Posts Tagged ‘Misteltoe’

On The Mysterious Matter of Mistletoe..

On The Mysterious Matter of Mistletoe;

According to the Ancient Druid traditions, Mistletoe was the most sacred of all plants.

Allegedly from the Anglo-Saxon word ‘Misteltan’ (Tan = twig) & the German Mistel (Mist = dung)…
This is not so awful as at first may seem, because to the Ancient Nature based traditions, excretion & birth were considered almost synonymous in the cycle of life.
Alternately the name Mistletoe may have derived from the Celtic ‘Mil’ioc’, meaning ‘All-Heal‘.

As Mistletoe grew from the Sky on the limbs of the Holy Oak tree (the Oak tree was believed to be a doorway between the worlds), its leaves green throughout winter representing the fertility of the Earth Goddess, its white berries the seed of the Forest God, the Celts believed that Mistletoe held the soul of the Holy Oak & therefore embodied its Sacred fertility.

Because Mistletoe is botanically unique in the Northern Hemisphere (the only highly-evolved flowering plant that is parasitic/roots into trees), it was considered to have miraculous properties that could cure illnesses, antidote poisons, ensure fertility and protect against witchcraft.
{{Modern Herbalists today use European Mistletoe to strengthen the heart and reduce blood pressure, & to relieve pain from headaches caused by high blood pressure. The powdered leaves have also been used in careful treatment of epilepsy.}}

Mistletoe was used by the Druids in a ceremony held five days after the New Moon following the Winter Solstice;
The Druids would cut Mistletoe from the Sacred Oak tree with a magical golden sickle or Bolline representing the life giving Sun.
The branches had to be caught by maidens, on white cloaks, before they touched the ground, otherwise they would discharge their magical energies into the earth.
The Druids then divided the branches into bunches and gave them to the people, calling it All-Heal, and the people hung them over their doorways as a protection, and as a sign of peace and goodwill.

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The Norse Traditions explain the meaning of Mistletoe through the story of Balder, son of Frigga, Goddess of love & life.
Balder, called the well-beloved & Holy one, is the ‘God of Goodness’ and represents the spring Sun in Norse tradition (& hence the Sun God).

Frigga, worried on hearing Balder’s prophetic dream that he would be killed, had the four elements, Fire, Water, Air, & Earth, promise that they would not harm her son.
However, Loki (the mischievous God of Fire, who was jealous of Balder), found the only thing that could break
this promise, Mistletoe, because as it grows ‘from the sky’ it was not bound to any of the four realms.
He made an arrow from its wood & gave it to Hoder (the blind god of darkness & ignorance) while the other gods were playfully hurling their weapons against the invulnerable Sun God Balder.
Hoder shot his arrow at Balder’s heart, and he fell dead, thus Hoder fulfilled Loki’s jealous plan, the mind darkened by ignorance accomplished what nothing else could, the death of the God of light.

Balder then traveled to Hel, The Queen of the realm of the Dead.
Whilst Odin, father of the Gods, pleaded with Hel for Balder’s return
(Hel agreed on condition that all living things weep for Balder’s return)
Frigga implored all beings to mourn the Sun God’s death & her tears of grief became the mistletoe’s white berries.

This account may be the origin of Kissing under the Mistletoe,..
As Balder is restored to life, Frigga is so grateful that she reverses the poisonous reputation of the Mistletoe,
making it a symbol of love and promising a kiss to all who pass under it as a pledge of friendship and goodwill.

Symbolically, the Nordic Story of Balder & the Mistletoe, portrays the cycle of life, death & rebirth of nature.
As The Sun God dies with every nightfall, & rises again each New Morning;
Also, He dies With every Winter Solstice, to return Each New Year bringing Light & Life.

