According to the Celtic mythology of trees, Mistletoe is the tree of the day after the Winter Solstice (Aprox. December 23). In Druidic lore Mistletoe is an herb of the Winter Solstice and is the special plant for the day after Yule.
- Latin name: Viscum Album
- Celtic name: It is said that Mistletoe is too sacred to have a written word.
- Folk or Common names: Donnerbesen, Birdlime, All Heal, Golden Bough, Devil’s Fuge, Thunderbesom
- Parts Used: Leaves, berries, twigs
- Basic Powers: Protection, Love
Mistletoe is a plant of the sun and also of the planet of Jupiter. It is associated with the element of the air. The colors of Mistletoe are green, gold and white, and its herb is hyssop. The gemstones associated with Mistletoe are Black Quartz, Amber, Pearl and green Obsidian. Mistletoe has the immortal creature the Gryphon-Eagle associated with it and also the plain eagle is its bird association. There are many deities associated with Mistletoe: Loki, Blader, Hercules, Shu, Osirus, and Aeneas are a few of those deities.
Romans, Celtics, and Germans believed that mistletoe is the key to the supernatural. Mistletoe will aid and strengthen all magickal works but is best called upon for healing, protection, and beautiful dreams – dreams which will unlock the secrets of immortality. Mistletoe is a good wood to use for making wands, other ritual tools and magickal rings.
The Berries are used in love incenses, plus a few berries can be added to the ritual cup at a handfasting. Boughs of Mistletoe can be hung for all purpose protection around the house. Sprigs of Mistletoe can be carried as an herb of protection – plus amulets and jewelry can be made out of Mistletoe wood as protective talismans.
Hung over the cradle, Mistletoe will protect the child from being stolen by the fey and Mistletoe that is carried will protect the bearer from werewolves. Mistletoe stood for sex and fertility – hence our tradition of kissing under the mistletoe. It is traditionally hung in the home at Yule, and those who walk under it exchange a kiss of peace.
Pick on Midsummer’s Eve, or when the moon is six days old (six days after the New Moon). Wear as a protective amulet, or to help conceive. The wood is often carved into rings and other magickal objects. A good anti-lightning charm. The herb hung anywhere is an excellent all-purpose protective device. Extinguishes fire. Wear as an amulet to preserve against wounds.
Kissing Under the Mistletoe:
Kissing under the mistletoe seems to be a purely English custom, of which no trace has been found in other countries unless Englishmen have settled there at some time. Strange as it may seem to us now, the English were once much given to kissing. Foreign visitors in the 16th and 17th centuries frequently remarked with surprise on the way in which men and women exchanged kisses without self-consciousness, even slight acquaintances and newly-introduced strangers being thus pleasantly greeted.
The last shadow of this old freedom is now cast by the mistletoe bough at Christmas. If a girl stands under it, she cannot refuse to be kissed by anyone who claims the privilege. At one time, the young men had the right to pluck a berry from the bough for every kiss they took.
It was also thought that if a girl was kissed seven times in one day under the mistletoe, she would be married within a year. A girl who stood under the mistletoe but did not receive a kiss was doomed to remain without a husband for at least one year. A girl who gets married without ever having been kissed under the mistletoe will never have children.
Kissing under the mistletoe is not only for lovers. You should kiss anyone and everyone possible while the mistletoe is hanging. This brings good luck to everyone in the house for a whole year.
Mistletoe, the Golden Bough of classical legend, was a sacred and wonder working plant alike for the Celtic Druids, by whom it was ceremonially cut at the Winter and Summer Solstice festivals. Mistletoe is one of the Druid’s most sacred trees – as Ovid said, “Ad viscum Druidae cantare solebant.” (The Druids are wont to sing to the Mistletoe.).
The Druids gathered their Mistletoe at Midsummer or at the 6th day of the moon. The Druid priests or priestesses would wear white robes while gathering the plant and would use a golden knife to cut the plant from the tree.
The mistletoe was caught in their robes to prevent any from falling to the ground, where it would lose its magickal qualities, and so extreme care was taken not to let the plant touch the ground. Two oxen were often sacrificed for the harvest. The Druids considered that the Mistletoe that grew on Oak trees was the most potent and sacred.
