At this time of year, Yuletide, one thinks of Mistletoe decorating the ceilings of our homes. But Why? Where did this tradition come from?
Mistletoe is native to a region stretching from Northern Europe to Northwest Africa and east all the way to Japan Wherever it was found, mistletoe was considered holy, sacred, powerful, and Magical.
Mistletoe is unique, it was considered a "plant that was not a plant", therefore a sort of "Magical Plant. Mistletoe does not grow from the Earth; as it is a parasite that attaches itself to trees and eventually can even kill the tree.
The berries of mistletoe are poisonous and look like golden full Moons. In Germany these berries are known as "Witches Berries."
Mistletoe could well be the "Golden Bough" that inspired Sir James Frazier's influential, metaphysical book of the same name. Mistletoe was sacred to the Greeks and Romans who believed that it only grew on trees that had been stuck by lightening. For them it represented Life Energy and generative, Magic power. Mistletoe is sacred to the goddess Diana.
The Celts nicknamed mistletoe, "Thunder Broom", believing that it symbolized the uniting of the male and female sexual symbolism.
The Druids believed that it was inauspicious for mistletoe to ever touch the ground; they created an elaborate method for harvesting it. It involved plucking it from the tree, using a golden sickle, with a net to catch it before it landed. No other plant or herb is associated with Druid Magic more than Mistletoe.
In Germany Mistletoe is under the dominion of Freya, and brings blessings of love and fertility. The fact that mistletoe is poisonous shows us that Freya also has two sides to her. She is a Love goddess but also a Death goddess.
Mistletoe shows up in Norse mythology when it is object responsible for the death of Balder. Balder had disturbing dreams that his death was imminent. To try to fore-stall the tragedy, his mother, Frigga, travels around the Earth seeking assurances from every living being that they will never harm her son. Because "Mistletoe" was so small and puny Frigga did not think to ask it. The moral of the story is an important one for herbalists, the most unassuming looking plants can sometimes be the most lethal.
Because of it's pagan symbolism, Mistletoe became synonymous with the magical arts, except for once a year on Yule, or Christmas time, when this formerly sacred plant is hung from the ceiling to stimulate kissing, love and romance.
Brightest of Yule-tide Blessings,