* * * * * * * * * *

Mistletoe is still forbidden in most Christian churches because of its Pagan associations;
Although the holiday at Christmas time has always predated Christianity with it’s traditions of Nordic paganism, Celtic fertility rites, and Roman Mithraism, many such earlier Gods ( including Theseus, Perseus, Dionysus, Apollo ) present a mythologic account of the divinities birth, death, and resurrection that was uncomfortably close to the story of Jesus..
Both Martin Luther and John Calvin abhorred Mistletoe for these reasons, & the Puritans refused to acknowledge it.

* * * * * * * * * *

Evidence of Mistletoe’s use in Ancient Britain has been recorded in the following extract from the Roman natural historian Pliny the Elder‘s accounts of his reconnaissance of Britain, on the subject of a Druidic ritual:

The Druids…hold nothing more sacred than the Mistletoe and the tree that bears it, as long as that tree be an Oak….
Mistletoe is very rarely encountered; but when they do find some, they gather it in a solemn ritual….
After preparing for a sacrifice and a feast under the Oak, they hail the Mistletoe as a Cure-All and bring two white bulls there, whose horns have never been bound before.
A priest dressed in a white robe climbs the oak and with a golden sickle cuts the Mistletoe, which is caught in a white cloak….
They believe that a potion prepared from Mistletoe will make sterile animals fertile, and that the plant is an antidote for any poison. ”

(Natural History, XVI, 249-251).

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Holding an influential role across cultures and over time,
The enduring fascination with the magical properties of Misteltoe are further evidenced in two significant books of the Western Literary canon…

In Virgil’s ‘Aeneid
(the most famous book in classical Latin & one of the most famous poems of all time),
The Roman hero, Aeneas, finds the ‘Golden Bough’ on a sacred tree in the grove dedicated to the Goddess Diana,
The prophetess Sibyl instructed Aeneas to pick this Magical Bough ‘from which shone a flickering gleam of gold.
As in the woods in the cold winter the mistletoe … which puts out seed foreign to its tree … stays green with fresh leaves and twines its yellow fruit about the boles…’ before his descent into the Underworld.
Sibyl knew that, with the aid of such magic, Aeneas would be able to undertake his perilous adventure safely.
(‘Aeneid’ VI, 204-209).

Much later in the 20th C, the Very Title of Sir James G. Frazer’s comparative study of mythology and religion,
The Golden Bough‘ (1922), derives from this scene in Virgil’s Aeneid.
According to Frazer, Mistletoe could become a “Golden Bough” because when they die and wither, Mistletoe plants acquire a golden hue.
Naturally enough, as his subject matter explored the roots and meanings behind Religion & Magic, the apparently Alchemical and Transformative powers of the Mistletoe directly referenced the cathartic insights that his study would make available to his readership, & was therefore a good choice.

The ‘Goldenness’ of the Mistletoe was further influenced by the European folklore that Mistletoe plants were thought to have come to earth as lightning strikes a tree in a blaze of Gold and as the agent of life thus linked to the divine creative force, which is a suitably portentous birth for a plant whose home is half way between the heavens and the earth.

Glad tidings for Yule! (mid-winter Solstice 21st December)

In Ancient Northern Europe the mid-winter Solstice (between 20th/23rd of December) was called ‘Earth Mother‘s Night’, and as the shortest day of the year it effectively represents the turning point of the season.

The Romans called this Sostice the Dies Natalis Invicti Solis, the Birthday of the Unconquered Sun.
The Roman midwinter festival of Saturnalia (17-25 December) celebrated Saturnus (god of fertility, harvest and time) & his wife Ops (Mother Earth). Whilst Temples and homes were decorated with stars and suns and evergreens symbolizing life’s continuity, Processions of people with masked or blackened faces symbolizing the dark of winter danced through the streets, which has survived in the custom of ‘Mummer’s Plays‘.
Masters also feasted with their slaves and a ‘King’ was appointed from their number to take charge of the revels
giving rise to the ‘Lord of Misrule‘ of medieval Christmas festivities, which tradition survived into the 17th Century.”

