Leaf tattoos are popular from Canada to Japan. In religious symbolism, the leaf represents truth and honesty. In nature, the leaf provides oxygen and eliminates harmful carbon monoxide. The leaf absorbs sunlight and creates nutrition for the plant, which in tern creates nutrition for creatures that consume the plant, tree, and leaves. Leaves create both legal and illegal drugs. Leaf tattoos can symbolize the coming of spring and summer or signal fall and winter. The Olive leaf was sacred to the Greeks and represented victory and triumph. The Celts and Druids praised the Oak tree and believed its leaves were powerful, aiding strength, wisdom, and long-life. In heraldry, or Coat of Arms, leaves mean happiness, faith, or endurance. Native Americans and Japanese alike tattooed leafs or incorporated them into larger tattoo designs.
In Canada, the Maple leaf is a national symbol and is front and center on their flag. Maple trees, which are used to create maple syrup, are common all over New England and are representative of states like Massachusetts and Vermont. Tattoos of Maple leaves can portray patriotism and pride for these regions. Maple leaves can also be incorporated into larger designs featuring other symbolic images, like hockey sticks or a moose. The Red Maple is the state tree of Rhode Island and the Sugar Maple is the state tree of several other states. The Japanese Maple, a beautiful tree, is popular all over the world, but Maple leaves are a significant element in traditional Japanese tattoos. Maple leaves are associated with gifts and honor in China, while in Japan they are connected with October and gifts of love. In Victorian times, Maple blossoms and trees were synonymous with reserve and peace, both greatly valued in Victorian culture.
Today, leaf tattoos can represent a variety of things. Leaves are clearly connected with the circle of life and change. Each year, a tree buds leaves, become filled with life and color, and then the leaves turn into vibrant colors before falling. A budding leaf tattoo can symbolize new life or a renewal of life. A fall leaf, of brilliant oranges, reds, and yellows might personify a good life, well-lived, that could end at any moment. A dead, crumpled, or brown leaf represents death, passing, or the end. Similarly, an 'eaten' leaf, or those that are damaged by pests like caterpillars and insects, symbolizes someone who is equally consumed, usually by drugs, gambling, or another vice or uncontrollable compulsion, often OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). People with these damaged leaf tattoos often feel that part of their life has been consumed by their harmful addiction or that they are incomplete people because their illness has destroyed much of who they are, preventing them from being the person they wish to be.
Specific leaves have specific meanings; here are some of the less well-known symbols. Elderberry or Myrtle leaves symbolize love and peace. Dogwood, Birch, and Mulberry leaves are used in tattoo designs to portray wisdom, grace, and everlasting life. A single leaf of ivy can stand for fidelity and growth, while Oak and Maple mean liberty and strength. Bay leaves, often used to season soups and stews, is a symbol of protection, because folklore suggests that Bay leaves counteract many poisons.
Contrastingly, stinging nettles, common in Great Britain and other areas, are associated with the death or, sometimes, the death of enemies. These leaves can be incorporated either positively or negatively into a tattoo design. Burdock leaf, of the Daisy family, symbolizes tenacity, commitment, and perseverance. Woodbine, or Honeysuckle, is a climbing vine that, unusually for clinging vines, does not damage the object it attaches to. For this reason, Honeysuckle tattoos represent a love that does not harm, not to mention inspiring sweet thoughts of childhood Summers spent tasting the sweet flowers.
Perhaps the most common leaf tattoo is of the Marijuana leaf. These leaves, typically associated with illicit drugs created from the plant, are used in tattoos to convey an interest in drug culture, political ideals (like Anarchism or Libertarianism), or a counter-cultural movements (like the movements of the 1960s and 1970s). Unfortunately, even if the tattooed person does not partake in illegal drugs and chose to get the leaf for another reason, Marijuana leaf tattoos are quite controversial and can prevent employment. For this reason, Marijuana leaf tattoos are often covered up by other tattoo designs later in life, either because the person no longer is active in drug culture or because the symbol is preventing them from properly and effectively assimilating into society. Because of the popularity of Marijuana leaf tattoos, other leaf tattoos can be mistaken for a Marijuana leaf. If this is a concern, you may wish to choose another, less confusing design.