Jonathan's Mistletoe Diary

December 10, 2011

If ancient druids had fitted sheets that’s what they would have used…

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jonathan Briggs @ 9:29 pm

Another Saturday in December, another druid mistletoe ritual.

This time it’s in Gloucestershire, in Arlingham, which is that funny shaped peninsula in the lower Severn that shows up clearly on national maps.  We use it to pinpoint ourselves in the BBC weather forecasts, as we live immediately east of it.

Today’s event was  low-key compared to last week’s ceremony in Tenbury – but that didn’t make it better or worse, just different.

And being different is good – druidry doesn’t, and shouldn’t, work to set rules.

But I’m not going into any details – you have to be there, and describing it doesn’t really work.

What I will mention though is the sheet used to collect the mistletoe, to stop it touching the ground.  Last week a hide was used for this (see pictures in yesterday’s  blog), but tradition suggests a sheet or a hide.

Today we used a sheet – a fitted sheet – which did prompt a couple of comments along the lines of  ‘is a fitted sheet traditional?’.  But have a look at the pictures below – a fitted sheet, with a gathered edge, is perfect for the task.  It significantly reduces the risk of spillage over the sides.  If the druids of old had access to fitted sheets this design is surely what they would have used.  Practical and inexpensive.  Just because Pliny the Elder didn’t mention this detail doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.

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December 9, 2011

Druids, mistletoe and harvesting

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jonathan Briggs @ 2:10 pm

Am off to see another druid mistletoe ritual harvest tomorrow – alongside some more conventional harvesting that I’m doing in the same orchard.

It would be a little disrespectful to do both at the same time – as the druid custom insists that the mistletoe mustn’t touch the ground whilst for practical reasons a normal harvest just piles it up on the ground.

So, to avoid the prospect of a great pile of mistletoe ‘leaching away its magic’ into the ground next to the ceremony I think we’ll try and work in the orchard next door, or stagger the timing.

The pic here was taken at the druidic harvest last Saturday, gathering the mistletoe used at the multi-faith ceremony in Tenbury that afternoon.  It’s just one of a sequence of pictures by ‘WR15’ you can view at WR15’s flickr album.

WR15’s blog entry for the day is also worth a read as is viewing his Mistletoe Day video – linked below.

The drummers (Bang On) were new for this season – and they were very good indeed – but they do tend to dominate the soundtrack a bit so the ceremonials are a little quiet in comparison.

If you want to know more about the event have a look at the Mistletoe Foundation website.

December 5, 2006

Druids and Mistletoe 2006

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jonathan Briggs @ 8:30 pm

Img_5030reduction Tuesday 5th – and this year’s Druidic mistletoe blessing.  As before, Druids of the Mistletoe Foundation, plus local Druid groups, are attending the mistletoe auctions, before they begin, to bless the stock.

 

 

 

Img_5024reduction We have a better turn-out than last year, despite the early start on a cold morning.  Some have been travelling since 3.00am.  With the changed layout of the market stock I’ve had to move the location a bit (all sussed out yesterday afternoon) and we’re setting up the tripod, with mistletoe (that hasn’t touched the ground) between the Christmas trees and the mistletoe.  It’s a bit muddy underfoot, but druids don’t mind that.

Img_5031reduction My pewter mistletoe beaker (see previous blogs) is pressed into service as a Mistletoe Chalice, and used during the main ceremony.  River Teme water, to be sprinkled on the mistletoe auction stock afterwards, has to be stored in a more utilitarian vessel – a plastic water bottle in the centre of the circle.

   

 

Img_5052reductionEverything goes well, and is only slightly compromised by a Christian preacher from Droitwich, who’s turned up to tell the druids the error of their ways.  A nice enough chap, apart from his cheek in coming along, but he’s wasting his time here – not many people here, druid or not druid, have any time for the missionary approach, from whatever religion.  And the druids were invited, he wasn’t.  But he believes in his work, and is unlikely to be put off.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Img_1521reductionLater on the Druids run a story-telling and musical workshop, in the Old Fire Station building adjoining the Auction Yard. 

