Page 3 of 4

Mercury Retrograde – A Self Fulfilling Prophecy?

It is barely a week now that Mercury has been in retrograde and social media is drowning in information on how to survive this cosmic event that will unleash havoc and chaos over the next three weeks.

So what exactly is Mercury in retrograde and why does it scare people to the point that they blame every single thing that goes wrong in their lives on a planet that is 48 million miles away?

The planets do not move in perfect circles around the sun and from our view point on Earth they sometimes look like they stop in their tracks and then move backwards. This is called retrograde motion. It is just like when you are overtaking a slower car which is still moving forwards, but appears to be falling back. So you could say that this is an optical illusion. But no planet actually slows down, stops or changes direction.

Mercury is not the only planet that goes retrograde, but somehow over recent years it has unfortunately earned the worst reputation out of them all. Some people believe that when a planet is in retrograde everything goes out of sync, affecting all the areas that the planet normally governs, so in Mercury’s case that would be commerce, travel, communication and information. And because  Mercury is the closest planet to the sun and has an orbit of only 88 days, we are overtaken by it three to four times a year. Which means three to four times a year we have Mercury in retrograde.

If people get the idea in their heads that something bad is going to happen then this is more than enough to actually make something bad happen. It is a self fulfilling prophecy. If we actively look for something to go wrong then we will absolutely find it. Mercury in retrograde is an easy excuse to blame our woes on. Your doctor’s appointment was cancelled? Must be Mercury in retrograde! Your train was late? Mercury in retrograde!  This planet is a  scapegoat if you will and Mercury’s influence is vastly overestimated by people; even astrologers. How can an optical illusion have this much control over someone? It’s because they allow it to.

You do not need protecting from a planet in retrograde and please do not be scared by all these posts on social media declaring things like. “Do not travel, do not purchase a computer, do not buy a car or sign important documents.” This is scaremongering.

When a planet is in retrograde especially when it is in your birth chart it is a chance to go within, to meditate or journal, to think about lessons you can learn from and to cultivate self love and patience. Be mindful of self talk and how you interact with others. Your mindset is your most powerful tool. We cannot always have control over what happens to us, but we can control how we perceive it. Remember, don’t react, just act.

Brightest blessings,

Hazel xxx

 

 

 

 

 

Celebrating The Spring Equinox

I cannot believe that Spring is well and truly here and even though where I am in the south of England it is still a little cold and drizzly, the flowers, tree blossoms and birds remind me that it is definitely true. So to bring a little Springtime into your life this Ostara, here are a few lovely ways that you can celebrate the lighter days.

