In the world of tattooing, there are various designs you can use for a leaf tattoo but one of the most commonly requested has to be for the Japanese maple which is rich in emotional symbolism. The leaves in this style of tattoo are often depicted floating as if being carried by the wind and this is a symbolism for time passing but to the Japanese it also symbolizes lovers.
Bamboo leaves are often used too in body art, usually accompanied by other related images too such as the Samurai sword guard which in ancient times was inscribed with a motif of this nature to reflect the owner’s status.
Another design that makes for a great leaf tattoo is the sacred lotus, a symbol whose origins stretch back centuries, representing beauty and purity. Buddha himself is pictured in many religious works of art sitting in the center of a giant lotus leaf. The personal symbolism behind such a choice could emulate this particular leaf’s ability to filter away dust and dirt to keep the lotus flower pristine and pure.
There are many different leaves that are sacred; however, these vary accordingly from culture to culture. For example, the ancient Greeks used the olive leaf as a symbol of victory and a laurel of olive leaves would be awarded to winners in the original Greek Olympic Games. This is still used today to symbolize Olympic victories.
The goddess Athena, according to Greek mythology, was closely linked to this specific leaf and as a result, it is also used as a symbol of security and peace in modern times. The olive leaf was mentioned in the bible too, featuring in the story of Noah’s Ark. When Noah saw the dove carrying one, he knew this was a sign that the floodwaters were diminishing so he and his people would be saved.
Native American’s believed that the poplar or aspen leaf – which was renowned for its trembling motion – was actually talking, whispering messages from the spirit world. However, this particular leaf symbolizes respect and courage, as according to folklore, this tree never bowed, not even to the Great Spirit itself.
The willow, on the other hand, is the tree of enchantment and in some cultures, young girls tie its leaves around their necks in a sachet in order to attract suitors. One of the most powerful trees is the mighty oak so not surprisingly its leaves were seen as potent symbols to ancient tribes like the Celts and also the Romans. The latter would use them as laurels to decorate the head of a successful commander after winning an important battle. These represent longevity, strength and also wisdom.
As body art, a single leaf tattoo or designs featuring multiple leaf images are powerful symbols of resurrection and regeneration, representing the cycles of the season or our lives in general. In many climates around the world, the seasons are marked by the transformation of the leaves upon the trees reminding us of the world’s transformation from spring and summer to autumn and winter. This is like the circle of life as we journey from birth to death throughout our human lifetime, reminding us just how short and fragile life can be.