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Often taken for granted and even considered to be a nuisance in today's technological age, there is an aspect to trees that we might not have even considered. While rooted deep within the Earth and with branches reaching skyward, trees have long been considered as a link to the Universe. In numerous ancient cultures trees were considered to be symbols of power, wisdom, fertility, and even of life itself. Even in our modern world, these symbols continue to reflect something innate within us, if only we take the time to notice.
Probably the most famous of all trees in the Western world are those mentioned in the Biblical story of creation. This story recounts the Christian God planting within the Garden of Eden beautiful trees laden with delicious fruit, two of which were the Tree of Knowledge and the Tree of Life, which was symbolic of immortality. Revelation 22:2 "Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the Tree of Life, and may enter in through the gates into the city. Prov 11:30 "The fruit of the righteous is a Tree of Life" The concept of the latter tree, the Tree of Life, is not unique to Christianity and can be found in other early religious beliefs. In ancient Palestine, for example, the worship of sacred trees was common before the arrival of the Israelites, being sacred to the Goddess Astarte.
Knurly Tree of Life Tattoo
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By Captain Bret is a Unique and original design copyright 1981
Their branches reach high into the heavens. Their roots dig deep into the Earth.
Yet all are woven together, signifying the connection between all things in the Heavens and the Earth.
Tree of Life - Beginning and End - Continuity of Life
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In the ancient Hebrew mystical system of the Qabalah (which is still practiced today), the Tree of Life was a key factor as it illustrates the underlying unity within the Universe. It acts as a model connecting the Universe with God (or divinity) and humankind, with the branches spreading throughout creation reconciling the individual leaves, representing the unified whole. The Kabbalistic Tree of Life represents aspects of spirituality. The Kabbalah is the exoteric representation of the Tree of Life sciences.The principles and foundations of the ‘creative life force’ can be clearly seen depicted in the tree of life of the Kabbalah, and in a very similar way as the subtle energy system of ancient Yogic tradition.
Norse/Viking Tree of Life
Yggdresil is a gigantic tree, thought to connect all the nine worlds of Norse cosmology. It is often suggested to be an ash tree, an interpretation generally accepted in the modern Scandinavian mind.
An 1847 depiction of the Norse Yggdrasil as described in the Icelandic Prose Edda by Oluf Olufsen Bagge.
In Norse mythology the great ash tree, known as the Yggdrasil, was considered to be the axis of the world, with its branches reaching out over both Heaven and Earth. The roots of the Yggdrasil held the lower world of the earth spirits together, its trunk maintained the middle world of man, while its branches were the home of the upper world of the Gods. The Yggdrasil is said to draw water from the springs and wells at its base, which was the source of hidden wisdom, and supports a host of supernatural beings within its branches. On the highest branch sits an eagle scanning the world for the chief Norse God, Odin. It was also from the branches of the Yggdrasil that Odin hung himself upside down for nine days and night for the purpose of gaining knowledge of the runes which led to his own rejuvenation. In Norway, the World Tree was a provider of nourishment and a source of healing; dews from it enriched the valleys of earth and drops from its leaves brought benefit to men. It was also the source of the world's rivers, for they flowed from the horns of the hart which fed upon its foliage, while from the horns of the goat which did likewise came the mead which supplied the warriors in the hall of Odin.
Tree of Life Tattoo
In Germany and Scandinavia, it is customary to have a guardian or lucky tree beside a house. Symbolic offerings might be made to it, and ale poured over its roots at festivals. Other trees of symbolic importance in Northwestern Europe were the oak, the forest tree associated with the god of the sky, the evergreen yew which lives to a great age, and the apple tree, the favourite fruit-bearing tree of the people of the North.
Egyptian Tree of Life
In ancient Egyptian paintings often depicted a sacred tree above and beside a spring, which contains the water of life. Sometimes a woman is shown embodied in the tree and it is her task to provide food and water for the inhabitants of the Underworld.
