Metaphysical Index::Mistletoe

An evergreen plant in the order Santalales, mistletoe is considered a “hemiparasite”. This means it can grow independently or as a parasite growing on the branches or trunk of a tree. In the latter case, it attaches itself to a tree then sucks up nutrients and water using a root system which actually penetrates the host. This weakens or disfigures the tree, and heavy infestations can also kill a host.

There are two types of mistletoe. Phoradendron flavescens is native to North America and is the one commonly used as a Christmas decoration. The European mistletoe, Viscum album, is a green shrub which bears small, yellow flowers and sticky white berries. When ingested, all parts are poisonous to both humans and pets.

Mistletoe is the state floral emblem of Oklahoma, and is also called: Birdlime, Devil’s Fuge, Golden Bough, Holy Wood, Misseltoe, Druid’s Bough, Witch’s Broom, Thunderbesom, and Wood of the Cross.

The word ‘mistletoe’ derives from the older form ‘mistle’ adding the Old English word tān (twig).”

Mistletoe Folklore
Harkening back to Norse mythology, mistletoe became a symbol of peace under which enemies would lay down their arms, maintaining a truce until the following day.

The ancient Greeks held that mistletoe had mystical powers. It has become one of the most magical, mysterious, and sacred plants in European folklore; associated with fertility, love, protection. The mythological tale of Persephone (Greek)/Proserpina (Roman) mentions using mistletoe to open the gates of Hell. Beginning in the Middle Ages, branches of mistletoe were hung from ceilings to ward off evil sprits. Europeans hung it over doors to keep witches from entering. Some Germanic peoples called mistletoe “ghost stick”, and anyone holding a branch of it could see/talk to spirits.

The Druid tradition of harvesting mistletoe during the Winter Solstice and hanging it in their houses pre-dates the Christian holiday of Christmas. Speaking of the Winter Solstice, the Roman festival of Saturnalia includes mistletoe in its celebrations:  fertility rituals were performed under it. (Perhaps an early nod to the Kissing Ball/Bough?)

Its association with fertility (and the tradition of hanging mistletoe branches over the marriage bed) is noted in Chapter 35 of the novel, Tess of the D’Ubervilles:
“…Tess notices sadly the mistletoe that Angel had over the bed…”

In Dungeons & Dragons Druids use mistletoe for casting spells.

Ritual of Oak and Mistletoe
The ritual of oak and mistletoe is a Celtic religious ceremony. Pliny the Elder wrote of this in Natural History. The Druids held mistletoe sacred – especially when it was found on an oak tree (also deemed sacred). On the sixth day of the moon, the white-robed priests would prepare a ritual sacrifice of two white bulls and banquet beneath the oak. One of the Druids would climb the tree and harvest the mistletoe with a golden sickle. “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.”
Courtesy of  Wikipedia

It’s logical to assume that due to mistletoe’s connection with the Druids’ pagan ritual and beliefs, Christianity prohibited the plant from being used in churches – a ban which is still being observed today.

Norse Mythology
The Norse god Balder was the best loved of all the gods. His mother was Frigga, goddess of love and beauty. She loved her son so much that she wanted to make sure no harm would come to him. So she went through the world, securing promises from everything that sprang from the four elements – fire, water, air, and earth – that they would not harm her beloved Balder. Leave it to Loki, a sly, evil spirit, to find the loophole. The loophole was mistletoe. He made an arrow from its wood. To make the prank nastier, he took the arrow to Hoder, Balder’s brother, who was blind. Guiding Holder’s hand, Loki directed the arrow at Balder’s heart, and he fell dead. Frigga’s tears became the mistletoe’s white berries.
Courtesy of  The White Goddess

Some versions show it becoming a symbol of peace and friendship (Norsemen laid down their arms if they met beneath a growth of mistletoe). In the version…with a happy ending, Balder is restored to life and Frigga is so grateful that she reverses the reputation of the offending plant – making it a symbol of love and promising to bestow a kiss upon anyone who passes under it.

The Anglo-Saxons believed that the custom of kissing under mistletoe was connected to Freya, the Norse goddess of love, sex, beauty, fertility, war, and death.

Kissing Ball/Bough
The custom of kissing under the mistletoe is referred to as popular among servants in late 18th century England; and the serving class of Victorian England is credited with perpetuating the tradition. The tradition dictated that a man was allowed to kiss any woman standing underneath mistletoe, and that bad luck would befall any woman who refused the kiss.
Courtesy of  Wikipedia

Instead of the more familiar Christmas holiday, France follows this custom on New Year’s Day.

Mid-summer and Yule festivals
Balder, Apollo, Freya, Frigga, Venus, Odin
It was believed that mistletoe would appear in a tree during a lightning flash; hence, the plant is also associated with Thor, the Norse god of thunder.

Metaphysical Properties

Burning incense during rituals, spell-casting, or other workings can help you focus your attention on what you’re trying to accomplish. One of mistletoe’s magical attributes is to promote creativity, and I’ve been burning it regularly with very positive results.

  • Use as incense to promote creativity, fertility, to prevent illness/misfortune, banish evil, draw in customers/money/business, and for protection from negative energies.
  • Hang for protection from lightning/fire, to bring abundance, and draw love to you. It was also believed that hanging mistletoe in the home protected you from disease, lightening, werewolves, and having your children switched with “changelings”.
  • Include in sachets or charms to increase luck and money; for protection and fertility; for success while hunting; and to repel negativity and ill will.
  • For healing, use in ritual baths or prayer bowls.
  • Its wood is useful in making wands and other ritual implements.

You can purchase high-quality Mistletoe online from Psychic Eye Books.


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