In Northern Europe the winter festival was the Yule (Juul).
As the people thought the Sun stood still for twelve days in the midwinter, plunging Mother Earth and all her growing things into the dark, coldness of death, It was thought that spring could not come without their celebration of midwinter.
During this time the Druids began the tradition of burning the Yule Log to conquer the darkness and to evoke the return of the Sun for the new year, the Suns divine male energy was needed to return and quicken the Earths sacred female energy for the Rebirth of spring.
A Yule Tree was also illuminated with candles, to further this effort to attract the Sun.
Therefore ‘Yule’ is the midwinter festival of light, as the length of daylight progressively increases after the winter solstice.

Along with the Evergreen, the Holly and the Ivy and the Mistletoe are important plants of this season, symbolizing fertility & everlasting life.
Mistletoe, also known as The Golden Bough (& called Allheal, used in folk medicine to cure many ills) was held sacred by the Druids and Norse people, who cut it with a golden sickle (symbolic of the Sun) on the sixth night of the moon.
Both Druids and Romans hung sprigs of mistletoe in their homes and places of celebration to bring good fortune and peace & the Scandinavians would halt and call Truce in battle if they came across mistletoe in their Forests.
In addition, its fertility endowing powers have by tradition created its modern role as a symbol of love (a man should pick a berry when he kisses a woman beneath the mistletoe, when the last berry is gone there should be no more kissing!).

The myth of the Holly King/Oak King probably originated from the Druids to whom these two trees were highly sacred.
The Oak King (Lord of the Waxing Year) kills the Holly King (Lord of the Waning Year) at Yule (Winter Solstice).
The Oak King then reigns until Litha (Summer Solstice) when the two fight again and the Holly King is victorious.
The Holly King is still seen in some representations of the modern Santa Claus.”

The Nordic Yule began in the evening of winter solstice 20th-23rd December, with the sacrifice of a wild pig (boar) to Mother Earth.
This gave strength to Mother Earth (Freja), so that she could give birth to her Son (Balder) on 24th of December who represented both the next generation and most imporatntly, light ie the New Sun (which was also echoed in the Rebirth of the Persian Sun God Mithrais {as well as the Greek Apollo} on 25th December, a significant date later co-opted by the Christian Church…)
The ham as the Yule dish is particularly significant because in ancient times the pig was considered a holy animal and personification of Mother Earth, symbolizing her fertility.
Thus the Yule ham is Mother Earth herself.

Regarding such Sacrifices in these Ancient traditions;
As they held that Divinity was inherent in all creatures as an expression of the God’s powers within nature,
so the most powerful of these rituals was when a God was sacrificed to share their divine energy.
Those who ate of such sacrificial feasts received a part of the Deities divine power,
just as the death of one creature gives life to others.
For the ancient people such traditions were completely normal as they ‘sacrificed’ the seed in spring to earth, where it ‘died’, & later rose again to give life to many new seeds which in turn would both feed many people and beget many more new seeds.
(These principles are similar in theme to the Christian atonement sacrifice of Christ, the ritual of Eucharist and the Ascension)

Be that as it may,
I share with you now Bright Yule Blessings:

Yule Blessings.

Blessings to you from the Earth Mother.
She is the Moon.
She watches over all of us by.
The light that she casts over the blessed earth.
Walk her night lit path
And happiness you will find at every turn.
Blessed be!

Blessings to you from the Sky Father.
He is the Sun. He holds us up
And brings us strength. Carry his sword
To cleave the evil from your path
And you will be unmolested.
Blessed Be!

Blessings to you from the Great Spirit.
It binds us all together:
Man to womyn; beast to beast; all.
We are it and it is us.
Blessed Be!

May you have a wonderful Holiday.
The time has come for the sun to be reborn
He lies in his Mother’s womb waiting…
Awaiting his reappearance on this plane.
Let us all rejoice in his rebirth and ours.
Blessed Be!

(by yusef)

Merry Solstice, er…Happy Yule…

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