It is not difficult to imagine the power that plants have over our lives. Obviously we require them for our daily sustenance. But we also depend on trees, palm fronds, grass, and tules for shelter. We weave cotton and flax into clothing. Even in our modern “sophisticated” culture we regularly injest plants that slightly or even heavily poison us. One of the strongest human urges is to alter our preception of reality. We grind and roll up leaves of certain plants (tobacco or marijuana) and smoke them for pleasure. Powerful hallicingic experiences are gained by eating some fetid fungi erupting out of the rotting ground. And mold growing on bread has given us LSD. But by far the most widespread method of using plants to alter our reality is drinking a beverage made from rotting fruit and vegetables, in other words, wine, beer and grain alcohol. Fermented juices play a central role in many American rituals ‑‑ football games, holiday dinners, rock n’ roll dancing and Holy Communion. Pretty odd combination when you think about it.
Thousands of years ago the most sacred plant in Europe wasn’t the grape but mistletoe (Viscum album). The legends, myths and properties of this plant are numerous. The power associated with this hemiparasite shrub makes sense. Imagine a cold bleak winter, no leaves on any tree, and apparent death throughout the land. There vibrant and alive was the mistletoe, green and with fruit was the mistletoe.
It was considered holy light and was placed in the tree directly from the heavens via lightening bolts. It generally grew on apples, willows, cottonwoods but very rarely would attach to oaks. The Druids, the priestly class of the Celts, considered oak trees scared and oak trees with mistletoe growing in them were doubly sacred.