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Pliny – On the sacred role of mistletoe to Druids

Identifier

014082

Type of Spiritual Experience

Background

A description of the experience

Pliny – On the sacred role of mistletoe

In treating of this subject, the admiration in which the mistletoe is held throughout Gaul ought not to pass unnoticed. The Druids, for so they call their wizards, esteem nothing more sacred than the mistletoe and the tree on which it grows, provided only that the tree is an oak. But apart from this they choose oak-woods for their sacred groves and perform no sacred rite without oak-leaves; so that the very name of Druids may be regarded as a Greek appellation derived from their worship of the oak.

For they believe that whatever grows on these trees is sent from heaven, and is a sign that the tree has been chosen by the god himself. The mistletoe is very rarely to be met with; but when it is found, they gather it with solemn ceremony. This they do above all on the sixth day of the moon, from whence they date the beginnings of their months, of their years, and of their thirty years' cycle, because by the sixth day the moon has plenty of vigour and has not run half its course.

After due preparations have been made for a sacrifice and a feast under the tree, they hail it as the universal healer and bring to the spot two white bulls, whose horns have never been bound before. A priest clad in a white robe climbs the tree and with a golden sickle cuts the mistletoe, which is caught in a white cloth. Then they sacrifice the victims, praying that God may make his own gift to prosper with those upon whom he has bestowed it.

They believe that a potion prepared from mistletoe will make barren animals to bring forth, and that the plant is a remedy against all poison.

The source of the experience

Celtic

Concepts, symbols and science items

Concepts

god
God

Activities and commonsteps

Activities

Commonsteps

References