Full Moon December 2022: Holly and Mistletoe

From “The Tree”, Cakes and Ale Ceremony:
‘All now sit and individual drinking-horns, or goblets, are filled and cakes distributed.
At this time will the Priest, or Priestess (or any who request to do so) speak out on any matters of importance (in effect, a sermon, though open to question/discussion by all, if necessary).’
It is in the spirit of this that I present not only general information on the coming Full Moon, but also suggest a topic to discuss or ponder.

Merry Meet!

Tonight is the Cold Moon, the name given to Full Moons in December (for obvious reasons!), and will be the last Full Moon of 2022. Since last month was a rather unpleasant topic, I’d like to go with something a little more light-hearted and interesting: the tradition of Holly (Ilex Opaca) and Mistletoe (Phorandendron Flavescens) for this time of year.

In “Stalking the Healthful Herbs”, Euell Gibbons tells us that the traditions of Mistletoe come from pagan times, a fact that anyone familiar with Norse mythology or ancient Druidic rituals can easily verify. Gibbons does go on to mention an interesting Scandinavian myth that I was unaware of (or at least a variation of one), where Balder, an immortal god, was slain by the potency of the poisonous Mistletoe. In the Poetic Edda (the one I am familiar with), Frigga extracts an oath from all things to not harm Balder, essentially making him impervious to harm. However, not thinking mistletoe to be dangerous, she skips over this plant, and Loki then exploits that fact to trick Hother, a blind god, into throwing a mistletoe-tipped dart at him.

Naturally, such a myth would make mistletoe a symbol of hate and death (and given its properties, it would be fitting), but it has been quite the opposite. It is known to raise blood pressure, and Gibbons relays a story of an old lady, who after hearing this said “it’s always raised my heart rate when I stood under it!” It has been used symbolically and “medicinally” (note the quotation marks!!!) in fertility rites for millennia, and has become a symbol of love throughout the Winter season.

Although Mistletoe has been used medicinally in the past, most of the diseases and conditions it was used for are severe and life-threatening, and anyone suffering from them should seek medical attention, a warning that both Gibbons and John Lust (“The Herb Book”) give. It should also be noted that the berries are poisonous, and any Mistletoe used in decoration should be well out of reach of children (for instance, hanging from the ceiling!).

Holly is another decoration used for the season, and it comes with a much more mild set of warnings. While the berries are still poisonous, the leaves can be baked and used for Holly Tea, which supposedly has a pleasant taste (I have not personally tried it) and is a mild diuretic and purgative. Gibbons says the leaves should be baked not only until dry, but brown. Like Mistletoe, it’s origins as a holiday decoration come from pagan times, especially Saturnalia.

For one way to celebrate, check our our Solitary Full Moon Ritual.

Lord and Lady, guard us and guide us in all of our endeavors, and keep us safe through this frigid season.

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