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Some Traditions and The Nature Religions

[ Winter ]



Holly, with large bright berries is the most popular Christmas plant. It was once believed that it was a protection against witches and the evil eye.

Holly was considered sacred by the ancient Romans. Holly was used to honor Saturn, god of agriculture, during their Saturnalia festival held during the winter solstice. The Romans gave one another holly wreaths, carried it in processions, and decked images of Saturn with it. During the early years of the Christian religion in Rome, many Christians continued to deck their homes with holly to avoid detection and persecution by Roman authorities. Gradually, holly became a symbol of Christmas as Christianity became the dominant religion of the empire.

[ Holly ]


Traditions involving mistletoe date back to ancient times. Druids believed that mistletoe could bestow health and good luck. Welsh farmers associated mistletoe with fertility. A good mistletoe crop foretold a good crop the following season. Mistletoe was also thought to influence human fertility and was prescribed to individuals who had problems bearing children. Mistletoe was also used in medicine as treatment for pleurisy, gout, epilepsy, rabies, and poisoning.

Mistletoe also played a role in a superstition concerning marriage. For Scandinavians, the goddess of love (Frigga) is strongly associated with mistletoe. It was believed that kissing under the mistletoe increased the possibility of marriage in the upcoming year.

"The mistletoe of the sacred oak was especially sacred to the ancient Celtic Druids. On the sixth night of the moon white-robed Druid priests would cut the oak mistletoe with a golden sickle. Two white bulls would be sacrificed amid prayers that the recipients of the mistletoe would prosper. The custom of using mistletoe to decorate houses at Christmas is a survival of the Druid and other pre-Christian traditions."

This information can be found on the College of AGRICULTURE Web Site


Yule Log

"The custom of burning the Yule log began with the ancient Scandinavians who once a year burned a huge log in honor of their god Thor. After they became Christians, they made the Yule log an important part of their Christmas ceremonies."

This info can be found on the Stories & Traditions of Christmas Web Site

According to the book "The Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins" by William and Mary Morris, "Yuletide for Christmastime is a term derived from the Yule log, which in olden days was a huge log used as the foundation of the holiday fires. Bringing the Yule log in was, as recently as the 19th century, as much a part of the pre-Christmas festivities as putting up an evergreen tree today. Yule can be traced back to the Middle English Yollen (cry aloud) and is thought to date from early Anglo-Saxon revels in celebration of the discovery (after the winter solstice) that nights were becoming shorter."

[ Yuletide ]


"Wassailing is the tradition of going from house to house caroling, eating, drinking, and socializing with friends and relatives. Wassailing, however, was originally an important part of a horticultural ritual. In England, it focused on the apple orchards. The purpose was to salute the trees in the dead of winter to insure a good crop for the coming year. The date varied across the 12 days of Christmas. If done formally, the wassail procession visited the principal orchards of the area, caroling as it went. In each orchard, major trees were selected and cider or liquor was sprinkled over their root systems. Incantations such as:

Stand fast at root,
Bear well at top,
Every twig bear apple big,
Every bow bear apple now.


Here's to thee old apple tree,
Hats full, sacks full,
Great bushel baskets full,

were recited. To frighten evil spirits away, guns were fired into the air. Before proceeding, the procession usually danced about the honored trees and then snaked its way out of the orchard. The care with which the ceremony had been executed was measured by the crop yield the following year."

This info can be found on the Horticulture & Home Pest News's Web Site entitled "The Legends and Traditions of Holiday Plants"

[ Caroler ]
For more information on Sacred Plants of the Winter Solstice see this article by Selena Fox.
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