  • Creating sacred outdoor space is a wonderful way to soak in the energies of Spring. After weeding and clearing up you could decorate a little corner with handcrafted mobiles, painted flower pots, prayer flags, wind chimes, a shrine or altar with offerings of shells, flowers and pebbles for nature spirits or deity. Don’t feel left out if you live in an apartment, just bring nature inside. Windowsills, shelves and counter tops can all be covered with plants, flowers and herbs.
  • An obvious one I know, but decorating blown eggs is an inexpensive and fun way to celebrate the Spring Equinox. These can be hung with colourful ribbons from windows or even tree twigs in a vase. Experiment with natural dyes like beetroot, dandelion flowers or onion skin. There are plenty of tutorials on Pinterest for this.
  • Continuing with egg shells, a cute way of using broken egg shells is to put a little compost into half an egg shell and plant a bulb or some watercress seeds inside.
  • What better way to honour this time of year than to pick up litter from parks or beaches, so as to allow Mother Nature to breath.
  • You can continue with the Spring cleaning and decluttering that you began at Imbolc. Let go of everything that is holding you back from being happy, be it on a physical, emotional, mental or spiritual level. Clean with natural products, essential oils and salt even, all blessed with your own positive intentions.
  • Once your space is clean, a Spring Home Blessing can be performed by walking around each room, not forgetting those pesky corners, with a smoking herb bundle,  ringing a bell and carefully flicking salt water. Then you can say a few words yourself perhaps like,”I bless and protect this space with the love and light of the Goddess.” It doesn’t need to be grande occasion, just something small and simple, but it will really kick stagnant energy out and will fill your space with positively flowing prana.
  • Now that we are on the tipping point of having more light, use the waxing solar energy to boost goals and projects.
  • You could perhaps make your own Equinox water by filling a glass bowl with spring water and leaving it outside from dawn to midday. This can be used in your home blessing, your Equinox ritual or keep it to revitalize your plants with.
  • Perform a ritual for the passing of the dark half of the year. A white candle can be lit to represent the light half of the year and a black candle for the dark half.
  • This is the perfect time to do prosperity seed spells because you can use the energy of the germinating seed to fuel a goal of yours that you are wishing to achieve.
  • There’s still just enough time to get those bird boxes up. These are a great way to not only give birds a helping hand, but they can be very decorative and brighten up your outside space. Insect hotels can be built easily and inexpensively as well. Your garden will be a real wildlife haven.
  • Are you lacking drive? Meditating on the lunar hare is a fabulous way to connect with your inner creativity and fertile passion for life.
  • The easiest one of all is of course getting yourself outside, to the park, beach, forest or ancient site. Just to feel the breeze and sun on your face even for 5 minutes can do a magnitude of good for you on all levels.

So here were 13 easy ways to celebrate Spring. I would love to hear how you celebrate the equinox. If you want to ask me any questions about what I have written or anything to do with holistic living, green witchcraft or paganism, then don’t hesitate to contact me. I am more than happy to answer your questions.

Brightest Blessings,

Hazel

xxx

 

The Origins Of Ostara

The celebration of Ostara or the Spring Equinox  and Alban Eilir (the festival of trees) normally falls around 20th March every year. Day and night are balanced for just a short moment before the days grow noticeably longer and warmer.

Deep within the earth life is sprouting, as wildlife and cattle prepare to give birth. The joyful rebirth of the Earth has truly begun. Everything in nature is coming alive and Demeter has been reunited with her daughter Persephone who is back from the underworld of Hades.

Ostara or Eostre is a popular mainstream name used today in place of the term Spring Equinox in some pagan communities. She is seen as an Anglo- Saxon goddess who is portrayed as the goddess of Spring, but is there any historical evidence to support this?

The only reference that can be found is in the writings of the Venerable Bede (673-735) titled The Reckoning of Time which describes the solar and lunar cycles followed by Pagans which they used to determine the course of the year. He explains that the months took their name from the moon, “for the moon is called mona and the month monath”. He continues, “The first month, which the Latins call January, is Giulli; February is called Solmonath; March Hrethmonath; April Eosturmonath…”

Talking about Pagans he explains,”Eosturmonath has a name which is now translated Paschal month and which was once called after a goddess of theirs named Eostre, in whose honour feasts were celebrated in that month”.

This is the only source that we have on Ostara. We don’t know anything about the kind of feasts that took place and there is no mention of chicks, eggs, rabbits or hares; only that she was honoured in April. Christians then applied the name which today is Easter to one of their most important feasts.

If the Anglo-Saxons did honour a goddess at the time of the Spring Equinox then it would have been the goddess Hrede for whom Hrethmonath was named after.

Modern mythology attempts to associate Ostara with hares, eggs and hot cross buns, but there is no evidence at all for these. In some parts of 17th and 18th century England, however,  it was customary to hunt hare on Good Friday or to try and catch a hare on Easter Monday. Eggs were painted and eaten on Easter Sunday with relish as they were  forbidden during Lent and the cross on hot cross buns again is a Christian symbol.

So any stories that you do come across pertaining to the goddess Ostara are sadly just that, stories. Like the tale of Ostara finding a dying bird and being unable to save it transforms it into a rabbit. This story is said to be the origins of the Easter Rabbit.

