Herbology, Lore, mistletoe, Ritual, yule

Lore of Yule: Mistletoe

I have recently found some very interesting things written on Mistletoe. Being that the Yule season is almost upon it, I assume that many will gift it and use it in their ritual practices. I have a couple of gift ideas, an individual practice ritual, and a ritual that you can do with your entire circle or coven. So, I hope you enjoy.

In times past, Druidic priests would sever mistletoe from growing branches five days after the first new moon. But, they would only do so with a golden sickle, and would only take it from a special oak tree, and the severed parasitic plant could never touch the ground. The mistletoe was the distributed to the villager’s homes as a ward against evil in the coming days of emergence from the great embrace of Winter.

Our next Lore is that of the Norse culture.

In our faraway and beloved North, Queen Frigg, the mother of Baldr adored her second son. So she gave a gift most precious. She communed and struck a bargain with all things great and small, to never, ever hurt her favourite son. However, she did not realize that when talking with the great oak, that she had not extracted a vow from the rather young Mistletoe. Loki, the great purveyor of mischief saw that this did not happen, decided to employ this vulnerability and kill our dear Baldr. And so he fashioned a fig made entirely of the unpromised plant and gave it to Hodr, Baldr’s blind brother.

Now, it was a source of great entertainment to the gods to try to kill Baldr, who being prideful and probably intoxicated, would allow any who boasted skill to try their merit against him.

The dialogue went something like this:

Loki said to him, ‘Why dost thou not shoot at Baldr?’

He answered: ‘Because I see not where Baldr is; and for this also, that I am weaponless.’

Then said Loki: ‘Do thou also after the manner of other men, and show Baldr honor as the other men do. I will direct thee where he stands; shoot at him with this wand.’

Hödr took Mistletoe and shot at Baldr, being guided by Loki: the shaft flew through Baldr, and he fell dead to the earth; and that was the greatest mischance that has ever befallen among gods and men.”

-English interpretation from the Edda.

And so Hodr was killed in turn by his younger brother, Vali, the half giant god of vengeance. And it is said that when our world ends, that Hodr will again be reborn and long winter and darkness will come once more. Queen Frigg was so broken hearted that as she cried, her tears turned into the berries that now grow upon the Mistletoe, daring any who might to try one, for now they are a symbol of love.

The classical portrayal of Gaulish Druids is accurately found in this particular ritual. I will give you a historical excerpt of the ancient and a more modern adaptions for covens and individuals to follow.

 The ritual of oak and mistletoe is described by Pliny the Elder, writing in the 1st century AD, as a religious ceremony in Gaul in which white-clad druids climbed a sacred oak, cut down the mistletoe growing on it, sacrificed two white bulls and used the mistletoe to cure infertility:[1]

“The druids hold nothing more sacred than the mistletoe and a tree on which it is growing, provided it is Valonia Oak. Mistletoe is rare and when found it is gathered with great ceremony, and particularly on the sixth day of the moon. Hailing the moon in  gaelic, “dubhan ceann chosach,” that means ‘healing all things,’ they prepare a ritual sacrifice and banquet beneath a tree and bring up two white bulls, whose horns are bound for the first time on this occasion. A priest arrayed in white vestments climbs the tree and, with a golden sickle, cuts down the mistletoe, which is caught in a white cloak. Then finally they kill the victims, praying to a god to render his gift propitious to those on whom he has bestowed it. They believe that mistletoe given in drink will impart fertility to any animal that is barren and that it is an antidote to all poisons.”

 Now for modern purposes, those who are a bit squeamish and do not practice ritual sacrifice, and are aware of how poisonous Mistletoe actually is… we have a good alternative.

Following tradition, on the sixth night of the new moon, this year that being the night of the  18th of December, create two white bull poppets of a good size. Within them place herbs and spices according to your personal needs and wishes for the next season. For groups, have each person add one spice, herb, or item to the poppet. If the group is all female, give the poppets, no horns. If the group is mixed, make one male and one female, for balance.

Mistletoe should be brought by the group’s leader(s), and one should follow the ancient tradition as closely as possible.

Also, a great way to create the feast is to have each member bring one item/dish. So that everyone is participating in the nourishment of the group. Set up your feast outdoors, preferably beneath a grove of oaks, as this is where the magic will give the most strength to the ritual.

After your feast, tie up your poppets beneath the tree, and conduct prayers to the Lady, that the Horned god will bring good fortune, blessings, and protection as he is reborn at Yule. And then distribute the ceremonial mistletoe to each person present, to hang over their doorway.

 I hope that all who read this have learned something valuable and that if you have you will pass on the knowledge. I pray that all have a safe and wonderful Winter, an effective ritual, and a happy Yule night.

 

 

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