Ivy Tattoos, Holly Tattoos & Grapevine Tattoos
Vine tattoos are very popular because vines can be used to create a variety of shapes and compositions. From a stand-alone vine armband to snake-like backdrops accenting other images, the vine tattoo has many uses. Depending on the type of vine, it also has many meanings.
Vines in general are often perceived as symbolizing growth and harmony. Much of this comes from Judeo-Christian tradition, where the vine is often portrayed as a symbol of peace and plenty. Vines were cultivated by Noah before the flood, showing his devotion to the plant. In the New Testament, Jesus proclaims himself to be the vine, and his followers the branches (John 15:1). As such, vines make an appropriate accent to religious tattoos such as crosses, communion cups, and the like.
The grapevine is most used in religious symbolism. For Hebrews, it was the emblem of the Chosen People. The vine was often used to form crowns, and it conveys luck and strength. It is often paired symbolically with sheaves of wheat, to represent the body/bread and blood/wine of Christ.
On the other hand, early Christian art also used grapevines to form the crown of Gluttony, when this one of the Seven Deadly Sins was depicted in human form.
In Greek mythology, the grapevine is also a symbol for Dionysus, the god of wine.
Similar to the grapevine, ivy is associated with crowns and laurel wreaths. It was used at ancient festivals as a symbol for Bacchus (the Roman version of Dionysus), to assure that no intoxication would take place.
Meanings associated with ivy include love, friendship, and immortality. Because of these positive associations, Greeks and Romans would gather the creeping plant and weave it into chaplets (garland worn around the head) for times of rejoicing. Variations of this headgear are still used at weddings and other celebrations today.
The Ancient Greeks considered ivy to be feminine in nature, and associated it also with fertility and birth.
Holly is considered to be the male counterpart to the feminine ivy. It was held sacred to Saturn, the Roman god of agriculture. Holly is also used as a symbol for Christ. The leaves are said to represent the thorns placed on Jesus’ head before his crucifixion, and the red berries represent his blood.
For more information on vine tattoos, see the resources listed on our Reference Page.
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