Although it is not a popular tattoo (especially on its own) you have probably seen quite a few vine tattoos around. These are images of long, twisting stems that we associate with trailing or creeping plants such as grapes, ivy, and pumpkins.
These plants intertwine with other plants and structures for support to enable them to grow or, as with the pumpkin; they use their tendrils to spread out across the ground.
When they are used for tattoos they often incorporate other leaves and blossoms that may or may not grow naturally on a vine – a good example of this is roses which are often seen on vines in tattoos.
There are people who may choose the vine simply as an add-on to their tattoo – perhaps as an outline for a script or to link other subjects, such as birds or butterflies together but this tattoo does carry its own meaning.
Before getting any tattoo it’s always a good idea to explore the significance of your chosen design, to make sure that they fit it with your beliefs and the image you wish to portray.
The vine has quite a few different meanings, including femininity, fertility, growth, luck, love, friendship, eternity but the most common symbolism attached to a vine in a tattoo is fortitude and overcoming difficult circumstances. Let’s explore these meanings in a little more detail:
Fertility and Growth
The vine is a symbol of continuous growth because this is a characteristic of vines in the wild. They will continue to spread out (either upwards or outwards) – looking for water and sunlight. In the same way that people seek spiritual growth or new opportunities in their lives.
Vines are an excellent symbol for personal development and change. They are also sometimes used to represent the importance of lifelong learning as summed in the beautiful quote by Iris Apfel, who said “If you don’t learn constantly, you don’t grow, and you will wither.
Too many people wither on the vine. Sure, it gets a little harder as you get older, but new experiences and new challenges keep it fresh.”
Overcoming Adversity / Determination
The vine is a plant that always seems to find a way to survive and thrive, just think about how ivy quickly grows to cover a wall with its leaves always pushing higher to get to the sunlight.
They are often able to endure through tough conditions such as drought or poor soil conditions and many people identify the vine as a symbol of strength and determination and choose to include it as a subject in their tattoo designs.
There are people who may choose a design such as this when they feel they have “seen the light” – this may be connected to spirituality, family and even more complex issues such as addiction.
Often stand-alone tattoos featuring vines go around the wrists or ankles and these represent a never ending link or chain to the person wearing it. In mathematics (knot theory) the figure 8, turned on its side, is a symbol that means infinity.
This symbol, created with vines and leaves is a popular tattoo design.
The vine itself is not necessarily regarded as a symbol of good luck, however, leaves such as the four-leaf clover and the oak leaf are considered to be quite lucky in Celtic and Irish folklore. These leaves are often connected by a trailing vine in tattoos.
Vines that bear fruit, such as the grapevine, are symbols of rewarding and bountiful harvests and thus take on a cheery symbolism.
Ivy and vines were often used by the Greeks and Romans as decorations during joyous festivals and special celebrations and in ancient rituals, the bride and groom were adorned with ivy as a symbol of love. Thus today the vine (ivy vine in particular) has come to symbolize friendship, love, and celebration.
As tattoos of vines often incorporate flowers, butterflies, and other womanly images, they are mostly favored by females with men using vines in more masculine ways within darker and more serious designs. Vines, representing growth, are viewed as a symbol of femininity and fertility.
Connection And Grounding
As vines grow, they wrap tightly around the plants and structures that surround them, digging in their tendrils and suckers so that the grip is tight enough to keep them up.
People may use a vine within their tattoo design to symbolize anchoring or being connected with a certain message, a group of people or ideology.
Because the vine tattoo is often used together with other images or as part of a larger design it is common to see this tattoo in various places on the body, often on the arms or legs as part of a sleeve design.
Singular tattoos of vines are most often seen on the ribs, lower back, wrists, ankles, and thighs while smaller designs may be concealed behind the ear or wrapped around the fingers.
A noteworthy design that is becoming popular is “vine garters” for women, where trailing vines are tattooed around the upper thighs – this is a sexy, feminine and unique design.
Vine tattoos are often seen with other elements such as butterflies, flowers and leaves and each of these also carry certain significance. These must be taken into account together with the vine meaning as they can change the symbolism that the wearer is trying to project.
Here are a few popular choices of subjects that accompany the vine in tattoo designs:
Butterflies / Dragonflies
The butterfly is considered to be a strong symbol of transformation and change as well as freedom, femininity, and spirituality. Dragonflies, which are a more masculine symbol than butterflies can denote strength, prosperity, and luck.
Each bird carries a different meaning, so this can vary widely, however generally birds are considered as totems of freedom and spirituality.
These are the flowers that are commonly seen with vine tattoo designs; lily, rose, hibiscus, daisy, sunflower, lotus, jasmine, orchid and cherry blossom. Each of these carries it’s own unique symbolism that may be highly unique to the person who chooses it.
However, flowers are seen in the tattoo world as representations of beauty and growth.
The leaf was considered by many cultures as a symbol for the cycle of life. Leaves of all types are seen within vine tattoos, including; oak, four-leaf clover, olive, maple, and lotus.
There are vine plants with thorns and sometimes a person may choose to have thorns within their inked vine design. These thorns may represent hardships in life and fit in well with the vines most popular symbolism – overcoming difficulty.
Celebrities with tattoo of a vine
Drew Barrymore – Drew has a cross tattooed just above her right ankle which is covered in tightly twisted vines and red flowers. The Celtic cross is not only a symbol of spirituality but also hope, unity and balance.
It’s an interesting combination considering the cross is widely recognized as a symbol of Christianity and early Christians were known to consider the vine a sacred plant.
Chrisette Michele – On the top of her right upper arm Chrisette has a pair of lovebirds tattooed with the words “Hopeful Romantic” above. The birds are surrounded by green vines, colorful blossoms, and round leaves.
Alyssa Milano – Alyssa chose a wraparound design for her small vine tattoo. In her design a vine twists around her right ankle – the vine is colored in black ink and it includes green leaves and red flowers.
Red flowers are popular because red is the color of the heart and we associate red with love and desire.
As with all tattoos the vine represents what you want it to represent, you assign the meaning based on how you view vines and related subjects. It’s important to keep in mind that your tattoo is ultimately yours and because it doesn’t belong to anyone else you are free to choose whatever appeals to you.
Vines may be favored by women because they are often incorporated into more feminine designs that include flowers. That does not mean men cannot use the vine to symbolize something that is vitally important to them such as growth or security.
Try to choose design elements that compliment your vine, such a natural elements like birds, butterflies, even small animals, and plants. It will enhance your vines and build into a deeper symbolism.
Think carefully about the leaves or flowers that your tattoo will contain and research their individual meaning as well.
Vines are a beautiful way to bring designs together or join smaller tattoos and because of the wide variety of designs available there is sure to be one just right for you!