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Secret Meaning

Friendship, Fidelity, Marriage

Alternative Names:

Bindwood, Lovestone

Facts & Folkore:

The name ivy derives from Old English ifig, cognate with German Efeu, of unknown original meaning. Old regional common names in Britain, no longer in use, include "Bindwood" and "Lovestone", for the way it clings and grows over stones and bricks.

The name ivy is also been used as a common name for a number of other unrelated plants, including Boston ivy (Japanese Creeper ), Cape-ivy or German-ivy, poison-ivy and Swedish ivy (Whorled Plectranthus)!

Like many other evergreen plants, which impressed European cultures by persisting through the winter, ivy has traditionally been imbued with a spiritual significance. It was often brought into homes to drive out evil spirits.

In Ancient Greece wreaths of ivy were used to crown victorious athletes. In Ancient Rome it was believed that a wreath of ivy could also prevent a person from becoming drunk, and such a wreath was worn by Bacchus, the god of intoxication and wine. English ivy was said to grow abundantly over the mythical mountain of Nysa, the childhood home of Dionysus, which may explain the link between ivy and the god.

In the Middle Ages, ivy was still associated with wine. A branch or bunch of ivy was often hung on a pole outside a tavern to indicate that the building sold wine or ale. The pole was known as an alepole or an alestake. The bunch of ivy was sometimes known as a bush. From this came the saying. "Good wine needs no bush", meaning that something of merit doesn't need to be advertised because the good news will travel by word of mouth.

Thalia, the Greek Muse of comedy and idyllic poetry is usually depticed holding a comic mask, a shepherd's crook, and a wreath of ivy. Paintings of poets often use a symbolic wreath of ivy as a classical reference.

The clinging nature of ivy makes it a symbol of love and friendship, there was once a tradition of priests giving ivy to newlyweds. And as it clings to dead trees and remains green, it was also viewed as a symbol of the eternal life of the soul after the death of the body in medieval Christian symbolism. The traditional British Christmas carol, The Holly and the Ivy, uses ivy as a symbol for the Virgin Mary.

Ivy-covered ruins were a staple of the Romantic movement in landscape painting, some times used to represent the ephemerality of human endeavours and the sublime power of nature.

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