From Africa, there are several myths which state that man was born from a tree. The Herero people of southern Africa believe that the first humans, as well as cattle, came from a tree called Omum-borombonga, which is found in the grasslands south of the Kuneno River. Even today, people are said to still leave offerings of small green twigs at the base of this tree as they pass by. To the nomadic Hottentot tribe of south west Africa the name of their great hero, Heitsi-Eibib, comes from the word "heigih" which means "the great tree".
Buddha and The Tree of Life
The Bodhi Tree under which Buddha sat when he attained enlightenment is both a classic representation of the axis of the world and a tree of life, and in the early iconography represents Buddha himself.
In ancient China, trees in the vicinity of tombs or temples were protected as it was believed that the spirits of the dead and of the goods resided in them. The Chinese know the pomelo as the Tree of Life. Its scientific name is citrus grandis, being the granddaddy of all grapefruit.
Ancient India Tree of Life and Knowledge
Because they lived in the forest, the early Vedic teachers of India attached great importance to trees such as the banyan and peepal, which symbolised patience and tolerance. "These trees are completely dedicated to the welfare of others. How great they are that they bear the storms, rains, snow and scorching sun, and then they protect us." This tradition was passed on in to Indian culture and ultimately led to a relationship between human communities and the forest community of trees, plants, and animals which recognised the rights of the trees, forest-dwelling animals and plants to a life of their own, free from the exploitation by humans. In Indian tradition, God, which is the source of all life, is the root of the tree, while the trunk and the branches symbolise the earliest communities which grew up with a pure spirituality close to the creator. The leaves represent human beings.
Ancient Tree of Life Tattoo
ASSYRIAN TREE OF LIFE TABLET
A classic cylinder seal design from the ancient Mesopotamian city of Sherif Khan,Syria, and dated to 883 BC.
A stylistic representation of the terrestrial Tree-Of-Life
There are a number of legends about the early life of Mohammed, founder of the religion of Islam.It is said that just before Mohammed’s birth his father, Abdulah, dreamt of his unborn son. He saw growing from his child’s back a tree, which climbed upward, and reaching its full height emitted a light that spread around the world. Most Muslims interpret the dream and its imagery symbolically. The tree would of course represent the religion of Islam, supported by Mohammed. The light is the wisdom of his teachings that have truly been globally disseminated.However we also know that the tree in Mohammed’s back could be the ‘tree of life’ and is a common symbol in Middle Eastern and Islamic culture. For the Ismailian Shi'ite Muslims, the tree that reaches beyond the seventh heaven is the symbol of "hakikat", the state of beatitude in which the mystic is reunited with the supreme reality.
The annual cycle of deciduous trees provides a visible proof of the creative force within nature. Many cultures have the tradition of planting a tree when a child is born. As the tree grows toward the sky it acts as a reminder of the qualities of uprightness, maturity and responsibility. At the other end of the cycle, trees are also planted to commemorate person's life, creating an ongoing memorial to their spirit.
This cycle of unfailing renewal has been seen as a symbol of fertility. In parts of the Middle East, it is not uncommon to come across a solitary tree by a spring, which is decorated by red handkerchiefs place there by barren women wishing to alter their fate. In southern India, a custom of the Dravidians is to "marry" two trees as a mirror of a marriage. The couple plant two sacred trees side by side, one male and one female. They then make an enclosure around the trees so that they may flourish and their fruitfulness reflects that the fertility of the human couple.
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Knurly Tree of Life Tattoo by Captain Bret c1981
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The Tree of Life is one of the most widespread of all symbolic motifs throughout history. The mythologies of diverse cultures feature trees, symbolizing sometimes life, and sometimes the universe. It is a motif shared by peoples who otherwise appear quite unconnected.
Using a tree as a symbolic representation of a betrothed couple can also be found amongst the Sioux of North America.
The Bushmen and Hottentots of south west Africa a tree that bears fruit is chosen for the ceremony, so that the couple may share in its fertility.
The Mayan Tree of Life.
The Ceiba Tree of Life represents the Mayans transition from the underworld to the "middle ground" and then to the heavens.
The Yarralin people of the Northern Territory of Australia have a Dreaming site for their "karu" (initiated males) at a billabong, which is surrounded by trees supposedly, sprang from the semen of the group of karu who stopped there. Women also have Dreaming trees, some of them at sites where they can receive the spiritual seed necessary of birth. The Waramunga people believe that certain trees harbour the spirit of a child, which may leave its tree to enter through the navel into the woman's womb.
