Witchcraft Journal Blog

A resource for information and opinions on the beliefs, practices, customs, and magic of Traditional Witchcraft of the British Isles.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Misletoe

Mistletoe

[I selected this article to post even though it is not the Yule season, it is interesting for readers of this blog. Happy reading... Adrian.]

A symbol of love and peace, mistletoe is held as a mystical, magical and sacred plant. Its traditions date back centuries to rituals of pagans celebrating the coming winter. So sacred in fact, that during battle, if they happened across it, ancient Druids would maintain a truce until the following day.......

This ancient Scandinavian custom led to the tradition of kissing under the mistletoe. But this tradition went hand-in-hand with the Norse myth of Baldur. Baldur's death and resurrection is one of the most fascinating Norse myths and stands at the beginning of the history of mistletoe as a "kissing" plant.

The Greeks believed that mistletoe had the power of fertility. Kissing under the mistletoe is first associated with the Greek festival of Saturnalia, and later on with primitive marriage rites.

Pluck a berry for every kiss, and once the last is gone, there should be no more kissing!

Mistletoe of the sacred oak was especially sacred to the ancient Celtic Druids. It was considered the soul of the oak. Gathered at winter and summer solstices, it was used to decorate houses during winter.

Later, in the Middle Ages, people would hang mistletoe from their ceilings to ward off evil spirits and over their doors to prevent witches from entering.

In parts of England and Wales, to give luck to an entire herd of cattle, farmers would give the Christmas bunch of mistletoe to the first cow that calved.

In some parts of England, the Christmas mistletoe is burned on the twelfth night otherwise all the boys and girls who kissed under it will not marry!

There are two types of mistletoe, a partial parasite, sending its roots into a tree to take up nutrients, but also with the ability to photosynthesise. It is native to North America and grows as a parasite on trees from Florida to New Jersey. The other is native to Europe. It grows as a green shrub with small yellow flowers and white sticky berries which are most commonly found on apple trees and only rarely on oaks.

The common name is derived from the belief that it was spread in bird droppings. ‘Mistle’ is Anglo Saxon for ‘dung,’ and ‘tan’ is the word for ‘twig’. So mistletoe actually means dung-on-a-twig!
Although its scientific name, Phoradendron, means ‘thief of the tree’ in Greek.

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