December 19, 2004

After the Druids, the Christians…

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jonathan Briggs @ 10:25 pm

Later activities today contrasted strongly with the druid weekend. The first was seasonal mistletoe harvesting from an apple tree in my mother’s garden at Painswick. We decided to prune quite a lot off, as this tree is becoming overgrown with mistletoe, and needs some respite. So a lot of gifts for the neighbours. And all of this was just cut with secateurs and allowed to fall on the ground. After yesterday’s activity this almost seemed criminal.

And then off to Painswick Church for the Carol Service – a traditional service of lessons and carols. Which, whilst a contrast to the druid ceremonies, was also very eerily similar in many respects; including the prayers and ritual repetition but also the informal procession from the carpark by night to the church, and the formal procession of the choir down the aisle, in pairs and headed by a banner/staff. All very mysterious… and a bit unsettling. No mistletoe of course – the Church of England bans it (apart from at York Minster, but that’s another story…).

Return to the Druids (Rite – day 2)

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jonathan Briggs @ 10:11 pm

Sunday am, back in the Forest. This morning the main task was to distribute the mistletoe amongst the groups present, and discuss the way forward. Again I’ll give no details here – suffice to say that the mistletoe, still suspended from the ground was divided up, including some to me. And there was much discussion over destinations, sacred places and possible seeding in sacred groves. More on that as and when it happens next spring – if I’m invited to assist. Most of those present were journeying to the Gorsedd at Stonehenge in the afternoon – and some material was selected for that ceremony too.

As part of the discussion I was invited to give a presentation – based on one of my mistletoe talks. This was well-received, especially the bits about the anthroposophic mistletoe philosophy and herbal and medical uses and the bits about mistletoe distribution and grow-your-own (for a booklet on growing your own go to Nick Wheeldon’s website). A good interactive presentation.

But then it was time for farewells – and lots of promises to keep in touch. In case you’re wondering who the druids are, I can tell you that this group were from all walks of life and a wide age-range, with a majority probably in the 30 and 40 something range. For more info on druids check out the Druid Network site, and if you’re really keen have a think about the Albion Conclave’s distance-learning course. Or try out the druid advice for an ethical Christmas. For myself I’m happy just to stay in touch and help with the mistletoe initiatives when and where I can.

But what, in the meantime, do I do with my share of the sacred mistletoe? I don’t want to just hang it up and burn it next year – I do that with ‘ordinary’ mistletoe already. And I haven’t got a sacred grove to plant the berries in. Or have I? My understanding is that these sacred groves can be anywhere you hold to be special – and I can think of several of those. Or I could simply ‘create’ one of my own – we’re due to plant more shrubs and trees in the garden soon – would that suffice? I’ll have a think about it, and might ask for advice. For now I’ll keep the plant in the cold to conserve the berries until planting time in February. And, of course, suspended so it can’t touch the ground. In practice this means dangling from the garage ceiling, which, though not particularly deferential, should (I hope) be sufficient.

For more info on the Druids’ Mistletoe Foundation click here Posted by Hello

October 31, 2015

All Mistletoe’s Eve?

Filed under: Current Affairs,Gardening,Mistletoe,Orchard,Religion,social history,Travel — Jonathan Briggs @ 8:18 pm
Tags:
2015_unripe

Unripe mistletoe berries. These are on the shady side of the host tree. Those on the sunny side are already whitening up for winter…

All Hallows’ Eve, and the mistletoe is ripening… Not that it’s got anything to do with Halloween of course, other than being a mysterious plant, a symbol of pagan tradition and a portent of the dark winter months. Which is, I s‘pose, quite a lot.

But with November dawning tomorrow we’ll soon be right back into mistletoe season. So I think it’s fair to say this is Mistletoe’s Eve too.

Actually, mistletoe season never quite goes away for us mistletoe-enthusiasts – I’ve been mistletoe-spotting and plotting all summer…

There’ll be more about all that (the spotting and plotting) later in the season. For now, a brief summary of some of the mistletoe things happening this winter, in no particular order:

Mistletoe Auctions
The Tenbury Wells Mistletoe Auctions are on three Tuesday mornings as usual – this year’s dates being 24th November, 1st December and 8th December. They’ll be at Burford House Garden Store again, like last year. For details of times, location etc visit Nick Champion’s website (Nick is the auctioneer).

