Merry Meet All,
Mistletoe, holly, ivy, and pine are the mainstay of the Yule tradition. Today we will look at what is so magickal about mistletoe. The Druids valued mistletoe. They harvested mistletoe from oak trees with golden sickles. They collected it under a waxing moon phase, and then fed to their livestock to ensure fertility. They sacrificed white bulls to appease the gods and if their prayers were heard, then prosperity would be showered down upon the villages.
The Druids loved oak and mistletoe. They held rituals, such as on “the sixth day of the moon,” the plant is cut with great ceremony using a sickle-bladed knife.” (Pliny.) Mistletoe is a parasite and grows high on trees, especially on oak trees.
“For they believe that whatever grows on these trees is sent from heaven, and is a sign that the tree has been chosen by the gods themselves. The mistletoe is rarely to be met with; but when it is found, they gather it with great solemnity ceremony. This they do above all on the sixth day of the moon, from whence they date the beginnings of their months, of their years, and of their thirty years cycle, because by the sixth day the moon has plenty of vigor and has not run half its course.
After due preparations have been made for a sacrifice and a feast under the tree, they hail it as the universal healer and bring to the spot two white bulls, whose horns have never been bound before. A priest clad in a white robe climbs the tree and with a golden sickle cuts the mistletoe, which is caught in a white cloth. Then they sacrifice the victims, praying that the gods will make their gifts propitious to those to whom they have given it.” (Pliny)
Ivy was also considered one of the strongest trees, because it could strangle an oak. Ivy was counted among the sacred evergreens and associated with the Otherworld.
The Norse have an ancient tradition in connection with mistletoe. The traditional custom was that if you were out in the woods, and you found yourself standing under the mistletoe, you both had to lay down arms until the following day. The ancient Scandinavian custom led to the tradition of kissing under the mistletoe. The tradition went hand-in-hand with a Norse myth, the myth of Baldur.
THE MYTH OF BALDUR
Baldur’s mother was the Norse goddess, Frigga. When he was born, Frigga made each and every animal and inaminate object promise not to harm Baldur. But she overlooked the mistletoe. Loki, the ever mischievous god that he was, tricked one of the other gods into killing Baldur with a spear made from mistletoe. Hermes had to travel to Hel and back to resurrect Baldur. Every last living thing had to weep for Baldur. Only a giantess did not weep for Baldur. His ressurection was ruined.
A variation of the story from the Prose Edda. After the death of Baldur, it was decided that thenceforth mistletoe would bring love into the world rather than death, and any two people passing under mistletoe would exchange a kiss in honor of Baldur. Others say that the tears that Frigga shed for the slain Baldur became the mistletoe berries.
Mistletoe is considered an aphrodisiac and fertility herb. Mistletoe was regarded with awe by ancient peoples. Mistletoe remained green in the winter and the trees which it fed on did not.
Now you know the origins of the traditions of mistletoe. Tomorrow we will look at more yule traditions.