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Collage: Wax, Textile, Watercolor, Paper, Gesso on Canvas, Paper, Other.
The Ivy of Life
The Binding Ability of Ivy and its Symbolism
English ivy travels along the ground and also climbs up vertical supports such as tree trunks, fence posts, and walls. If its growth is unchecked it can travel from one plant to another, binding the plants together. This ability sometimes has a symbolic meaning.
Some versions of the medieval legend of Tristan and Isolde, or Iseult, refer to ivy's ability to bind. Tristan was a Cornish knight and Isolde was an Irish princess. Tristan went to Ireland to claim Isolde as a bride for King Mark. During the journey back to Cornwall, Tristan and Isolde fell in love after drinking a love potion.
Beyond this basic plot there are many variations in the story. In some versions, Tristan and Isolde die and are buried in separate graves by King Mark so that even in death they cannot be together. However, an ivy vine (or another vine or a tree) grows out of each grave towards the other one. The ivy vines meet and twine around each other, forming a connection. Even when the king cuts the vines they regrow and reconnect.
Ivy represented peace to the Druids of old, perhaps because of its ability to bind different plants or even different kinds of plants together. Today ivy is often used at weddings, where it symbolizes fidelity.
Holly standeth in the hall fair to behold,
Ivy stands without the door; she is full sore a cold
Holly and his merry men, they dancen and they sing;
Ivy and her maidens, they weepen and they wring.
Ivy hath a lybe, she caught it with the cold,
So may they all have, that with Ivy hold.
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