The auctions are commercial wholesale events, but open to all and well worth a visit as you’ll see more mistletoe in one place then you’ve ever seen before, but on the ground, not on a tree (which does mean, sadly, that it has lost its magic power – according to Druid legend mistletoe must never touch the ground – ancient druids (see below) would catch cut mistletoe as it fell, in a white sheet…)

Mistletoe Training
There will be some mistletoe management training from Mistletoe Matters this season – some for private groups, some open to all – details will be available later in the season.

Mistletoe Druid Events
I am aware of plans for two druid mistletoe ceremonies so far – more may be announced later. Some are private events, others are open to all. One of the public events will be at Tenbury Wells on Saturday 28th November at 3pm.

Mistletoe Festival
And talking of Tenbury events, there is the Mistletoe Festival – whose main events take place on Saturday 5th December. I’m no longer directly involved in the Festival, so can’t give much of an insight in what’s going on – you’ll find details at http://www.tenburymistletoe.org/festival_day.html

Mistletoe Surveys
This season sees the re-launch (delayed from last year) of the various Mistletoe League surveys, gathering information on mistletoe management in orchards and gardens and on mistletoe susceptibility varies between fruit tree varieties. More about these later in the season – for now I’ll just point out they have a new website – at surveys.mistletoe.org.uk

Mistletoe Websites
And talking of new websites, as well as the new surveys website there is now a new website for Mistletoe Matters, where I put most of my mistletoe advice. I’ll post some info about that soon too.

Not forgetting, of course, the ongoing Mistletoe Pages website, which has loads of general mistletoe information.

Mistletoe Sales Websites
Last but not least there are the online mistletoe trading websites – including my English Mistletoe Shop – the main site here, or the dedicated Grow-Kit site here. We (English Mistletoe Shop) are not selling mistletoe online this season – but I’ll post a review of those sites that are (including those with confusingly similar names to us) in November.

And, er, that’s it for now. There’ll be more Mistletoe Diary blogging soon – I’ve been saving lots of stuff up for November/December….

December 9, 2013

Mistletoe ceremony 8th December

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jonathan Briggs @ 8:29 am

Pagans, Wiccans, Druids and Don’t-Knows assembled yesterday for a reassuring mistletoe ceremony in the Severn Vale. The gods (you decide which ones) were kind to us – the weather was beautiful, and only slightly chilly.

I’m posting a few pics of the preparations here. There are none of the actual ceremony (as we were all taking part). Thanks to Keith for hosting it and Caz for organising it.

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December 3, 2012

More from Mistletoe Day 2012 at Tenbury Wells

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jonathan Briggs @ 10:18 am

A few more pictures from Tenbury on Saturday, where National Mistletoe Day was celebrated with mistletoe drama, druids, brides, queens and princes.  And the sun shone! (probably something to do with the druids…)

These are just a few pictures as a slide show – excluding those I posted on Saturday evening showing Jake throwing the druid mistletoe into the river after the ceremony (see those in the post below – if it’s not showing click here) .  Other events included the Mistletoe Bride drama enactment – a new street theatre event that hadn’t been tried before at the Tenbury Mistletoe Festival (more details on how it was done here), plus the crowning of the Mistletoe Queen accompanied by her consort the Holly Prince, and of course the druid mistletoe ceremony and gathering organised by the Mistletoe Foundation.

Plus, for those staying all day, the popular Damh the Bard gig in the evening.

Now, you may be asking yourself, what was all that Mistletoe Bride drama about – and, more precisely, what was it based on?  Well, it’s a popular legend of a newly-wed who hides and gets trapped in a trunk on her wedding day – a bit grisly perhaps, but a good yarn too.  I looked into some of its origins earlier this year, visiting some of the alleged locations – I’ll post more about it soon…

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October 25, 2012

Mistletoe Season – nearly there (again)

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jonathan Briggs @ 10:19 am

October Mistletoe in a neglected Apple Orchard

Late October, and those mistletoe berries are beginning to turn white, so it’s time for me to get blogging.

Firstly, it’s worth saying a few things about this year’s mistletoe crop.  Indications so far, despite a few worries from a few growers some weeks ago, are that there are lots of berries this year, so we may be in for another good season.  Slightly too early to be absolutely sure though, as I’ve only been monitoring mistletoe in Gloucestershire, but there’s no reason to think it will be different elsewhere. Final verdict  won’t be available until the berries have turned fully translucent white – as it’s only then you can truly assess the state of mistletoe in a tree.

