Yes, we’re moving out of the Celtic month of the Vine. And, so 30 September is the first day of the month of the Ivy; so it’s time to celebrate with a special meal, special event and/or an awesome ritual. The Vine is the 11th month of the 13 month Celtic year, and the Ivy is renowned for being somewhat of a ‘survivor’ plant.
English name: Ivy
Latin name: Hedera Helix
Month: 30 September – 27 October
Ivy is a popular ornamental plant, much valued for its ability to thrive in shady places, is used to provide excellent groundcover, and to cover unsightly walls, sheds and tree stumps.
Long collected for winter decorations, Ivy is associated with Christmas and frequently features in festive designs. It is also an important source of food and shelter for wildlife during winter, but is used by them, it is said, as last resort when other food cannot be found.
‘Oh, a dainty plant is the ivy green, That creepeth o’er ruins old! Of right choice food are his meals I ween, In his cell so lone and cold. . . . . Creeping where no life is seen, A rare old plant is the ivy green.’
Ivy gets ‘bad press’, and is often described as a parasite. It’s not. Although it uses trees and buildings for support, it’s not a parasite as it has its own root system and derives nutrients through them, and not through a ‘host’. Neither, so I’m informed, does it (normally) damage sound buildings or walls where it looks amazing, and it is rarely a threat to healthy trees.
In days of old, Ivy used to be carried by women, and especially brides, for friendship, good luck and fidelity. It is said to protect against negativity and disaster. It is also ‘paired’ with holly, especially at Christmas-time, and mentioned together in the old Christmas carol entitled, ‘The Holly and the Ivy’. This, it is said by some, represents man (represented by Holly) and woman (the Ivy), bringing harmony between them at Christmas-time.
Going back further into English history, English taverns would display a sign with an Ivy bush on it, over their doors to indicate the excellence of the ale and spirits supplied within.
‘For ivy climbs the crumbling hall To decorate decay.’ Philip James Bailey
And going back even further, and into Greek history, their priests, who considered it a holy plant, would present a wreath of Ivy to newly-married persons. Ivy has throughout the ages been regarded as the emblem of fidelity. Ofcourse today, many latter-day Celts, eastern-European Christians, Druids and pagans (still) use head-wreaths for special occasions (myself included, at hand-fastings etc. In Welsh such head-wreaths are called dorchau pen. And, I can also make them for you as I do for others, for any special occasion).
Ivy, then, is a hardy survivor, and as this month progresses and the temperature drops, and winter draws ever nearer, it is a great plant to remind and encourage each one of us to maintain deep spirituality in the face of change or adversity.