It may seem strange to be walking along and see a wheatlike plant tattooed on someone’s arm or ankle. However, barley tattoos hold a lot of significance for some people who may wish to conjure up feelings of abundance or good times in general. The design may even have a religious meaning, as it did for people all the way back in ancient times.
This article will explore the history of barley tattoos, their symbolism and meanings, and their typical locations and characteristics.
What is the History of Barley Tattoos?
Some historians argue that the flourishing of human civilization was largely dependent on the successful cultivation of grains. If that is the case, then barley is one of the most important plants in the history of humanity. It was one of the earliest grains to be cultivated by people and continues to rank high on the list of grains grown by farmers worldwide.
Other than being a vital food crop, barley has had religious significance for thousands of years. For example, it was an essential part of several of the tabernacle sacrifices that Moses described to the Israelites in the first five books of the Bible, commonly called the Torah or the Pentateuch. Years later, in ancient Greece, worshippers of Demeter and Persephone ritually prepared barley as part of their cultic rites.
Centuries after that, medieval European law called for the use of bread made from barley in a procedure called corsned, which was meant to determine the guilt of a suspect if they choked on the bread while receiving exorcism from a priest.
Apart from religious and judicial uses, barley has also been an important part of human culture due to is popularity as the most common grain used in the process of malting, which is essential for the production of beer, whiskey, certain candies, and sweet meal. It seems natural that some people would want to get a tattoo of a plant that has been instrumental in human society for millennia.
What Do Barley Tattoos Symbolize?
Like other popular crops, barley symbolizes several important things, including:
- Good harvest
Historically, a society that is rich in barley can typically count on having a lot of food in total, so the crop can be connected with general prosperity and overall welfare.
On the other hand, the Bible records barley being fed to horses and eaten in bread form by the poor, so the plant doesn’t automatically convey a sense of prestige, accomplishment, or wealth. However, barley was the first crop that could be harvested in time for Passover, meaning that everyone who observed the Passover in ancient Israel was connected regardless of economic status.
In fact, this connection between different types of people continued into the time of Jesus, who is said in the Gospels to have fed 5,000 men with two fish and five loaves of barley bread. Because of this, barley can be seen as a symbol of unification around a shared purpose, such as devotion to God.
What Do Barley Tattoos Mean?
Since it has many connections to the religions of Judaism, Christianity, and even ancient paganism, barley can potentially have a lot of religious significance for different people. It can also be seen as a general sign of hope and a desire for abundance and a good, healthy life.
Since it is the most common grain used for the making of arguably the most popular form of alcohol in the world, barley tattoos can also point to an individual’s enjoyment of drinking in general and beer in particular. Since drinking can also bring with it an idea of socializing and enjoying the company of others, such a tattoo may indicate an individual’s more extroverted or outgoing nature.
Barley tattoos may also be worn for the simple pleasure of their appearance. While the crop isn’t as obviously beautiful as a flower, the near-symmetry of the grains within the stalk and the flowing grass stems can give the entire picture a gentle beauty that tattoo enthusiasts enjoy.
Where Do Barley Tattoos Usually Go?
These kinds of tattoos are long and thin, so they are often located on a wearer’s forearm (either inner or outer), upper arm, or lower leg (especially near the ankle). Less commonly, you may find a barley tattoo on the back of someone’s arm (i.e. near the triceps area), on the upper back, or elsewhere on their leg.
It is far rarer—though still possible—to see this tattoo design featured the side of a person’s body (i.e. on the ribcage), and you would practically never expect to see this kind of tattoo on a person’s face, stomach, hand, or foot.
Characteristics and Styles of Barley Tattoos
The design of barley tattoos vary from something as simple as a single stalk of grain standing perfectly upright, to images as complex as multiple stalks intertwining with dozens of tiny grains peeking out of the head of the plant.
Most barley tattoos are less stylistic and more realistic, with true-to-life plant detail and three-dimensional textures in the depiction of the plant and its grains. Some tattoos are drawn with thick lines and edges, whereas others have thinner lines and an overall softer, lighter appearance. Some designs even show the plant curving as if it’s waving in the wind.
Most of these kinds of tattoos are done in black ink, which highlights the details of the crop itself. Some barley tattoos incorporate light reds or yellows for a bit of realistic color, though this isn’t very common.
This YouTube video showcases several different beer-related tattoos, including some barley plant designs.
Barley tattoos can be more low-key than a lot of tattoo designs, but they may hold a lot of significance and symbolic weight for wearers who view them through a religious lens or who want to celebrate the good things in life. This kind of tattoo design has a lot of appealing visual features and may be seen sported on the arm of a tattoo-wearer near you!