Trees also remind us that death plays an important part in the life process. Yew trees are still a familiar sight amongst older English cemeteries as this tree is representative of the life in death aspect.
The Celtic Tree of Life is one of the most popular and enduring motifs of Celtic Art, found both on Celtic Crosses and on illuminated manuscripts such as the Book of Kells
Although each tree had different meanings to the ancient Celts, the tree was uniformly venerated as a source of wisdom and hope, an enduring link between the upper and lower worlds, a reminder of the eternal cycle of the seasons.
The Celtic peoples greatly revered the tree. To them, trees held a specific significance for they were guardians of great wisdom. Living so closely to nature as the Celts did, they were able to see their lives mirrored in the natural world around them. One example that is still relevant today is that each tree aims to achieve the greatest height so that it may get more light. In our lives this can reflect the need to achieve in life. A tree's growth depends on the strengthening of its trunk to support and the anchoring of its roots firmly in the soil. Again, mirrored in our lives, this shows us that to be able to grow and progress (whatever path we decide to take), we require firm foundations just like the roots of a tree. These foundations are then strengthened from experience, like the trunk, if our aspirations (the leaves) are to reach the light.
To the ancient Celts the yew was burnt for purification when the old year died and the new year came forth, which occurred at the ancient festival of Samhain that marked the Winter.
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This custom Tree of Life Tattoo design by Captain Bret copyright 1982
The Man in the Tree, or Derg Corra, is always accompanied by a Stag. He is the Celtic guardian of knowledge. The oak tree is commonly associated with the ancient Druids who are thought to have congregated in groves.
In Doonwell, Ireland, there is a tree upon which one often sees hanging personal belongings, such as, handkerchiefs, scarves and bits of clothing. There are many trees such as that one, often called rag trees. Such trees are thought to contain spiritual powers of healing.
The Celtic Tree of Life is an image of the Otherworld. The roots were deep in the earth and the branches stretched to the heavens. Its trunk exists within this realm.
The ancient Druids committed decades of their lives in soulful contemplation of the cosmic expressions manifested in trees.
Celtic "Tree of Life" was the Oak. The Tree was a central part of early Celtic spirituality. The most sacred tree of all was the Oak tree, which represented the axis mundi, the center of the world. The Celtic name for oak, daur, is the origin of the word door- the root of the oak was literally the doorway to the Otherworld, the realm of Fairy. The word Druid, the name of the Celtic Priestly class, is compounded from the words for oak and wise- a Druid was one who was "Oak Wise," meaning learned in Tree magic and guardian or the doorway.
Book of Kells Tree of Life image
The Tree of Life
This is found regularly throughout Pictland, (Scotland) and often further south. The recurring features of this design are the emergence of a mistletoe-like plant which emerges from a central pot or beaker. The plant branches from the main stem to form interlacings which culminate in cornucopiae from which other interlaced branches with leaves and fruit emerge. The fruits may be picked at by a pair of birds.
The Celtic rendering of the Tree of Life, which emerges from a pot or beaker, is the only figurative illustration of plant life which appears in the Book of Kells, where it can be found ten times. Two of these are particularly exquisite examples, and depict beautiful tropical-type birds.
The Tree of life is an ancient symbol found in all cultures. A tree connects heaven and earth by rooting in the earth and rooting in the sky. Often it is a vertically symmetrical pattern of two vines which sprout out of a central vessel. Two souls growing together as one.
This Celtic Tree of Life design found throughout the Book of Kells.
Its abstract style of Knotwork and leaves is representative of the Tree. The Holly and the Oak trees symbolized the two halves of the Celtic year. The Oak was the cycle of regeneration and growth (Winter and Spring) and the Holly represented life and death (Summer and Fall). The year was the cycle all life was based on. The Tree was the most sacred symbol in human history because it represents the connection between Heaven and Earth. The Tree grows above as below. Think of what the tree provides; shelter, heat and food. When you look closely at this design you see two sides to the tree. The two sides represent the male and female aspects of nature that grow out of the same earth, which is the bowl. This dual nature also symbolizes Positive and Negative forces in nature as well as Day and Night. Two halves of a whole.
