Herb Of The Month ~ December 2012

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Herb of the Month for December 2012 - Ivy
      The month of December is well underway and so is the holiday season.  We are under siege by decorations, holiday music, over eating and endless hoards of people. Last year around this time I talked about a plant/herb that is very popular at this time of year, holly.  Therefore, I thought it only fitting that this month I write about its partner in crime, Ivy (Hedera helix). Ivy is the feminine half of this pair and is a strong, hardy plant.  Ivy's ruling deities are Dionysus, Bacchus and Osiris. Its element is water and its ruling planet is Saturn.  There are 12-16 different types of Ivy and it can be found growing all over the world and they are often referred to as 'creepers'. 
I've wanted a house like this since I was a little girl!
Poison Ivy... We'll get to her in a minute.

      Know any gardeners or people with green thumbs? If so, ask them what plant can be a nightmare to have on your property and they will most likely tell you Ivy (I confirmed this with my mother, she has one of the greenest thumbs I've ever seen).  Ivy is a hardy plant. What do I mean by hardy? A hardy plant will survive conditions that make others wilt, root themselves and thrive where survival seems unlikely and they do all this usually without any help or attention from a caretaker.  Ivy can be so invasive that it can and will choke the life out of trees, plants and entire gardens if not tended to regularly.  I'm telling you this because the behavior of Ivy helps us understand its magickal properties and folklore. 
     Ivy is a plant the represents tenacity and strength, especially in times of adversity.  Ivy can grow almost anywhere and endure in any situation, reaching passed all obstacles to obtain the sunlight and food that it needs for growth.  Ivy has a number of magickal properties and can be used in a variety of ways.  Strength, determination, perseverance, adapting to any situation, protection (especially of the home/property), healing and fertility are some of the ways Ivy can be used magickally.  Grow Ivy on or near your home to guard against evil of any kind and disasters.  Because of Ivy's strength and power it can also be used for bindings.  If your dealing with a fear or phobia use Ivy to help you get passed it. Write all your fears down, place them in a box and bind it shut by wrapping Ivy around it. Bury the box, walk away and forget those fears ever had a hold of you. Ivy is also closely associated with the Goddess, cycles of life and reincarnation.  Because it grows in a sacred spiral formation it represents various cycles: The Goddess and the wheel of the year, life and rebirth, reincarnation etc.
      Love, luck and fidelity are also properties of Ivy. Use Ivy in spells and charms to bring these things into your life. Carry Ivy with you for general luck. For luck on your wedding day include Ivy in your bouquet.  If your wedding takes place during the winter months carry a mix of mistletoe, holly and Ivy.  These plants carried together will promote protection, fidelity, long life and luck.  In some traditions Ivy and holly were worn as crowns by both bride and groom during handfastings.  For fertility magick use Ivy (feminine) with its masculine counterpart holly.  Entwine the two together and place on your altar or carry it with you to promote fertility.  Ivy is great for decorating your altar or just decorating in general, especially at this time of year.  A plant that is deeply connected with Winter Solstice, Ivy is often entwined with holly and hung over doorways and windows.
 Interesting Tidbits: (There is a ton of folklore out there about Ivy. Most of these tidbits stem from that folklore.)
1)Divination: Place an Ivy leaf in a bowl of clean water on New Year's Eve. If the leaf is still fresh on the twelfth night then the year ahead is looking good.
2)In the early days of the church's attempts to do away with Paganism, a ban of the use of Ivy was considered because of its connection to Paganism.
3)Grow Ivy on your property to guard against evil. If the Ivy gets sick and dies then misfortune is on the horizon.
4)If Ivy grows in abundance on the grave of a young woman then she died of a broken heart. If Ivy does not grow on a grave at all then the person buried there has a restless soul.
5)I included a picture of Batman villain Poison Ivy because her abilities may partially stem from folklore regarding Ivy.  In the Batman comic books Poison Ivy is a woman obsessed with her love of nature, plants and protecting the environment.  She poisons and cures Batman using a poison lipstick (kiss #1 is the poison and kiss #2 is the cure). Miss Ivy also uses toxins and pheromones from various plants as a means of mind control. Remember the scene from Batman & Robin: Poison Ivy (played by Uma Thurman) makes a grand entrance to a party, blowing a mysterious pink powder onto the crowd. The party goers are instantly under her spell. Ok, I told you all of that for a reason, I promise.  According to Ivy folklore, chewing the leaves can alter your mental state and help you travel deep into your subconscious. So deep perhaps Miss Ivy could bend your will and make you her slave until the effects wore off.  The poison lipstick most likely stems from a possible Native American cure for poison ivy.  The idea is that some tribes chewed poison ivy, developing an immunity to it over time, thus the poison also becomes the cure. This is most likely a myth but it could have been the idea behind Poison Ivy and her toxic lip balm. 
Side Note: Ivy and poison ivy are two different plants. Ivy is part of the Hedera genus while poison ivy is part of the "Toxicodendron, a genus of flowering plants in the sumac family, Anacardiaceae and is not a true Ivy". 
Will Ivy Kill Me?
     Ivy isn't at the top of the list when it comes to herbal remedies but that doesn't mean it can't be used for healing albeit carefully.  Ivy has anti-fungal and antibacterial properties and, when used externally, can relieve ailments such as: joint pain, burns, skin eruptions, cellulite, warts and toothaches.  Ivy can also relieve itching, reduce fever, swollen joints and muscle pain.  Internally, Ivy has been used as a remedy for whooping cough, bronchitis and gout partially because it acts like a mild sedative. Should you use/ingest Ivy for any reason?? Personally I would leave that to trained professionals. Ingesting Ivy or using it externally does carry a fair amount of risks.  Although Ivy is safe to touch everyone is different and some people (especially those with sensitive skin) may develop a rash after handling Ivy. Also, the blue black berry that grows on some types of Ivy taste great to birds but are poisonous to humans. Furthermore, consuming too much Ivy could cause vomiting, severe diarrhea and a few other unpleasant problems.  So will it kill you? Probably not but it can make you feel much worse than before you attempted to treat an ailment with it.  In this witch's opinion, leave the Ivy to the professionals and use another herb or plant that isn't as complicated.  ***
     Ivy is a pretty plant that won't take 'no' for an answer. If allowed to grow wild it will take over and possibly choke other plants and trees that get in its way. Use Ivy for strength, power and perseverance. It can help you lock up your fears and phobias while protecting your property from negativity.  Ivy is a plant that never gives up and never surrenders. Just when a gardener thinks it's gone the tiniest piece has taken root and fights for the sun.  Use it to help you overcome obstacles or find a new way of looking at a situation. Carry it with you for luck and use it to help you and your partner in your baby making endeavors.  There's more information out there so make sure you do some research on your own.
Bright Blessings,

***I am not a doctor and I don't play one on TV. Do your research before you consume any herbs via potions etc.

Cunningham's Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs by: Scott Cunningham
The Encyclopedia of Magickal Ingredients by: Lexa Rosean