gift and a symbolisation of eternal Paradise (“On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations”, “To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God”). We have to mention though that the tree of life has become the subject of some debate as to whether or not the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is the same tree.

  • Celts called their tree of life crann bethadh, they thought that it possessed special powers, they always chose the centre of their place of residence space to place it. ​​All gatherings of the tribe and ceremonies were held underneath this tree so it symbolised warmth, wisdom, protection, nourishment for nature. They also believed that trees were actually ancestors of human beings. The unending net of knots in celtic tree of life design, signifies the endless cycle of life and death, the continuity of time and connection to Gods. This is the reason the brunches are connected to the roots in this design.

  • In Norse mythology the tree of life is called Yggdrasil and it is an eternal green Ash tree with branches that stretch out to harbour nine worlds. It has three roots, each one reaching to a different mysterious world.

  • For the Mayas the Yaxche tree, their tree of life, was in the centre of their Universe (axis mundi) and supported the world. For them it was a tropical ceiba tree and was considered as the navel of the world.

  • In esoteric Judaism, the religion of Kabbalah ("that which is received" in Hebrew) the tree of life is a symbol that describes the path of God. The design has 10 emanations (called sephiroth, meaning 'spheres') and represent the ten archetypal numbers of the Pythagorian system. Analyzing further the symbol is beyond this blog's purpose but in a few words it is a symbol of God's communication to us, a way to know our path and to understand our divine nature. It represents the individual and the whole. (you can read more in

  • The Buddha became enlightened sitting underneath a Bo or Bodhi tree ("fully awakened" in Sanskrit).

The Bodhi tree (ficus religiosa) at Bodh Gaya is a descendent of the tree under which the Buddha meditated, and today is one of the most important Buddhist pilgrimage sites. So for Buddhists there is a specific meditation called Bodhi tree meditation and for them the tree represents the path to enlightenment, all the things we have to overcome in order to be free of this world.

It is obvious by now that all the above myths religious beliefs and traditions (many more have not been mentioned) have many key points in common as far as the symbolism and the story of the tree of life is concerned. The tree of life is part of our collective consciousness and has always been part of man's symbolic world. Roots represent the depth that feeds and nourishes us, support us in our lives and give us the balance to go higher. It is not irrelevant that in nature the height of every tree is proportional to the size of it's roots.

The trunk of the tree is the road that gives the means to accomplish, resides on the material plane, and the roots grow into the earth, or underworld, which represents many subconscious aspects of our soul.The tree always carries the vision of it's seed and it's fruits carry it's essence. It is flexible yet strong, adaptable. It just stands with it's grace and beauty and reminds us of the beautiful quality of simplicity and eternal peace. It communicates with the sky, it gives a shelter to the birds, it is a house and a starting point... You can always find comfort in it's shadow, fall asleep underneath listening to the leaves whispering the words of the wind. Often combined with birds that stand for prosperity, sustenance, and wealth or with the sun and the moon that represent the time and the circle of renewal.

Illustration and explanation of the tree of Life symbol
The tree of Life Symbolism by Mandira Antar

Tree of Life Tattoo and Placement

Choose this tattoo for every part of your body that needs grounding and stability, have it close to your heart to serve you with it's wisdom. Keep in mind that the tree is basically about the wood element with the beautiful qualities of creativity, love and compassion, generosity and joy, openness and abundance. Add some birds to remind you of your freedom and connection to the spiritual realm. Use colours to make it more artistic and girly or tribal and simple lines to pinpoint it's symbolic strength and yin energy. Make it on your back to always have it's support. In my opinion the tree of life is a wonderful decision, and if you can find a design that suits you, it is beautiful in every size and position.

Never forget that every tattoo and symbol takes it's meaning from the wearer !!

Check out my tattoo page and message me for a custom design that we co-create with love and enthusiasm!

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