Another explanation for the Easter Rabbit comes from the confusion of hares giving birth in shallow depressions in the ground that look like bird nests. Some birds like plovers, nest in the ground and when people used to come across the eggs they believed that the hares had laid them.

The Easter Rabbit was first mentioned in German literature in 16th century, when good children who decorated their hats with nests  would be rewarded with painted eggs.

Rabbits were also considered lucky by minors and there is evidence of the association of tin and rabbits inside several churches in Devon that have roof ornaments called Tinners Rabbits. These triangular carvings depict three rabbits sitting down, facing different directions and all joined by the ear.

The hare is also seen as sacred to the Lunar goddess and witches were thought to be able to turn themselves into hares too.

Some pagans believe that at this time of year the goddess is still a maiden, young and carefree just like the god. She courts the young god and their relationship is consummated at Beltaine.

If you know of any tales or ancient customs associated with this time of year then I would love you to share them.

Brightest Blessings,

Hazel

xxx

 

How I Start My Day The Spiritual Way

For many years while my children were growing up, my morning routine usually consisted of me falling out of bed on auto pilot, making sure everyone was ready for work, college or home schooling and then trying to survive the day by getting through teaching, chores and random activities my brain decided were a good idea to do at the time. Before I knew it I was collapsing back into bed and bracing myself for another crazy day that would begin again the following morning.

I know that I am not the only one that this has happened to. We are all susceptible to losing ourselves in the doing, in the busyness of life. We somehow disconnect ourselves from what is truly meaningful and important to us and there is an emptiness inside of us that cannot be sated by the physical world alone.

And it was with this realization which slowly began to dawn on me that I knew in my soul that if I didn’t change now, then my life would stay exactly the same. It was time to put myself first. I was undernourished physically, mentally and spiritually and because of this I was not only depriving myself, but I was also depriving all of those that I cared about. I needed a structure that would not only support me, but would motivate me as well.

One of the things that lifestyle experts and successful people all have in common is their morning routine. It sets them up for the day and makes them more productive and happy. The concept of a morning routine or ritual sounded like it was definitely worth a try and after months of tweaking my own I have finally found something that works for me.  I can honestly say that it has definitely made a huge difference to how my day unfolds and it has not only become the foundation of my general well being (or should I say sanity), but also my spirituality.

I have found that by committing myself to having sacred time first thing in the morning has helped me to have a deeper connection with Deity, my family and the world around me. I am more focused, I am getting more done and I am flowing more easily with life’s rhythms instead of trying unsuccessfully to swim up stream.

I must admit that it isn’t always easy and each time I fall off the wagon I just get back on again. With having been very poorly with four different viruses since last August, I try not to beat myself up if I miss a morning. I listen to my own rhythms and allow my body to lead the way. But when I don’t miss my morning practice then it is extremely gratifying.

Now that my children are much older I do admit that it is much easier to set aside time for me in the morning. However, if you yourself have very young children then please do not feel disheartened. Instead of trying to fit in all of your sacred time in the morning why not spread it out throughout your day. Just 5 minutes here and there can make all the difference. You can absolutely find three minutes to meditate. That is how I started and now I am meditating for 10 minutes a day.

This is what my morning routine looks like for the moment. I am not always able to do this exactly because I live with three other people in a small cottage, but I do my best.

The first thing I do when I wake up is stretch, getting all of those kinks and knots out of my body. I start by rolling my head slowly in a circular movement, then I work my way down through my shoulders, arms, waist, legs and down to the feet. It’s basically a gentler version of a warm up you would normally do before an exercise session. Whilst I am stretching I think about what I am grateful for which always helps to put things into perspective.I always do my best to focus on what I have rather than what I don’t have.

And before I forget, first and foremost don’t have any technology, no television, no phone and no internet, for at least the first hour. I only go on my phone to check the exact position of the moon and that is it. Otherwise you get sucked into a black hole of epic time wasting.

