In the Wild
American Mistletoe (Phoradendron leucarpum syn.
*Also known as oak mistletoe
Mistletoe is a semiparasitic evergreen shrub with greenish branches that grow in clumps. Although it is sometimes called oak mistletoe, it actually grows in a wide range of trees. Mistletoe clumps are most visible in the winter on deciduous trees. Its thick, leathery leaves are oval to round, and one to two inches long. The inconspicuous flowers are white or greenish-white, and the berries are white or yellowish. This plant is related to the European mistletoe (Viscum album).
While its roots tap into the host tree’s circulatory system for water and minerals, this species of mistletoe has chlorophyll and produces its own food. It is not generally considered a serious pest. However, the plants that grow in western states called dwarf mistletoe from the genus Arceuthobium are parasitic and harmful to their hosts.
There is no end to the stories of how ancient Druids gathered mistletoe. However, Celtic scholar Peter Berresford Ellis believes that Pliny’s description of the elaborate procedure may have been mistakenly attributed to Celtic Druids instead of the Germanic tribes on the continent near Gaul.118 One thing that is certain is that mistletoe was considered powerfully magic, especially for fertility. At Yule, its white berries are plentiful and symbolize the sacred seed of the God, who embodies the spirit of vegetation and the divine spark of life.
In Norse mythology, after the god Balder was slain by a spear made of mistletoe, his mother Frigg was inconsolable. Taking pity on her, the other gods brought Balder back to life. Frigg declared that from that time forward, the mistletoe would be a plant for love, not death. Mistletoe’s association with love and fertility remains to this day with our custom of kissing under a sprig of it at Yule. In the past, it was believed that sweethearts who kissed under it were destined to marry, but only if the mistletoe was burned on Twelfth Night.
Make a ring of berries around the base of a green candle for fertility spells. Use mistletoe leaves for spells to attract love and romance. To provide protection, hang a large sprig in an area of your home where it will not be seen often. Allow it to dry and stay in place all year, and then burn it on the following Yule.
Hanging a small sprig in the kitchen attracts blessings. Use it in rituals along with holly for balance of male and female energy. As a plant of in-between places, hold a sprig for astral travel or journeying.
Mistletoe is associated with the element air, and its astrological influence comes from Mercury and the sun. It is associated with the following deities: Apollo, Arianrhod, Asclepius, Balder, Frigg, Jupiter, Odin, Venus, and Zeus.
Figure 44. Mistletoe is associated with the rune Sowelu.