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Charles Darwins Great Tree of Life Evolution theory
"THE AFFINITIES of all the beings of the same class have sometimes been represented by a great tree. I believe this simile largely speaks the truth. The green and budding twigs may represent existing species; and those produced during each former year may represent the long succession of extinct species . . . The limbs divided into great branches, and these into lesser and lesser branches, were themselves once, when the tree was small, budding twigs; and this connection of the former and present buds by ramifying branches may well represent the classification of all extinct and living species in groups subordinate to groups . . . From the first growth of the tree, many a limb and branch has decayed and dropped off, and these lost branches of various sizes may represent those whole orders, families, and genera which have now no living representatives, and which are known to us only from having been found in a fossil state . . . As buds give rise by growth to fresh buds, and these, if vigorous, branch out and overtop on all a feebler branch, so by generation I believe it has been with the Tree of Life, which fills with its dead and broken branches the crust of the earth, and covers the surface with its ever branching and beautiful ramifications" (Darwin, 1859). Click to Buy this Tattoo
A tree connects heaven and earth by rooting in the earth and leafs towards the sky
A Tree, like a woman or man aims to achieve the greatest height so that it may get more light. In our lives this can reflect the need to achieve in life. A tree's growth depends on the strengthening of its trunk to support and the anchoring of its roots firmly in the soil. Again, mirrored in our lives, this shows us that to be able to grow and progress (whatever path we decide to take), we require firm foundations just like the roots of a tree. These foundations are then strengthened from experience, like the trunk, if our aspirations (the leaves) are to reach the light. This Tattoo design custom drawn by Captain Bret 1981 And copyright 1981
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There's even a Tree of Life 145 feet high at Walt Disney World, one hundred forty-five feet high and covered with three hundred animal carvings!
The Celtic Peace Sign
The Coolest Celtic Tattoo design EVER. Drawn just for my Tree hugging friends
A custom Tattoo designed by Captain Bret & Copyright 1982
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Whichever way we look at them, trees can offer us a range of benefits aside from providing us with shelter from the elements and producing the very oxygen we breathe. Maybe if we took some more time to reflect of these majestic giants in the natural world, we will not be so ready to destroy them - after all, remember the tree's revenge in the "Lord of the Rings" ...
Science and the Universal Tree of Life
The Genetic Code and the Origin of Life
Although we have not yet counted the total number of species on our planet, biologists in the field of systematics are assembling the "Tree of Life". The Tree of Life aims to define the phylogenetic relationships of all organisms on Earth.
We do ALL Tattoo styles, NOT JUST Tribal & Celtic
We do ALL Tattoo styles, NOT JUST Tribal & Celtic
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Celtic Tattoo Photos Tribal Tattoo Photos
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The Book of Kells (Pagan Celt Viking & Pict Influence on Art)
Celtic Tattoo History Page #1 Page #2 Page #3
Tribal Tattoo History Page #1 Page #2 Page #3
Celtic Mythology Page #1 Page #2 Page #3
Tree of Life Designs and History
A Cultural History of the Modern Tattoo Community
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These designs, pictures, Photographs, JPG,s,Gifs, files, logos, Tattoos, images, content are used exclusively by Captain Bret's Tattoo Shop Inc. and represents our company, they are our intellectual property © 1981 All rights reserved. All Tree of life's designed and copyrighted in 1981 By Bret A. Lohnes. All Tattoos By Artist Captain Bret A. Lohnes ©1981
NO commercial or non-commercial reproductions allowed or tolerated without valid license from Captain Bret's Tattoo Shop Inc.
All designs and images/content/compilation herein are Copyright 1981. Trade Mark-Service Mark protections exist. Said Copyright, Copyrights, Service Marks, Trade Marks may be filed, owned, by all, some, or individually by the following, Bret A. Lohnes, Captain Bret's Tattoo Shop Inc. and www.tribal-celtic-tattoo.com