Now that the cold season is here I drink a mug of Pukka’s Elderberry and Echinacea tea. While the tea is steeping I open the kitchen door and take several deep breaths, embracing the new day. There are days though when it smells like poop. Not one of the perks of living in the country. My tea mug is red, a colour I use to fire me up and ground me.

Since I have been following the moon’s journey across the sky I have noticed its subtle energy shifts and have been surprised to see how its different phases explain how I feel and how others act as well. I use the free Sky Map app which shows the exact position of the  moon in real time  as I now use Side Real astrology and not Tropical. This morning I see that the moon is in Aries (Real Time), so I grab my journal and quickly read my notes about Aries. It is a day of action, spontaneity and enthusiasm. I can work with that. I also jot down the weather, the temperature, the moon and sun’s rising and setting times and also their astrological positions in my green journal. This helps me to be more in tune with and more aware of the changing world around me.

Every morning I draw either an oracle or tarot card which is my divine message for the day. The message usually says something like, “Get your butt into gear”. Well, I can’t argue with that!

This is the time when I get a little reading in which is either ancient history or spirituality themed (I save fiction for the evening). The last thing I do before having breakfast and getting ready is to do some yoga, then I sit by my altar where I say my devotionals. I spend a moment in prayer with my ancestors too; finishing with a meditation. I know that this does sound a lot, but I make sure I’m up by 6am so I don’t have to rush. This is the only time in the day that I know I will have any degree of control over.

While I am having breakfast, which is usually a bowl of organic oats with almond milk, I look through what I need to do that day. I also keep my goals in view because if not I get distracted by all sorts of shiny things. Not good.

I truly believe that there is a link between how we take care of ourselves and the health of our relationship with our spirituality. A morning ritual can help balance our mental, physical and spiritual self which in turn will strengthen the connection we have with the world around us and with the Divine. Remember, if you don’t use it, you lose it.

I would love to hear whether you have any rituals that you do in the morning.

Brightest Blessings

Hazel

xxx

 

 

 

 

Celebrating Yule

robin-in-winter-871298746681il6If like me you are a solitary pagan and wish to celebrate Yule in a meaningful way, then here are a few simple ideas that will help make your day both memorable and sacred.

An obvious one to start with is the Yule tree. Our ancestors originally decorated trees that surrounded their homes, but with the arrival of Christianity, fearing persecution, they began bringing their Yule trees inside to decorate instead. As for decorating the tree, the sky is the limit. I personally love the rustic look, so I make garlands out of popcorn and cranberries and hang up bells, stars and little wooden toys.

The Yule wreath is a symbol of the wheel of life and with a willow frame can be decorated with evergreens that can be found in your garden, local park or woodland. Just be mindful of how you are gathering your materials and please ask the tree you cut any foliage from permission to do so, as trees have a deep rooted wisdom and soul that needs to be respected.

A Yule log can be any small log that you find, however our ancestors used oak logs. Again these can be decorated with evergreens, such as mistletoe, holly and ivy. I have a previous post all about the origins of the Yule log.

Feeding wildlife can be done at any time of year, but especially now when the ground is frozen. It is easy enough to find information about which birds like which foods and where is the best place to leave it. Remember to be patient: it can take up to three to four weeks before birds become aware and even comfortable about feeding from your bird table or feeding station. Also don’t forget to leave water out and make sure to refresh it every day when it freezes over.

Donating food to food banks and other charities or toys to under privileged children is a wonderful thing to do to celebrate this time of year.

Placing an artificial candle in a window on the eve of Yule and leaving it there throughout the night is a lovely way of welcoming the return of the sun. These candles are extremely easy to find and do look very realistic.

As this is a time of introspection, how about making your own little book of reflections? You can decorate it with drawings or stickers and then you can write down your thoughts and feelings about the past year. You could if you wanted to, throw this book onto an open fire, to symbolically release all that has happened during these past twelve months so you can then embrace the new.

