Lydia is a practicing Druid who has dipped her toes into various occult organizations over the years.
What are the Celtic Tree Months?
The Celtic Tree Months are part of a 13-month lunar calendar. This calendar is also called the Beth-Luis-Nion calendar. It is based on a theory that the Ogham alphabet depicts different trees and was developed by Robert Graves.
Robert Grave's book The White Goddess has never been out of print, though it is not an authentic resource of authentic Celtic mythology. It should be regarded as a poetic work. There are many flaws in the scholarship of this work including out-of-date archaeology and not using enough texts to have a substantial perspective on the subject. Also, The White Goddess herself is heavily based on one of his lovers, the author, Laura Ridding.
However, the book remains popular with non-scholars. It has had a significant impact on Neo-Paganism. While the authenticity of the Celtic Tree Months is questionable in terms of authentic Druidic practices, Ivy is sacred to the Celts and worth having a closer look at. This article will explore some of this enduring plant's fascinating mystical and medicinal elements.
The Celtic Month of Ivy
The Celtic Month of Ivy occurs from September 30 until October 27th. Ivy is the 12th letter, known as Gort, in the Ogham alphabet and it is assigned the 11th month. There are 15 species of ivy out there, but English Ivy is what we are referring to when we discuss Celtic Tree Month.
Ivy is a vine that relies on trees and other supports to maintain its structure. You might be surprised to learn that it is a member of the ginseng family. It can grow 100 feet away from its roots. This plant reminds us to reflect on the ever-constant cycle of life and death.
September is the month where Druids celebrate Alban Elued or the Autumn Equinox. It is a time when the Sun god begins his descent and the days grow shorter.
Ivy's Magical Corresspondences
Arianrhod, Dionysios, Bacchus
Born in the Month of Ivy
This plant is a real survivor. It should be no surprise that those who fall under this sign are also real troopers. This tree month corresponds to the astrological signs of Libra and Scorpio. You will find that those born in the month of Ivy tend to be a blend of qualities related to those 2 signs.
Those who are born in this month are generous, attractive, and great communicators. Since they are good at seeing both sides of an argument, they make great mediators. Sometimes this good quality can make them a bit indecisive. They can also be intense, passionate, and driven toward success in life. Their weakness is that they can be afraid of offending people and stall on doing the right thing.
Ivy is the Feminine Counterpart to Holly
Ivy is the feminine counterpart to the masculine plant holly. Traditionally, it was carried by women for good luck and fertility. Intertwined with holly, it is often used as a wedding decoration. Since Ivy has the ability to cling and bind it perhaps is noted for its fidelity. In fact, another name for this plant is Bindwood. There is an old English tradition of binding the last sheaf of the harvest with ivy. This was called the harvest bride.
The relationship between Holly and Ivy at Yule is well-known. When coupled together they are to bestow peace and goodwill upon the household.
The Resilience of Ivy
This wild evergreen vine is tenacious and resourceful with the will to continue living long after its host plant dies. Ivy is aggressive with a strength that makes it difficult to destroy. It is often called a parasitic plant. It can destroy the trees it grows on. It can be rough on stone walls. It is resilient.
This month occurs at the end of the harvest season. Many myths and superstitions are linked to Ivy. Many of them have to do with death and the Underworld. This tree month occurs just as we are approaching the holiday of Samhain. You will find there is a relationship.
Druids saw ivy as the most powerful plant with a bit of a dark side. It can grow where other plants cannot. Also, it blocks out sunlight and can even take down the mighty oak. It climbs using fibers that grow out of the stem. Roots will form wherever ivy finds a deep crack or some soil. These roots seek out nourishment for the stem of the vine. If a tree has been damaged ivy can injure the tree by taking its resources for survival.
The greenish flowers that appear in the fall are not noted for their beauty, but insects like their pollen.
Ivy has been used in divination. For this reason, poets wore ivy crowns for inspiration. One common divination involves placing an ivy leaf in a cup of water on New Year's Eve. If the leaf is still fresh by the 12th night it is a favorable sign for the year to come. If the leaf has a bunch of black spots it foretells ill health. A spot resembling a coffin could be interpreted as an omen of death.
Ivy has 5 points on their leaves. This apparently links the plant to the goddess. It is particularly sacred to Arianrhod who is the Celtic goddess of fertility, rebirth, and reincarnation. At one time a church council tried to ban the use of ivy in decorations due to the plant's pagan associations.
There is some magic lore regarding attracting and divining a love partner. Putting a leaf of holly and ivy under your pillow to dream of a future lover. Putting an ivy leaf in your pocket was thought to draw love into your life.
Earlier I mentioned that the month of ivy precedes Samhain. There is a connection between the themes of death and the underworld. Since ivy is known to strangle the life out of trees this may be where the associations with mortality come from. In fact, drawing upon its sinister reputation, it has been used in many a curse. In England, picking an ivy leaf in a churchyard was thought to invite death. Ivy growing on a grave also was thought to suggest things about the deceased. A large amount of ivy growing suggested dying of heartbreak or not having a great time in the Underworld.
The Uses of Ivy
Need protection from evil? When growing on or around a dwelling ivy accomplishes this. However, if the ivy dies or falls bad luck will come to all who dwell there. It is also a popular ornamental plant that can thrive in shady spots. It can be used as a beautiful ground cover in the garden. You can also cover unattractive walls with ivy.
The plant produces flowers in the fall. In the winter berries that birds like to eat will appear. A valuable source of food and shelter for wildlife in winter. Robins and Wrens love to build their nests in Ivy.
Ivy as a Medicinal Herb
Ivy's leaves, bark, and berries have all been used in herbal medicine. Some types of ivy are poisonous, so make sure you have the right type. Many online retailers sell ivy that is intended to be used as tea. Though I have not tried Ivy tea, I have read that it has a pleasant flavor. I have seen Etsy sellers offering it up and hope to give it a try in the future. The berries have been taken as a medicine, but are poisonous in large quantities. A powder used to be made out of them to cure drunkenness. This was popular in the time of Hippocrates.
Ivy was also carved into goblets to prevent intoxication. It is dedicated to the Roman god Bacchus who was known to be a wild, party animal. Taverns in England would display ivy over their doors to attest to the quality of their drinks.
Ivy is gaining popularity as an herbal remedy. It is mainly used as a respiratory treatment. It also contains antioxidants. Below I have included a WebMD link that touches upon it usage as an herbal remedy.
How Does Ivy Resonate With You?
Ivy is a beautiful plant with the characteristics of resilience and strength. I hope you found my article inspiring. I certainly learned a number of unexpected facts in my research into this tree. I personally cannot wait to try ivy tea. I think I will also purchase a plant for my home around the holiday season. Perhaps I will be bold enough to try out the New Year's Eve divination that I discussed.
- Ivy | Tree Lore | Druidy
Folklore, Spiritual Uses, and Medicinal Benefits. Read a comprehensive history of Ivy here.
- ENGLISH IVY: Overview, Uses, Side Effects, Precautions, Interactions, Dosing and Reviews
Learn more about ENGLISH IVY uses, effectiveness, possible side effects, interactions, dosage, user ratings and products that contain ENGLISH IVY.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.