While ivy is valued today mainly for its use as an attractive covering for old and unsightly buildings, it was valued by ancient societies for many other reasons.
Ivy is an evergreen, climbing vine with dark green, glossy, triangular leaves. Ivy climbs using root-like fibers that grow from the stem and are tipped with small, disc-shaped suction cups. Yellow-green clusters of flowers appear in late fall and turn into deep black or purple berries in spring.
Greek, Roman and Celtic societies venerated the ivy plant for its hardiness and longevity. They believed the plant prevented intoxication, aided fertility and could ease headaches and muscle cramps.
The ivy has been a symbol of fidelity, friendship and affection. Celtic druids considered it a symbol of determination and strength. The Celts also associated ivy with the lunar goddess, Arianrhod, and held it as a portent of death and spiritual rebirth. Ivy has also been associated with the Christian holiday Christmas.
Ancient Romans gave Bacchus, the god of wine and agriculture, a wreath of ivy leaves. Ivy is also associated with the Roman poet Virgil.
Ivy was once outlawed as a Christmas decoration by the early church because of its pagan associations.
Taverns formerly decorated their signs with ivy symbols to advertise the high quality of their wine.
- Photo Credit ivy image by Alison Bowden from Fotolia.com
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