Walking the labyrinth, be it a life size version or a print off the internet that you walk with just your finger, is another way of releasing all that has stopped serving you this year. I have done this walking meditation a few times now and it really does work. You will feel so much lighter afterwards. I have talked about how you can do this on my Facebook page, but if you cannot find that post then it is straightforward enough to find instructions on how to do this online.

Decluttering and deep cleaning is a fantastic way to prepare for your Yule festivities. I have a great tip to share with you that will help you decide what to keep and what to give away. Pick up an item, for example a dress and ask yourself, “If I had the money and I saw this in a shop today, would I buy it?” If the answer is no, then you know what to do. This trick works every time and for me when it comes to books, I only keep those that I know I will enjoy reading again.

Baking and cooking need no further explanation, other than perhaps offering up some biscuits or cake that you have made yourself to the God and Goddess. I am sure that would be greatly appreciated and of course not forgetting to include your ancestors too. If you are someone who connects to the spirits of the land then leaving them a similar gift underneath your favourite tree wouldn’t go amiss either.

If you are able to, then is there some place near you where you could watch the solstice sun rise? Even looking out of an East facing window as the sun rises can be a powerful moment of gratitude.

A simple idea for a centre piece to your solstice ritual could be a spiral made up of crystals, pebbles or glass beads with a candle in the middle. The spiral is the oldest symbol known to be used in spiritual practice and represents the Goddess as well as being the sacred symbol that reminds us of our ever evolving path in life. At the Winter solstice many pagans recognize the important role of the Goddess as she gives birth to the God at Yule. During this stage of the wheel of the year the Goddess is both the Crone and the Mother.

A Danish tradition you might like to try is putting an almond in rice pudding and the person who eats it will have good like for the coming year.

When it comes to following a nature based path, then less is definitely more. Do your best to keep things simple with perhaps a small ritual, some crafting, prayer and a short meditation. I know it can be hard, but try and keep away from the commercialization that is rife at this time of year which always ends up making people feel inadequate and hollow inside.

So there you have it, just a few suggestions on how you can celebrate Yule this year. Please go ahead and share any activity ideas or traditions that you have for Yule. I would love to hear about them.

Many blessings of light and love to you all this Yule,

Take care of yourselves and until next time.

Hazel

xxx

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Tradition Of Wassailing

Wassailing has been associated with Yuletide for hundreds of years. The word wassail comes from the Anglo Saxon “waes hael” meaning to be of good health. This old custom took place at the beginning of the New Year when good wishes could be passed between family and friends.

Wassail is an ale which is seasoned with spices and honey and was served in huge bowls made of pewter or silver with perhaps an egg or two. The huge bowl was passed around with the greeting of “wassail” and was often taken around to other people’s homes as well. This has now become the tradition of carol singing. Often the lord of the manor would shout “waes hael” and the assembled crowd would reply “drinc hael” meaning drink and be healthy. He would then give food and drink to them in exchange for their blessings and good will. ” Love and joy come to you and to your wassail too. And God bless you and send you a Happy New Year”.

Apple Tree Wassails are songs that were sung to the health of the apple trees. In some places this tradition took place on Christmas Eve and in others it was on twelfth night ( 6th January or 17th January before the calendar changed in England in 1752). For others, New Year’s Day morning had young boys “Apple Howling”, where they would beat the trees with willow sticks and sing rhymes.

It was tradition to sprinkle wassail ale around the base of the apple trees and to pour it on the roots of the biggest and best tree, as well as to dress it with ribbon or strips of cloth. Pieces of toast soaked in ale were also placed in between the tree’s branches.

The villagers would then gather around the orchard, banging on pots and pans, making a tremendous noise to wake up the spirit of the trees and to frighten away the bad spirits.

Wassail songs were sung or chanted as a blessing to bring a good apple harvest the following Autumn. Part of the labourers’ wages would have been paid in ale, so the owner of the orchard needed healthy abundant apple crops to attract good workers.

