Sunday, December 13, 2015

Name Profile: Ivy

Along with Holly and Mistletoe, Ivy has long been a traditional symbol of the Winter Solstice. There is even a popular Christmas carol meaning it, "The Holly and the Ivy." But the plant's significance predates the story of Mary and Jesus.

Ivy (pronounced "EYE-vee") comes from the Old English language and it means...well, "ivy." It's hard to believe, but the Christian church once tried to ban ivy due to it's Pagan associations. Ivy is an evergreen vine that was the symbol of eternal life and rebirth among early Northern pagans, due to it's resilience and it's ability to produce berries during the time of year when no other plant is bearing fruit. It's a plant that needs to be closely monitored, because it will pretty much grow anywhere, taking over the sides of buildings and smothering plants. It was also the symbol of Bacchus, the Roman god of wine and wine-related debauchery. Ivy used to be placed outside the door of vintner's shops because of this.

The ivy plays a big role in at least two Roman myths. One involves Zeus and his illicit lover Semele. When Hera found out that the two were fooling around she was furious, but she decided to be clever. She suggested to Zeus that he should reveal his true form to Semele. When he did so, his divine flames consumed her and almost killed her unborn child, the god Dionysus. The only thing that saved them was a sudden growth of ivy. In another story, a nymph named Kissos dances for Dionysus. But she does so with such energy that she collapses and dies from exhaustion. In his grief, Dionysus transforms her into ivy.

The Celtic Tree Month of Ivy takes place from September 30th to October 27th. It's Celtic name is Gort. The month of ivy is considered a good time to practice magick that has to do with rebirth, but also for controlling emotion, healing, protection, exorcism, and fertility. Ivy is also equated with fidelity, and is used in binding charms for love.

There are many other beliefs surrounding this plant. There is an old tradition of brides wearing crowns of ivy. This was done for protection, but also think about how ivy grows. It twines and clings hard to buildings and trees. So the ivy was meant to symbolize a strong union. There are also some superstitions surrounding ivy and death. Should ivy not grow on a grave, it is a sign that the burried's soul is restless. But if a woman's grave is covered in ivy, it means that she died of a broken heart. This plant was used to make crowns worn by poets because it was believed that it would give them divine inspiration. The leaves of ivy are in the shape of a five-pointed star, very similar to the Wiccan Pentagram.

Despite all of that, this name's "witchiness" is not super apparent. In America, Ivy is a common girl's name that has never left the girl's top 1000 and is currently at it's most popular at #146. So this name doesn't stand out in a crowd of non-Pagans, but the person who has it will know of it's deeper significance. There was also a time that Ivy was a well used boy's name. It fell out of the top 1000 for boys in 1936. To be fair, the ivy plant has always been associated with femininity. But to be honest, I think this could sound charming on a boy.

A thoughtful, name-loving modern Pagan would use the name of a plant in the hopes that either a child or his/herself would gain the virtues associated with it. So, what qualities does the ivy plant represent? Resilience, fidelity, the protective powers of love, divine inspiration...all good things. Despite it's ever growing popularity, there is really no good reason not to consider it.

Some Name Combos:

Ivy Winter

Ivy Evelyn

Ivy Hathor

Ivy Cosmina

James Ivy

Related Names:

Iva

Ivo

Ivie

Ivey

Ivalyn

Kissos (Greek for "ivy")

Hedera (the plant's scientific name)

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