• Christine Dorman

Celtic Tree Signs: Ivy and the Butterfly

Druids considered ivy a powerfully magical plant...and a sinister one.

In Celtic folklore, ivy growing on the grave of a young woman is a sign she died of a broken heart. Those born under the Celtic Tree Sign of Ivy (September 30th—October 27th) might, at times, feel broken-hearted too. Many have difficult lives, especially as children. But the great thing about Ivys: they persevere. They scale obstacles or go around them. In nature, the ivy plant is hard to destroy. Even if it is cut away, it will grow back. The frosts of winter can’t destroy it either. It is an evergreen. The Druids took notice of this. They considered ivy a powerful plant. And a sinister one. Those born under the sign of the Ivy, however, are far from sinister.

The Tree Sign

One of the most notable characteristics of Ivys is their beauty. They may be outwardly attractive, especially since they have an excellent sense of style, but it is the beauty of an Ivy’s soul that is particularly attractive. Ivys are generous of nature and willingly give of their time and talents to others. Intelligent and empathetic, they can see all sides of issues and, so, can understand other people’s perspectives. After talking with an Ivy, a person feels listened to, affirmed. But just because an Ivy understands, doesn’t mean he or she agrees. Since Ivys love balance, they may actually argue against their own beliefs just for the sake of fairness. Also, Ivys like peace so they may agree with someone simply to avoid conflict. Does this mean they are dishonest? No, they’re just skilled diplomats. They certainly possess the qualities necessary for successful diplomacy: charm, wit, and charisma. Additionally, relationships are important to them and they enjoy forming partnerships. Ivys may be soft-spoken but never underestimate the powers of their persuasion and personality.

Animal Sign: The Butterfly

In Celtic symbolism, the butterfly represents the soul and immortal life.

All Celtic Tree Signs have a corresponding animal sign and the Ivy’s is the Butterfly. It shares so many personality traits with the Ivy that repeating them here would be redundant. An important similarity not yet mentioned, though, is that both the Ivy and the Butterfly are associated with immortality and the soul. Ivy often grows in a spiral. To the Celts, the spiral symbolized growth and expansion as well as the cycle of life, death, and rebirth. The Butterfly, in Celtic culture (and in many other belief systems) embodies this mystery with the worm as life, the chrysalis as death, and the transformation into a butterfly as resurrection to a higher life.

Ivy in Science and Herbal Medicine

Those born under the sign of the Ivy can be a joy to have around because of their grace and beauty. Apparently, the plant is good to have around too. Not only is it pretty to look at as it climbs the wall of a house, it is beneficial to humans when brought indoors. According to NASA, ivy is an air-purifier. Indoors, it can reduce mold and improve a building’s overall air quality.

As an herbal remedy, ivy is said to have anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, and anti-viral qualities. It is particularly promoted as an aid to relieve respiratory issues, such as bronchitis and asthma. Be careful, however, before using ivy as an herbal. Consult with your physician or alternative medicine practitioner. Ivy is mildly toxic when taken internally. When applied to the skin, the leaves can cause an allergic reaction in some people.

Ivy is beautiful on a house but the Celts also thought bringing the magically powerful evergreen inside would help the family survive cold, harsh winters.

Ivy in Celtic Folklore

The Druids may have considered ivy sinister but that didn’t stop them (or other Celts) from drawing on its power. They wore it on their heads to give them clarity of thought. Bards wore it for poetic inspiration. On Samhain, young women placed nine ivy leaves on their heads before going to sleep in the hope that they would dream of the man they’d marry. Also on Samhain those courageous (or foolish) souls who dared to peer into their mortality used ivy to determine whether or not they’d live another year. The person would place an unblemished ivy leaf in a glass of water and leave it overnight. In the morning, if the leaf had remained unblemished, the person (according to the folklore) would stay healthy throughout the coming year. If the leaf developed a mark or, worse, withered, the person would die before the next Samhain.

Ivy is used in Celtic bridal bouquets as a symbol of fertility.

The Celts also associated ivy with protection and good luck. If ivy grew near a house, the members of the household would be protected from all evil. Unless the ivy grew ill or fell down. Then disaster was sure to follow! Young women carried ivy as a good luck charm. The plant was woven into bridal bouquets as a symbol of fertility. Finally, Celtic families brought a bit of ivy indoors in wintertime. This greenery in the house when the world outside is cold, gray, and apparently dying can be a cheering sight, but there was more to it for the Celts. They thought the ivy’s powerful magic gave it the ability to stay fresh, green, and alive throughout the season of death. Bringing the plant into their homes, Celts believed, would help the family survive the winter as well. Perhaps, they were right. After all, science has declared ivy to be an air purifier. Maybe those who brought it into their houses benefited from its effect on the environment.

So, if you know someone who was born under the sign of the Ivy, the quality of your life can be improved just by having them around. If you are an Ivy, remember you are a gift to others not so much because of what you do, but simply because you are.

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Next week starts my Celtic Halloween series. There’ll be posts on black cats, witches, ghosts, and loads of traditions, folklore, and food related to that most Celtic of holidays: All Hallows’ Eve!

Get ready! Celtic Moonfish's Celtic Halloween starts next week!

Slan go foil!

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