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A Bard's Tale: Part IX - The Mistletoe
Not too long ago a vast oak forest covered most of Europe. Ancient, beautiful, colourful and teeming with life. Some of these oak trees witnessed men's transition from ignorant savages to wise philosophers and metal workers. They saw nomadic tribes wander hither and thither, back and forth, and they saw the same nomadic tribes settle as farmers many centuries later. They saw times of peace and times of unrest. They saw happiness and sorrow. Births and deaths. They witnessed the lives of our forebears.
Every autumn the oak trees lost their leaves, but every now and then an old man out there looking for herbs saw a small branch still green and fertile, growing in the crown of the oak tree. The hooded and cloaked old man, a sorcerer wise for his time, yet ignorant, believed that all the life force of the mighty oak tree had withdrawn into this tiny branch. He climbed the tree and cut it down, thinking he could use it, for potions and charms, or as a magic wand, as ward against the uncontrollable forces.
In time the spirit of the oak tree had become a god and the sorcerer had either become a priest, or he had lost his power. If the latter was the case he had been reduced to just some hermit sticking to the old customs of the ignorant past. The priests ruled the earth now, but alas!, they were no less ignorant than the sorcerer had ever been. When the sorcerer entered the vast oak forest to cut down the valuable mistletoe they cursed him: Thief! Murderer! He stole the life force of their oak god! Curse him! Because of this crime the blind (ignorant) sorcerer brought the winter upon them all, the twilight of the gods, the death of the world!
The loving oak god, murdered by the hooded sorcerer, had gone to Hel, the goddess of the underworld. At Yuletide the wife, the priestess, used another magic wand, a branch from the spruce or the pine, and walked three times deasil around the house and called for the elves, the spirits of the dead forebears. All the dead, including the dead oak god, came in procession from the grave, lead by Heimdallr ("world tree"), alias Dashdebog ("gift lord"), with gifts for their children. For one night they were allowed to sleep in the warm beds of the living, and they stayed in the world of the living until the end of Yule.
Think about this the next time You read the myth about the oak god Baldr ("swelling, round and strong being"), alias Jarilo ("young", "spring sowing") and Bielijbog ("white lord"), who is killed by Höðr ("hood"), alias Troyan ("the triune one") and Tshjornijbog ("black lord"), the hooded sorcerer with the mistletoe, and think about this the next time You find Yourself standing under a mistletoe in the living room. The body of the oak god has been brought from Hel ("death", "dead", "hide"), alias Marena ("death", "peril", "nightmare"), and into Your living room, and he is present. As much as any god can be.
When the snow melts in the spring the entire world cries for Baldr, as You can see for Yourself, and he will soon return, like he always does, but that is another story...
I was born in 1973 and never saw any of this, and still I miss the old oak forest, the embrace of the elves in the Yuletide and the mistletoe. I miss the old hooded sorcerer trying to do what is best for his tribe, as he climbs the tree and cuts down this powerful magic wand. I miss the Yule carols of the wand-wielding wife and her lovely children-choir, inviting the dead to the world of the living with songs of joy and songs of praise. All of this is gone and will never return, but it is still a part of me, and it forever will be. Because I am European.
Varg Vikernes (Tromsø, 17.12.2008)
Non omnis moriar ("Not all of me will die" [our works survive death])
In other languages: Italiano