mistletoe A an evergreen shrub plant that is believed to possess magical powers of fertility, healing, luck, and protection against evil. One of the most important plants of European magic lore, mistletoe is cut ceremonially at the summer and winter solstices. Throughout history, it has been used in potions, powders, and teas to control epilepsy, hypertension, and palsy, to enhance fertility and to cure sterility, to act as an aphrodisiac, and to protect against poisons. It has been hung in homes, barns, and stables as an AMULET to protect against Witchcraft, fire, illness, and bad luck. A sprig of mistletoe over a doorway is said to prevent witches from entering.

Mistletoe, which bears white berries, grows parasitically on many deciduous trees in Europe and America. Its seeds are spread by bird droppings, and thus it had the appearance of springing to life from nothing. Some ancient peoples believed it descended from heaven on lighting bolts.

The Celts, who populated Britain and large portions of Europe circa 8000–2000 B.C.E., considered mistletoe sacred because it grew on their venerated oak TREES. It excited great wonder because it could grow without touching the earth, and it seemed to propagate itself magically. DRUID priests used it in fertility Rituals. It was harvested in the following manner: Six days after the new Moon, white-robed priests cut its boughs with a golden sickle, the symbol of the SUN. The mistletoe was not allowed to touch the ground but was caught in a white cloth. If somehow the mistletoe touched ground, the Druids believed that it lost its magical properties. After the cutting, two white bulls were led to the oaks, and their throats were slashed while the priests recited prayers and incantations for blessings.

The Christmas (winter solstice) custom of harvesting mistletoe and kissing beneath it is a survivor of the ancient Druidic fertility rites.

Mistletoe appears in mythology. In Virgil’s Aeneid, the hero Aeneus picked a “golden bough” of mistletoe at the gate of the underworld, which ensured his safety as he went through it. Balder, the Norse god of light and joy, was slain by spear of mistletoe that was thrown by Hodur at instigation of Loki, god of darkness and evil. In Sweden, mistletoe is sacred to Thor, the god of thunder.

In Ozark folklore, mistletoe is commonly called witch’s broom, and is said to be used by witches in casting Spells. It is also used as an amulet, hung in homes and barns to keep witches away.

In folk medicine, mistletoe is called “allheal.” It has been revered since the times of ancient Greeks for its ability to treat nervous conditions and disorders. Other applications include as a sedative, to lower blood pressure, and as a treatment of tumors. A powder made from the berries is believed to make fertile any man, woman, or beast.

Medical data on mistletoe is inconclusive. While the plant may have sedative effects, there is no certain evidence that it lowers blood pressure. In experiments with animals, it seems to treat tumors effectively. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration considers mistletoe toxic and unsafe for internal consumption.

The Encyclopedia of Magic and Alchemy Written by Rosemary Ellen Guiley Copyright © 2006 by Visionary Living, Inc.

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