Ivy, with her beautiful twisting vines and heart-shaped leaves, represents the concept of eternity. Because she is often found twisted about dead and decaying trees, for our ancestors she symbolised the soul and resurrection after death. Ivy is also synonymous with friendships and relationships because of her tendency to twine and weave. The Roman god of wine and revelry, Bacchus, has connections to Ivy because he is often depicted wearing an ivy crown. Our Celtic ancestors believed that wearing an ivy crown helped clear the mind.
Holly represents the masculine where Ivy represents the feminine. Celtic tradition believed that at Winter Solstice, the Holly King reclaimed his throne from the Oak King – both Kings being the two sides of the Green Man. The Oak King ruled over the lighter half of the year, Yule to Litha, and the Holly King over the darker half, Litha to Yule. The Holly King’s reign is about stillness, rest, learning and reflecting on the year. Holly is the eighth tree in the Celtic Tree Ogham, and it symbolises restored balance and unconditional love. We can also see in its bright, glossy leaves the potency of life force in the dark winter months, and for this reason it can be a powerful tool in positive action. It is also a transformative tree, helping us to turn negative emotions into positive.
We know mistletoe best as a romantic plant; one we hang over doorways in the hopes of getting a kiss underneath it! Mistletoe has long been connected to love and fertility, goodwill and peace. Druid priests held mistletoe in great reverence and used it for a sacred ceremony held five days after the new moon following Winter Solstice. They cut the mistletoe from its host, the Oak, with a golden sickle and distributed the plant to the villagers to hang over their doorways as a protection against evil. Again, we can see the potent symbolism of strength, life and light in the darkness.
These sacred plants are all around us. Take some time in the coming weeks to connect with the energy of this magical trio: you might want to plan a walk to your local woodland to seek out holly, ivy and mistletoe. If you are cutting the plant and bringing it back to your home, make sure you offer gratitude to the plant and only take the bare minimum. Better still, find branches that have fallen naturally. You might choose to meditate or spend some quiet time with the plants in their natural environment or you might bring them home to energise your practice there. You can either hold the plants in your hands as you meditate, or simply visualise them.
Holly: Focus your energy on what you want to transform, what positive action you can take. Ask for negative thoughts and emotions to be transformed into unconditional love. Spend some time connecting with the potent and powerful energy of this beautiful plant. Give thanks.
Ivy: Let yourself muse upon your friendships and relationships. See where you have become entangled and where you need to channel more love and attention. Connect in with your sacred feminine; your nurturing, caring side, but also your sexual and sensual self. Feel the power of the immortal soul – your connection to all women past and future – and relish that enormous, revitalising energy, letting it flood through you. Give thanks.
Mistletoe: Turn your thoughts to your loved one, your partner if you have one, or someone who you would like to connect deeply with. Call on the potent force of mistletoe and ask that there be only love, goodwill and harmony in your relationships, for the good of all. Energise the connection you are thinking about by imagining love pouring out for your heart and being channelled directly back in from theirs. Bask in the opening of your heart chakra. Give thanks.
The Holly and the Ivy
The holly and the ivy
When they are both full grown
Of all the trees that are in the wood
The holly bears the crown.
Oh, the rising of the sun
And the running of the deer
The shining of the winter stars
As the longer days draw near.
The holly bears a blossom
As white as any flower
As our Mother bears the infant Sun
In the winter’s darkest hour.
The holly bears a berry
As red as any blood
As our Father bears the hunter’s spear
for His hungry children’s good.
The holly bears a prickle
As sharp as any thorn
As we shall bear our song of hope
On triumphant Yuletide morn.
Adapted by Hilda Marshal