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These plants, funghi and insect illustrations
are part of my botanical oracle deck

Hedera helix | English Ivy

Botanical Overview of English Ivy

  • Scientific Name: Hedera helix

  • Common Names: English Ivy, Common Ivy, European Ivy

  • Family: Araliaceae

  • Description: An evergreen climbing vine or ground cover with dark green, lobed leaves and aerial rootlets that adhere to surfaces. It produces small, greenish-yellow flowers followed by black berries. English Ivy can grow up to 30 meters long when climbing.

hedera helix botanical illustration

Properties of English Ivy

  • Chemical Constituents: Saponins (hederasaponin), polyacetylenes, flavonoids, and phenolic compounds.

  • Edibility: The plant is generally considered toxic if ingested in large quantities. The berries, in particular, are mildly poisonous and can cause gastrointestinal distress.

Distribution and Habitat of English Ivy

  • Native Range: Europe, Western Asia, and North Africa.

  • Preferred Habitat: Prefers shaded or partially shaded areas with moist, well-drained soils. It commonly grows in forests, on walls, and in gardens. English Ivy is often used as an ornamental plant and ground cover, but it can become invasive in some regions.

Medicinal Properties and Uses of English Ivy

  • Traditional Uses: Historically used to treat respiratory conditions, arthritis, and skin ailments. Ivy leaves were applied as poultices to reduce swelling and treat wounds.

  • Modern Applications: English Ivy extracts are used in contemporary herbal medicine for their expectorant and anti-inflammatory properties. It is included in some cough syrups and respiratory remedies to help clear mucus and ease breathing. Ivy leaf preparations are also applied topically for joint pain and as a treatment for certain skin conditions.

Magical Correspondences and Uses in Magical Practice of English Ivy

  • Element: Water, Earth

  • Planet: Saturn

  • Magical Properties: Protection, fidelity, healing, and binding.

  • Uses: English Ivy is used in magical practices for protection and binding spells. It is often planted around homes to ward off negative energies and protect inhabitants. In rituals, ivy is employed to bind and secure intentions or people, symbolizing fidelity and loyalty. It is also used in healing rituals, particularly for its association with strength and resilience. The plant’s evergreen nature represents eternal life and spiritual growth.

Folklore, Legends, and Mythology of English Ivy

  • Historical Context: English Ivy has been revered since ancient times for its resilience and evergreen nature. It was associated with Bacchus (Dionysus), the Roman and Greek god of wine and revelry, and used in his rituals to symbolize eternal life and intoxication.

  • Folklore: In Celtic folklore, ivy was considered a powerful protective plant. It was often woven into wreaths or placed over doorways to guard against evil spirits and bring good fortune. Ivy was also used in wedding decorations to symbolize fidelity and the intertwined lives of the bride and groom.

  • Mythology: Greek mythology links ivy with Dionysus, who is often depicted wearing a crown of ivy leaves. It was believed that ivy could counteract the effects of intoxication, leading to its use in rituals and feasts. In addition, ivy’s ability to cling and climb made it a symbol of perseverance and eternal life in various cultures.

Historical Literary Sources

  • Pliny the Elder’s "Natural History": Explores the various uses of ivy in ancient Rome, including its medicinal and ornamental applications.

  • Nicholas Culpeper’s "Complete Herbal" (1653): Details the protective and healing properties of English Ivy, emphasizing its historical use in traditional medicine and folklore.


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