For the Norsemen, it was the holy and terrible plant which slew Baldur the Beautiful when all things in Heaven and Earth had sworn not to harm him. But the mistletoe was forgotten because, rooting on trees and not in the ground, it was not in Heaven or Earth, but only between them. Consequently Loki, the trickster, was able to use it to kill the Dun God when all other things had failed him.
It was also the plant of peace in ancient Scandinavia. A bunch hung outside a house denoted a safe welcome within, and if enemies happened to meet under a tree that bore it, they had to lay down their arms and fight no more on that day.
It is said that if a branch or sprig of the mistletoe was cut with a new dirk on Halloween, after the cutter had walked three times round the oak sunwise, it was sure guard in the day of battle, and a protection at all times against glamour and witchery. A similar sprig laid in the cradle protected the child from being stolen by the fairies and replaced by a changeling.
Being a thunder-plant, its presence in a house protected it from thunder and lightning, as well as from witches and evil spirits. In Britain, it was anciently called All Heal, because it cured many diseases, composed quarrels, and was an antidote to poison. It brought good luck and fertility. For all these reasons it was, and remains, an essential part of Christmas decorations in almost every house, though not in churches.
Its strong pagan associations probably caused it to be banned from churches at Christmas or any other season. This prohibition still prevails in most parishes, and if a sprig or branch is accidentally included in the general greenery, it is usually removed as soon as the clergyman sees it. In one Oxford parish several years ago, permission was given to hang a bunch in the porch, but not inside the church itself.
An exception to this rule in the Middle Ages was at York Minster, where a branch was ceremonially laid on the altar on Christmas Eve and left there throughout the Twelve Days of Christmas. A general pardon and liberty throughout the city was proclaimed for so long as it remained there.
In Worcestershire, where it grows very freely, it is said to be unlucky to cut mistletoe at any time but Christmas. Until very recently (and perhaps still in some households), it was usual to keep the Christmas bunch throughout the year for good luck, and then to replace it by a new one on Christmas Eve.
In some districts, sprigs from such a bunch were given to the cow that calved first after New Year’s Day, to ensure the prosperity of the herd in the following twelve months. In Herefordshire formerly, it was unlucky to bring mistletoe into the house before New Year’s morning. It was not included in the Christmas decorations, but was brought in at the time of the Burning the Bush.
To cut down a mistletoe-bearing tree was once considered to be very unlucky. Many stories are told of misfortunes which fell upon those who did so.
A curious tradition relating to the Hays of Errol, in Perthshire, is connected with this idea. The continued existence and prosperity of that family was bound up with an ancient mistletoe-bearing oak growing near the Falcon Stone. So long as the tree stood and the mistletoe grew on it, they would flourish, but, as we read in the verses traditionally ascribed to Thomas the Rhymer,
… when the root of the aik decays,
And the mistletoe dwines on its withered breast,
The grass sall grow on Errol’s hearthstone,
And the corbie roup in the falcon’s nest.
Oak and mistletoe together have vanished now, and the estate no longer belongs to the Hays. Exactly when the tree was cut down is not now remembered, but local tradition says that it was before the lands were sold, and that it was because of that destruction they were lost to the family.
CAUTION: Mistletoe berries are extremely poisonous and have been known to cause miscarriage.
Mistletoe tea was widely believed to cure the falling sickness or epilepsy, and is still recommended by herbalists for that purpose. The plant was also used in folk-medicine for a variety of other ills, including St Vitus’ Dance, heart troubles and nerve complaints, sores, the bites of venomous creatures, and toothache.
Mistletoe can be used as a stimulant to soothe muscles and to produce a rise in blood pressure. It increases the contraction of the uterus and intestine. Mistletoe has been recommended as an oxytocic in postpartum hemorrhage and menorrhagia. It is also used as a circulatory and uterine stimulant. This plant can induce menstruation. It has shown effective in treating tumors in some animals. It is recommended that due to the toxicity of this plant that ingestion of this herb be avoided.
- Magickal Herbalism
- Encyclopedia of Superstitions