Mistletoe, from the Old English misteltãn, is a parasitic plant that grows on various trees, particularly the apple tree, it is held in great veneration when found on oak trees.
Mistletoe and The Druids
The ancient druids believed mistletoe to be an indicator of great sacredness. The Winter Solstice, called ‘Alban Arthan‘ by the druids, was according to Bardic Tradition, the time when the Chief Druid would cut the sacred mistletoe from the oak tree. The mistletoe is cut using a golden sickle on the sixth night of the new moon after the winter solstice. A cloth held below the tree by other members of the order to catch the spigs of mistletoe as they fell, as it was believed that it would have profaned the mistletoe to fall upon the ground. He would then divide the branches into many sprigs and distributed them to the people, who hung them over doorways as protection against thunder, lightning and other evils. The druids are thought to have believed that the berries of the mistletoe represented the sperm of the gods. When pressed, a semen like substance issues from the white berries. Mistletoe was considered a magical aphrodisiac. The plant in old folklore is called All Heal, used in folk medicine to cure many ills. Druids considered the mistletoe to be a sacred plant and believed it had miraculous properties which could cure illnesses, serve as an antidote against poisons, ensure fertility and protect against the ill effects of witchcraft.
Mistletoe was a plant of peace in antiquity. If enemies met by chance beneath it in a forest, they laid down their arms and maintained a truce until the next day. This is thought to be the origin of the ancient custom of hanging a ball of mistletoe from the ceiling and exchanging kisses under it as a sign of friendship and goodwill. According to the Anglo-Saxons, kissing under the mistletoe was connected to the legend of Freya, goddess of love, beauty and fertility. According to legend, a man had to kiss any young girl who, without realizing it, found herself accidentally under a sprig of mistletoe hanging from the ceiling. If a couple in love exchanges a kiss under the mistletoe, it is interpreted as a promise to marry, as well as a prediction of happiness and long life. In France, the custom linked to mistletoe was reserved for New Year’s Day: “Au gui l’An neuf” (Mistletoe for the New Year). It is often associated with thunder, and regarded as a protection against fire and lighting. Shakespeare, in Titus Andronicus II calls it ‘the baleful mistletoe’. It is interesting to note that mistletoe was excluded from church decorations, probably due to its connection with the druids, and it’s pagan/magical associations.
During the month of December, Blackthorn Druid Witches carry a pouch filled with mistletoe for three days and meditate with the plant.