Centuries ago on this night a procession led by white-robed Druid priests would visit a sacred grove of oaks. They would climb the blessed trees and with golden scissors cut the mistletoe. As the divine plant fell onto special white sheets spread upon the ground, two bulls were sacrificed. It is easy to understand the power our Old World ancestors associated with mistletoe. Imagine the bleak winters of northern Europe, the trees devoid of leaves, the earth under a cold blanket of snow, the rivers frozen with ice and the sun barely rising above the horizon. Darkness and death seem to be constant companions; it is a tough time to be alive. But there glowing bright green and high up in a desolate tree is mistletoe, vibrant and alive. The Druids believed that mistletoe came from lightening that struck the tree. Imagine the power of a plant that is believed to come straight from heaven, directly from the gods. It is literally holy light, manifested as mistletoe. The carefully collected plant was later used in elaborate fertility rites to insure that the crops and animals would produce abundantly in the following year. A tiny remnant of this ancient ritual is our custom of kissing under the mistletoe. This is nothing compared to what the Celts used to do.During this time of year we are actually celebrating the winter solstice, though we may call it Christmas or Chanukah. We acknowledge the power of the sun and its central importance in our lives. We gather with friends and family to drive away the darkness, death and despair of winter. We free the sun’s energy by burning the Yule Log, by lighting candles and even by plugging in electric Christmas lights. We surround ourselves with greenery holly wreaths, Christmas trees, and mistletoe. We owe our very existence to green plants because only they can capture and store solar energy. The sun, our savior, dwells within all of these plants.
Long live mistletoe, long live humans, long live the sun.
This is Michael Ellis with a Perspective.