 

“Apple tree, apple tree we all come to wassail thee,
Bear this year and next year to bloom and blow,
Hat fulls, cap fulls, three cornered sacks fills…”

 

In parts of the UK there are still places that practice wassailing, so keep your eyes open for these and join in the fun. If not you could perhaps buy a small fruit tree and adapt this tradition to suit you.

 

Many Blessings,

Hazel

xxx

 

 

The Origins Of Ivy

Ivy is a climbing vine that attaches itself to stone, brick and other surfaces, as well as to trees that are dead or living. It climbs by way of small tendrils that grow from the vine. The vine itself can become large and each tendril can send out another branch. It does not take very long for ivy to completely grow up a wall and cover it. Although it is not likely to damage a brick wall, it can become invasive. Ivy leaves are heart shaped and usually have three-lobes. The leaves are shiny and can be green with white or cream accents. Unlike other plants, ivy flowers in the Autumn and sets seeds in the Spring.

Ivy has a fascinating history full of tradition and folklore and like holly and mistletoe stays green throughout the year. This fact led to some believing it had magical and protective qualities and was therefore used to decorate homes during the Winter months. It has also become a symbol of eternal life because it is often found growing on dead or decaying trees, as well as being found growing over headstones in cemeteries. However, at the same time because it is often found in cemeteries it was also viewed as a symbol of death. It used to be said that if ivy was found growing abundantly on a young girl’s grave it meant that she had died of a broken heart.

In other traditions, ivy was a symbol of marriage, fidelity, luck and love. This was perhaps due to its tendency to bind. Brides and grooms in Greece wore crowns of ivy as a symbol of fidelity.

Some versions of the medieval legend of Tristan and Isolde, refer to ivy’s ability to bind. Tristan was a Cornish knight and Isolde was an Irish princess. Tristan went to Ireland to bring back Isolde as a bride for King Mark. However, Tristan and Isolde fell in love before they reached Cornwall after drinking a love potion.

In ancient Rome, ivy was associated with Bacchus (known as Dionysus in Greek mythology), the God of wine and revelry. It was said that a handful of bruised ivy leaves steeped in wine would make it less intoxicating to the drinker, but at the same time more potent! For this reason, taverns used to display an ivy bush over their door as a sign that they were serving the best brew.

The Greeks and Romans held the plant in high esteem as it was seen as a protection against evil and Roman poets were crowned with a wreath of ivy so they could think more clearly and creatively. Perhaps it was the Druids who influenced the Romans, as they too wore crowns of ivy for clarity of thought. Virgil spoke of the gold ivy that had yellow berries, but sadly this ivy is now extinct.

Women would carry ivy with them to promote fertility and wands were decorated with ivy or made from ivy wood for use in spells and fertility ceremonies.
Ivy was also used in love divination especially at Samhain, as this following verse shows:
 

The Origins Of Holly

Holly has been traditionally connected to this time of year for thousands of years. Like mistletoe and Yule logs, its origins can be traced back to northern Europe and was of great importance to our ancestors. Its leaves are dark shiny green with sharp jagged edges and was worn by the druids in ceremonial head wear when they went into the forest to collect mistletoe. While other plants wilt and die in Winter, holly remains vibrant and strong; its bright red berries glistening in the harsh cold landscape. These red berries were associated with sacred blood; immortal and strong.

Druids regarded holly as a symbol of fertility and eternal life and was thought to have magical powers. In Druid lore, cutting down a holly tree would bring bad luck, but hanging holly sprigs up in the home was believed to bring good luck and protection. Holly was also thought to protect homes against lightning strikes.

The holly tree is one of the trees that can be found in the Ogham (pronounced oh-am), an ancient script that can be found on standing stones in Ireland and Wales. Our ancestors respected and revered trees, looking for guidance from these wise beings of Mother Earth and her cycle of life death and rebirth. Similar to runes, the Ogham can be engraved onto wooden sticks and used in divination and magick. In the Ogham the holly symbolises protection, balance and compassion.

