HomeIndexPagan Chroniclesmistletoe in tradition : esoteric meanings of mistletoe

there are many traditions and legends related to mistletoe in the European tradition, many of them have an archaic origin of an ancient heritage, often superimposed on the more “contemporary” folk traditions of medieval origin.

mistletoe in tradition
Druid Ritual

mistletoe in the Ancient Tradition

the mistletoe in the Celtic tradition was called “the one who heals everything” and they believed it was born from the lightning that struck a Tree as a gift of the gods.

Symbol of immortality and regeneration, of life and fertility so important that it is not sacred than mistilour grown on an oak tree.

Publio Ovid Nasone, tells of a rite of renewal that stars the Rex Nemorensis who lives in the sacred forest of the goddess Diana, protecting the divine oak tree on which the golden branch grew, which for many cultures is a symbol of divinity. The mistly-torn branch could only be snatched from a fugitive slave, who with that gesture, obtained the right to fight in a duel with the old King and succeed his predecessor.

This is because the King represented the power of nature that should never age, but always be renewed and fertilized with the blood of the King himself.

Pliny tells of mistletoe in potion, which was attributed the power to defeat infertility in both animals and women and that it was an antidogto for any poison.

Even carrying a few leaves favored fertility while in other cases it was used as a contraceptive in potion added to other plants after sexual intercourse.

Even the anthropologist Frazer analyzes the Celtic spirituality towards mistletoe and interprets its divine origin, as the emannation of celestial fire and collecting it from the tree according to the ritual, the druids were certain to collect with it all the powers of lightning.

The solemn ritual for mistletoe harvesting takes place on the sixth day of the moon, which for the Celts represents the beginning of the month, of the year and the century every thirty years and which involves the sacrifice and the banquet at the foot of the tree, two white bulls with their horns tied together, after which a druid dressed in white prepares to cut the mistletoe with a golden-coated sickle (which unites in a single symbol the Goddess-the scythe of the moon- and the gold of the Sun) attract the misfortune; while the other druids, also in white robes, collect it before it touches the ground by means of white cloths placed previously on the tree, and then store it in a golden basin in order to expose it to the veneration of the people.

Mistletoe has always been revered for its healing properties and protection from negativity, so on this occasion it was immersed in water so that it would absorb it and then distributed it to those who wanted it to heal from diseases and/or to protect themselves from them, from evil and sorties.

Such mistletoe-related customs and beliefs extend even further south of Europe, for example in the Swiss canton of Argau mistletoe is called “lightning broom” and throughout Germany this name is affixed to anything that grows on trees with the same “nest” appearance as mistletoe.

In addition to during the Winter Solstice it was customary to collect mistilour for the Summer Solstice.

In Sweden, divine wands were made for St. John with mistletoe, then used to find hidden treasures because it was believed to have the same nature as the sun, as a manifestation of divinity.

In Brittany it was the custom of the peasants to hang on the facades of houses for protection and in France, since the 15th century there have been testimonies of a ceremony for the collection of mistletoe of the new year called “guilanleuf” similar to that of druidic.

Even in Japan, the Ainu considered it a plant capable of curing all evil, and in Senegambia it was used as a talisman to protect soldiers who go into battle from injury.

In Greece in Virgil’s Aeneid, the Cumana Sibha informs Enea that to appease the wrath of the Charons, reach the Elysian Fields and then see again his father Anchise and Dido, he must procure the golden branch, which Frazer identifies as the mistletoe and which is led into the hands of Aeneas thanks to the guidance of two colombes sent by his mother Aphrodite, in fact the skull

And indeed, believing that mistletoe encompasses the power of sacred fire, there is no better guide through the darkness of the Underworld!

In Gylfaginning it is told of Baldur, son of the god Odin and lord of light, who dies killed by a mistletoe wand. But Baldur symbolically is the mistletoe itself! Odin, in fact, is identified with the cosmic tree Yggdrasill (on which the mistilhole germinates). This increases the characteristics of Baldur and Christ: both represent the Light on earth, and for both, death is linked to mistletoe wood.

Mistletoe in tradition: christian traditions

at least initially in Christianity the mistletoe takes on a very negative connotation, because it seems to have been the only tree not to self-destruct to prevent its own use in the construction of the cross of Jesus. For this reason God cursed him by making him fishical and devoid of roots.

il ministro di York con una pianta di vischio
the minister of York with a mistilhole

But this plant was too beloved to be banished even in Christianity and thus regains a very important role in the Church that still adopts mistletoe for its solar nature, as a symbol of the host Christ on earth as well as the seedling is of the parasitic tree, for this reason it is placed on the altar of churches on Christmas Eve, such as in York Cathedral, where it remains for twelve days.

At present, mistletoe is still blamed for warding off evil, loosening demons, witches and gnomes, protecting against the lightning and misfortunes for which it is hung in stables and especially on the cots of newborns to protect them from dangers and diseases.

Mistletoe, esotericism and occultism

Because of its parasitic nature, which brings mistletoe to live “suspended in mid-air” it has been attributed the ability to help understand prophetic dreams, making through between heaven and earth.

The term “vischioso” (misty) comes from the mistletoe (vischio in italian), in fact it is from its berries and bark that the fluid is drawn to prepare the bread for the birders.

mistletoe in contemporary tradition is famous for the “Kiss under the mistletoe”:
the most classic and well-known among the customs related to this seedling, which would bring luck, eternal love and fertility to the couples who exchanged a kiss under them, uniting them if love is sincere with an indissoluble bond.
In England it is believed that if the girl does not receive such a kiss she will not be able to get married in the coming year.

Even the act of exchanging gifts in its vicinity brings good luck, if the mistletoe will feel sincere affection.

During the solstice ritual it is used to burn the sprig of mistilour of the previous year, to replace it with the new to bring health and positivity, because it protects from misfortune.