The Talking Forest Runes

Spring Spiral

Fieldnotes for March – April 2023

by Kay Broome

Hostpapa web photo - fiddlehead fern

Pagans have honoured the spiral since time immemorial, fully aware of its prevalence throughout creation. Variations of the form were etched on wood, rock, temple walls and other manmade sites. Common derivatives of the theme are double and triple spirals and the labyrinth spiral:

left & centre by Kay Broome; right Hostpapa web photo

We are unaware of the ubiquity of the spiral as we go about our daily business, but it is there in virtually every movement we make: breathing, seeing, hearing and walking. For example, try moving forward in a perfectly straight line. It is impossible – your hips will sway in and out and your shoulders do likewise, no matter how imperceptible the movement may feel. And as with the outside world, there are myriad spirals within us: blood vessels, stair-like spinal column, the grooves of the brain, inner ear, bowels and so on.  The discovery of the DNA double helix in the early 1950’s was, in essence, a vindication of the reverence our forebears had for the spiral symbol.  Without the spiral, there can be no movement or life.

Hostpapa web photo

Ostara and the Return of the Maiden

The season of spring is all about life returning. The word itself denotes propulsive movement: the springing of seeds from the underworld to the upper world; water freeing itself from its icy prison; hibernating creatures emerging from burrow and den; songbirds spiralling onto thermal winds that carry them to their summer home.

The Troy Town spiral dance celebrates the return of Persephone, also known as Kore, the Maiden. Persephone was the daughter of Demeter, Greek goddess of fertility, and the sky god Zeus.  While her divine mother reveals attributes of the eternal earth as life-giver, Persephone symbolizes the grain itself rising to life in the spring and dying in the fall. Indeed, her Roman name, Proserpina means to emerge, to creep or shoot forth.

In Ancient Greece, the Eleusinian Mysteries were conducted twice a year in the town of Eleusis. The “lesser” mystery happened in the early spring and the “greater” mystery at harvest time. These rites concerned the myth of the abduction of Kore by Hades, god of the Underworld, and her subsequent return to the upper world and to her grateful mother, with the help of Hermes, messenger to the gods and Hecate, goddess of witchcraft and the mysteries.

Open Source from website
Persephone being led from the underworld by Hermes, Hecate with torches and to the right, Demeter -- Greek vase ca.440 BC

Although these rites, extremely popular in Greece and later in the Roman Empire, were much written about, the vow of secrecy taken by participants was so well kept that to this day, we are not wholly certain of what went on.  We do know from writings by members of the cult such as Plato, Cicero and Plutarch, that it was based on a belief in life after death and an understanding that death was therefore not to be feared.  Life would follow death as spring eternally follows winter.  One could even argue that the myth of Persephone’s return, perhaps more than any other, may have laid the groundwork for not only Neo-Paganism and Wicca, but may even have influenced the early Christian faith with its profound message of rebirth and immortality.


from Wikipedia - painting by John Waterhouse
Persephone by John William Waterhouse (1912)

Ivy (Hedera) and Woodbine (Parthenocissus)

Ivy and Woodbine, 2020, Kay Broome

So long as temperatures do not go much below freezing, true ivies – Hedera, can survive the winter outdoors. However, they and the woodbines or creepers that closely resemble them lose their leaves in the fall. 

The tenacity of these plants, adhering to anything in their path in order to grow and thrive, speaks to the primacy of life and of spring’s return. Both Ivy and Woodbine move in an obvious spiraling pattern, using their tendrils to latch onto other plants, rocks, buildings, etc.  Both plants yield dark blue poisonous berries and while many of the woodbines display leaves in compounds of five, some such as Boston Ivy have a single large leaf shaped much like those of the Hederas.

The Talking Forest Ivy references both the true ivies and the woodbines. This rune is shaped somewhat like an “S” to denote a plant with greater capability of movement than most trees. The Ivy rune’s kenning, its inner mystery, is the spiral that moves and runs through all things.  Fittingly, as the rune of inception, of genesis, it is the very first in the Talking Forest array.  Ivy represents movement and therefore, vitality. Upright, the rune signifies strong, vigorous energy and a new beginning.  As with all “S” runes in the set, Ivy upside down is read as toppled – the plant has been dug up.  Here the rune’s energy is dissipated and shows weakness or an inability to move forward.  A sideways rune is read as inverted and represents the plant moving across the landscape smothering everything in sight – unbridled energy that can be overly needy or parasitic.

The Talking Forest Ivy is ascendant in the Spring, especially at Equinox, when life magically springs forth from Mother Earth.  Whether called Lady Day, Ostara or Eostre, this sacred day for many pagans honours the return of the Maiden goddess as she retraces her steps from the underworld. Named after the Saxon goddess Eostre, the spring equinox celebrates the return of spring and of the Maiden, whatever name worshippers may give her.

Talking Forest Ivy Rune

Talking Forest Ivy © 2009, Kay Broome

You can learn more about Ivy and the rest of the Talking Forest runes by purchasing my book, available internationally in print or ebook on Amazon.

Prior Plantings