And, as usual at this time of year, it’s worth briefly looking at sources and events. If you’re wanting to buy mistletoe there are the usual online sources – which include the English Mistletoe Shop (in which I must declare an interest), Kissmemistletoe, Intermistletoe, and the English Mistletoe Company – all of whom supply to individuals, and some do wholesale too. If you’re looking for wholesale then you should add TreeTops and English Mistletoe to that list (try not to get too confused by all those ‘English Mistletoe’ brands) and of course the Tenbury Wells Mistletoe Auctions.

Talking of which, planning for the Tenbury Wells Mistletoe Festival is coming along nicely – more details on events there in due course.

Now, back to the Mistletoe Diary – for which there are many emerging themes this year, as well as the usual reports on mistletoe crop, markets, sales, events etc. Plans so far include (in no particular order):

  • Can mistletoe keep your cat calm?
  • What Pliny really said about Druids and mistletoe
  • The mistletoe harvest 2012
  • The updated Mistletoe Pages – will they ever be finished?
  • Druid events 2012
  • Mistletoe medicines – the case for the cancer therapy
  • Mistletoe Tea – how do take yours?
  • Calm down, it’s only mistletoe
  • Mistletoe Medicines – the case against the cancer therapy
  • Tenbury Wells Mistletoe Festival – the Mistletoe Queen
  • Tenbury Wells Mistletoe Festival – the Mistletoe Bride
  • More on the Mistletoe Bride – locked in several different chests
  • How mistletoe grows ‘into’ the host tree
  • Updates on the Mistletoe League survey project
  • Mistletoe Management Workshops
  • Media coverage 2012 – will it be more accurate than 2011 and 2010?
  • Mistletoe Beer – where to buy it
  • Mistletoe rarity – is it really rare or is it spreading, or is it both?
  • Current thoughts on the rare mistletoe insects
  • Mistletoe stories from other countries – who have other mistletoes
  • Mistletoe on oaks – my 2012 experiments
  • Info Sheets from Mistletoe Matters – due in November
  • The Western Australian Christmas Tree – a mistletoe on roots
  • And lots of other mistletoey stuff…

More soon…

November 27, 2011

Green Santa, plus Telegraph good, Daily Mail bad

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jonathan Briggs @ 9:39 pm

First mistletoe auction of 2011 is next week – Tuesday 29th, 10.00am at the Business Park in Tenbury Wells.

And, for the first time ever, Santa will be there! Not your usual Santa either – this one is green, not red! This is not because of the mistletoe (well, actually, it is a little) but is intended to reflect the older tradition of a Father Christmas in green, considered by many to be the ‘proper’ colour. The Red Santa we’re all used to is, of course, an evil manifestation created by Coca Cola – or so urban myth tells us (see the wikipedia entry on this for background, though it may confuse rather than enlighten, or try this site for a simpler story).

Druids from the Mistletoe Foundation will be there too – though in civvies, partly to remain incognito, and partly to avoid confusion with Santa – who, in green, might well look like the popular concept of a druid.

Programme will, probably, be holly sales before mistletoe sales, and it will be interesting to see how many berries there are on it (the holly). There’s a story in the Daily Mail today that holly berries are in short supply, though I’ve not seen evidence of this – lots of them on all the plants I’ve seen, and the story is roundly refuted in the online comments too, so it may be another one of those Daily Mail shock, horror slightly made-up, or at least very exaggerated,  stories…

Within the holly story they’ve managed to repeat the story that the ‘glut’ of mistletoe berries is due to a mild November – which they ran a couple of days ago and I pointed out was, er, entirely incorrect. Tried doing the same today, twice, but they didn’t let my comment through to publication…  Phrases including the words ‘useless’, ‘inaccurate’, ‘bunch’ and ‘illiterates’ (I’m very polite) spring to mind – but it is the Mail, so I s’pose it’s normal for them.

The Telegraph is doing better, and I’m not just saying that because they had a picture of me (shown left, by Rod Kirkpatrick/F Stop Press) yesterday. Only a short caption to it (not available online), but at least they attributed the berries to the right season – the spring, when they first formed.

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