The Ogham letter for holly is Tinne and this word means fire. Holly has been associated with fire for many hundreds of years and was used in fires that were burned during the Winter Solstice. Charcoal made from holly was seen as extremely potent and smiths used it for making swords. Smiths were seen as almost godlike with their powers of transformation, creating weapons and tools from molten metal. The use of holly during this process made the act even more magickal.

The Celtic Tree Calendar is a much more recent addition to Celtic Spirituality. Based on thirteen lunar divisions, each tree rules over the same number of days every year, much like astrology. Holly rules the days from 8th July – 4th August. If you were born during this time then you are thought to take on the characteristics of this tree.

Holly was also offered up to the Roman God Saturn during the festival of Saturnalia. It was said that the holly was the sacred plant of Saturn and was therefore  highly valued by the Romans. It was also seen as an extremely symbolic gift to offer a person.

In the north of Britain young women who wanted to know who their future husbands would be, would place three sprigs of smooth holly leaves wrapped in a cloth tied with nine knots under their pillows at night. They would hopefully see him in their dreams.

If you wore a sprig of holly then you would be protected from the faeries and a holly wreath on the door would certainly make sure nothing evil would pass the threshold.

In Scotland, it was said that holly was both feminine and masculine. Smooth leaves were feminine and the prickly ones were masculine. The type of leaves that were brought into the home at Yule indicated whether it would be the husband or the wife of the household that would govern over the coming year.

Throughout Europe holly was used to ward off evil spirits and was seen as a protective barrier, especially during Yule when the veil between the two worlds is at its thinnest. So it would be hung over doorways and windows to stop wandering bad spirits from entering the home.

I really enjoyed researching these customs and traditions. If you know of any old tales about the holly tree then please share. I would love to hear about them.

Many blessings,

Hazel

xxx

 

 

 

 

Mistletoe

illustration_viscum_album0Kissing under the mistletoe is an age old Christmas tradition, but have you ever actually asked yourself why we do it? Thinking about it, it all seems very strange, but there is much more to this Yuletide plant than meets the eye.

The mistletoe of northern Europe can definitely be called the original mistletoe. Viscum Album is the mistletoe that can be found in all of our ancient European traditions and legends.

The familiar white berried plant is parasitic and relies on its tree host to survive, taking the tree’s own water and nutrients. Being a parasite, mistletoe can seriously damage the tree, but fortunately this is not a problem if only one or two branches are covered. However, if it does establish itself on every branch, then it is not good news. The tree will not be able to have enough foliage of its own, nor water and nutrients and will eventually die. Thankfully, mistletoe can be managed properly if it is pruned.

The use of mistletoe in herbal remedies has its roots in prehistory.  According to Pliny the Elder, the Druids of Britain used to harvest mistletoe from their sacred oaks to use in rituals and medicine.  It is very rare for mistletoe to grow on an oak tree.

A special ceremony would take place a few days after the Winter Solstice once the Druids had prepared for their sacrificial feast. Under the chosen oak, they would bring two white bulls whose horns had never been bound. A Druid dressed in a white robe would then climb the oak and with a golden sickle cut the mistletoe, which they caught in a white cloak. It was important to them that the mistletoe did not touch the ground and become contaminated. The Druids divided up the boughs into sprigs and distributed them among the people, believing that the mistletoe would protect them from fire and storms as well as evil spirits. It’s never been clear exactly how they used mistletoe in their herbal cures– but it has had a reputation ever since as a “Heal All” and can be used to enhance fertility, cure nervous disorders and relieve high blood pressure. (Please consult a qualified herbalist first before using any herbal remedy).

