BOOK OF CHRISTMAS - online book

The Customs, Ceremonies, Traditions, Superstitions, Fun, Feeling,
And Festivities Of The Christmas Season.

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SIGNS OF THE SEASON.                               115
amongst the Greeks and Romans; and a comparison is therein drawn between the golden bough of the infernal regions, and what is obviously the misletoe :—
" Quale solet silvis brumali frigore Viscum
Fronde virere nova, quod non sua seminat arbos, Et croceo foetu teretes circumdare truncos," &c.
The reference is given by Mr. Christie, in his " Enquiry into the ancient Greek Game " of Palamedes ; and he mentions, like­wise, the respect in which this plant was held by the Gothic, as well as the Celtic, nations. Sandys furnishes a legend from the Edda, in proof of the extraordinary qualities ascribed to it by the former. Amongst the Celtic nations, it is well known to have been an object of great veneration ; and the ceremony of collect­ing it by the Druids, against the festival of the winter solstice, was one of high solemnity. It was cut by the prince of the Druids, himself—and with a golden sickle. It was said that those only of the oaks were sacred to the Druids, which had the misle­toe upon them; and that the reverence of the people towards the priests, as well as their estimation of the misletoe, proceeded, in a great measure, from the cures which the former effected, by means of that plant. Medicinal properties, we believe, are still ascribed to it: and it was, not very long ago, deemed efficacious in the subduing of convulsive disorders. Sir John Colbatch, in his dissertation concerning it, observes that this beautiful plant must have been designed by the Almighty " for further and more noble purposes than barely to feed thrushes, or to be hung up sur­reptitiously in houses to drive away evil spirits." Against the latter it appears to have been used as a charm, up to the last century.
Its introduction into the Christian festival might therefore be considered appropriate, as emblematic of the conquest obtained over the spirits of darkness, by the event of the Nativity ;—and perhaps its supposed healing properties might be deemed to recommend it further, as a symbol of the moral health to which man was restored from the original corruption of his nature ; and a fitting demonstration of the joy which hailed the " Sun of Righte­ousness " that had " arisen, with healing on his wings."
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