The greatest tree hugger of them all is ivy. It is known as the winter haven, because it flowers late in the year, produces winter or spring berries and offers excellent shelter to wildlife through winter. Yet the leaves in winter can cause trees they climb up to have too much ‘sail’ in strong winds, so many foresters cut them down.
Ivy was associated with holly in the Celtic tradition long before it was adopted as a symbol of Christmas, and ceremonies of the Holly Boy and the Ivy Girl used to be widespread. It is supposed to bring good luck to bring it inside in winter, but it also has a reputation as a symbol of romantic desolation.
a winter haven
in a gale
an ivy sail can capsize
even the deepest-keeled tree
Snippets of lore
The 11th letter of the Gaelic tree alphabet is ivy, standing for G, as its old Gaelic name is Gort.
Ivy’s modern Gaelic name, Eidheann-mu-chrann, means clothes of a tree.
Ivy’s ancient name Gort means sour, as the berries are. The entire plant is poisonous.
Ivy’s latin name Hedera helix comes from Hedra, meaning cord.
Ivy is also called bentwood, bindwood or ivery.
Ivy is perhaps not the best model for romance, in The Ivy Wife, Thomas Hardy’s poem. http://www.poetry-archive.com/h/the_ivy_wife.html
Ivy flowers are the latest of the year, and therefore important for bees.
Ivy’s green globular berries ripen black.
Ivy extracts are used in modern antibiotics.
In Fife an infusion of ivy leaves was used as an eye wash, especially by miners.
Powdered ivy leaves cure ringworm.
Ivy leaves brewed in vinegar ease aches and pains. Fresh leaves clean wounds and sores.
Ivy leaves boiled in butter makes an ointment for wounds and a poultice cures corns.
Wear a cap of stitched-together ivy leaves to cure excema.
NB: Polite reminder of the ABTree Spurious Medical Advice and Unproven Folk Cures Disclaimer Clause.
Ivy berries produce a pink/purple dye and need no mordent.
Ivy is good for making baskets.
Gaelic proverb: ‘sickness alone would keep goats from eating ivy’.
Ivy is the clan badge of the Gordons.
When evergreen ivy grows up trees it increases their ‘sail’ (or wind-resistant surface) in winter, thus increasing likelihood of wind-throw.
Ivy has the power to bring down an oak. It symbolises determination.
Ivy is an important winter haven for small mammals and nesting site for birds.
Ivy is a symbol of romantic desolation.
Architects of the Victorian Gothic revival used ivy as a symbol of melancholy and romantic ruin.
White ivy leaves were sacred to Greek goddess Ariadne, in whose honour male human sacrifice was made.
Ivy was sacred to Orisis, Egyptian god of magic.
The Bacchae drank ivy, fly agaric and pine-sap wine and went beserk to celebrate the festival of Bacchus.
A wreath of ivy protects milk and dairy products from bad spirits.
Pin three leaves of ivy on your nightie to dream of your future husband.
‘Ivy, ivy, I love you. /In my bosom I put you./ The first young man who speaks to me, /my future husband he will be.’
Bringing ivy leaves inside will bring good luck at midwinter.
Ivy’s spiralling motion echoes the movement of the moon and stars.
Ivy is interchangeable with honeysuckle in many legends – both are wanderers.
holly + ivy = male + female = sun + moon
Ivy girl and holly boy would parade at Yule dressed in leaves, singing satirical songs, taking the evergreen through the dark times.
The last wheatsheaf of the harvest is bound with ivy and called ‘The Ivy Girl’. Embarrassing if she’s on your field.
Ivy represents the search for identity by linking to others, the search for the collective soul or subconscious.
Ivy in your dreams means stop and reflect on your direction.
A wreath of ivy, honeysuckle and rowan hung over the lintel protects from witchcraft or the evil eye.
Ivy snuff is a hangover cure.