The earliest archaeological evidence of mistletoe is from the Lindow Man; a bog body found preserved in Cheshire England from the time of the Roman occupation. Analysis of his stomach contents revealed a few grains of mistletoe pollen and this has been interpreted as evidence that he drank some sort of mistletoe drink before his death. Some suggest the mistletoe remains are proof that he was perhaps a Druid or even a sacrificial victim of the Druids, as mistletoe is poisonous in large amounts. So was he taking it as a herbal medicine or was he poisoned?

Mistletoe was so sacred in the eyes of the Celts that even enemies who happened to meet beneath a mistletoe in the forest would lay down their arms and exchange a friendly greeting; keeping the truce until the following day. From this ancient custom came the practice of hanging mistletoe over a doorway as a token of good will and peace to all who entered. By the 18th century in Britain, this evolved into the kissing tradition we have today. At this time, it became popular to create a ball of mistletoe that would be hung as a Christmas decoration. If a couple was found standing under the mistletoe, they had to kiss if the mistletoe ball still had berries. For each kiss, one berry would be taken from the ball. Once all the berries were gone, all the “luck” in love and marriage was considered to be drained out of the mistletoe and it was now bad luck to kiss beneath it.

According to Norse legend, when the Goddess Frigg and her son Baldur both had dreams concerning his death, Frigg made all of the things on Earth, both living and dead, take an oath to never harm Baldur. All took an oath not to harm Baldur except the mistletoe, who Frigga considered far too young. Read the rest of this story here on one of my favourite Norse mythology pages.

The Death of Baldur

The last fact about mistletoe that I am going to mention is that it was banned from being used in church decorations when Christianity took root in northern Europe because it was part of Pagan tradition. This ban is still widely observed today.

If you know any mistletoe stories then I would love to hear them.

My mini Yule series continues tomorrow.

Brightest Blessings,

Hazel

xxx

 

 

 

The Origins Of The Yule Log

logs-backgroundThe Yule log was originally set alight in honour of the Norse God Thor; the God of strength, courage, might and of course lightning. Usually cut from an oak tree or sometimes ash, the log was burnt in sympathetic magic to encourage the return of the sun.

The log would have been lit with a remaining piece of the Yule log from the previous year,  symbolising the end of one cycle and the beginning of another. Sprigs of holly were thrown onto the burning wood to encourage a year of good fortune, health and protection. The log was not left to burn completely, however, because the remaining pieces were crafted into sacred charms which would keep the wearer safe over the coming year.

In some parts of Scotland a similar tradition was observed, but instead of a log, a figure of an old woman was carved from an old tree trunk. The Cailleach Nolliach which means Old Winter’s Wife was brought into the house and laid onto a burning fire. The household would then gather and watch the figure be consumed by the flames. The Cailleach did not represent new life, she represented death. To avoid death and misfortune the carving was burnt to ashes.

Traditionally, those who followed the Norse tradition of Heathenry brought in the Yule log on Mother’s night (20th December). Before the log entered the longhouse, a procession took place with the decorated tree trunk decked out in ribbons and greenery and carried through the village. This was seen as a joyous occasion. After being lit, the huge tree trunk was expected to burn for twelve nights. Their homes were long houses, so this would not have been a problem. The log was seen as sacred and no one was allowed to walk barefoot near it or even squint!

In Yorkshire, England, it was customary for children to beg and sing from house to house as the Yule log was carried in. This tradition was called Mumping or Gooding.

Nowadays sadly, the only Yule logs we really see are chocolate ones found in the frozen section of the supermarket, but we can change this and start our own Yuletide tradition. For those of you who do not have an open fire or even a fire pit outside why not buy or make candle holders out of small branches and logs. Pinterest has many examples of Yule log candle holders. Eitherwise, another idea could be to actually buy a chocolate Yule log and put birthday candles in it. Blow them out and make a wish.

More Yuletide traditions tomorrow.

Brightest Blessings,

Hazel

xxx

 

« Older posts Newer posts »

© 2018 Wytch Hazel Cottage

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