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jecture rightly the cause to which the mistletoe owes the sanctity in which it was held from the earliest times by the German as well as the Celtic nations. It possesses in a high degree all the virtues proper to botanic lightning, as implied in its Swiss name, donnerbesen, "thunder besom," and its mode of growth is conformable in all particulars to its exalted mythical character. It is a parasite, and, like the asvattha and the rowan, it is everywhere believed to spring from seed deposited by birds on trees. When it was found upon the oak, the Druids ascribed its growth directly to the gods; they chose the tree ;* and the bird was their messenger, perhaps a god in disguise. The oak mistletoe is held in the highest repute in Sweden, and is commonly seen in farmhouses, hanging from the ceiling to protect the house and homestead from injuries in general, but especially from fire. In England the Christmas frolics under the mistletoe are a relic of the old faith in the potency of the plant in affairs of love and marriage. Like the rowan-tree, the mistletoe makes cattle

* Nihil habent druida (ita suos appellant magos) visco et arbore in qua gignatur (si modo sit robur) sacratius. Jam per se roborum eligunt lucos, nec ulla sacra sine ea fronde conficiunt, ut inde appellati quoque interpretatione græca possint druidæ videri. Enimvero quicquid adnascatur illis e cœlo missum putant, signumque esse electæ ab ipso deo arboris.—Plin. 16, 44.

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fruitful, being given to them in a drench for that purpose, and according to Celtic tradition the plant was a safeguard against poison, and a remedy for all diseases, "They call it in their own tongue 'healall' (omnia sanantem)," says Pliny. In Sweden its virtues in this respect still rank very high in popular esteem; persons afflicted with the falling sickness provide themselves with a knife having a handle of oak mistletoe, as a means of warding off attacks of the malady. For other complaints a piece of the plant is hung round the patient's neck, or a ring made of it is worn on the finger. This healing virtue, which the mistletoe shares with the ash, is a long-descended tradition, for "the kushtha, the embodiment of the soma,"* a healing plant of the highest renown among the Southern Aryans, was one of those that grew beneath the heavenly asvattha. In fine, Swedes and Carinthians ascribe to the mistletoe the powers of the springwort and of the wish-rod. Nature has given it the essential form of the latter in the regular forking of its branches, whilst this form is only to be found in the rowan and the hazel by diligent search.

* Rig Veda, ii., 164.





IT is remarked as a matter of special significance in the old sacred books of India, and by their Sanscrit commentators, that the palasa (p. 158) is tripleleafed, that is to say, its leaves consist, like those of the clover, of three distinct lobes springing from one stalk. There can be no doubt as to what this form of leaf was understood to typify, for a trident,* and a cross or hammer with three points, are among the oldest Indo-European symbols of the forked lightning from which sprang the palasa, and which is called trisulcum, "three-pronged," by Ovid and Varro.

The herald rod of Hermes (ηpúкelov) was taken from a tree leafed like the palasa; it was a rod of prosperity and wealth," a real wish-rod,

* Poseidon was the Zeus of the sea, and his trident was equivalent to his brother's fulmen trisulcum.



"golden, triple-leafed,"* and was given to him by Apollo, the Grecian Rudra (p. 18). It had served Apollo as a herdsman's staff when he tended the cattle of Admetus, a fact which again assimilates it to the palasa, the sami, and the rowan rod (p. 159 ff.). In later times it was represented as having two serpents coiled round it, with necks and heads curving towards each other at its upper end, appendages which were either mere artistic variations of its originally forked form, or which stood for the serpents that were connected with the world-tree. Hermes himself possesses among his multifarious attributes and functions some that connect him in a very marked manner with Agni. Repeatedly in Vedic hymns and prayers is Agni invoked as the messenger of the gods, and the mediator who carries up to them the offerings of men in wreaths of smoke from the altar fires. He is styled priest of sacrifice and prayer-speaker. Hermes too is priest of sacrifice, prayer-bearer (precum minister),† and messenger of the Olympic gods, especially of Zeus (Διὸς ἄγγελος). This very title of his, angelus, messenger, angel, for which no Greek root can be found, has been traced back by Roth to Angiras,+ Homer, Hymn. in Merc. 529.


+ Preller, Griech. Myth. i., 258.

Böhtlingk-Roth, Wörterb. s. v. Angiras.



a name frequently given in the Vedas to Agni himself, as well as to one of the priestly families attendant upon himself. Hermes is in fact an old fire-god, and Callimachus actually ranks him with the fiery Cyclops. The poet says in his hymn to Diana that among the gods, when a girl is fractious, her mother calls out for the Cyclops Arges and Steropes, and then Hermes makes his appearance, coming forth from the innermost part of the house (where the hearth stood) begrimed with soot. Above all, Hermes was commonly credited with the invention of the pyreia, or fire-kindling machine, which Diodorus ascribed to Prometheus (p. 44). All things considered, therefore, we must conclude that the staff of Hermes could have been nothing else than that ligneous receptacle of transformed lightning, the drilling-stick of the pyreia.

Dr. Kuhn has not been able to ascertain whether or not there were any certain plants known to the Greeks and Romans as substitutes in ordinary life for the staff of Hermes; but that they had their wish-rods like ourselves, or at least traditions of such instruments, is plain from sundry passages in their writers. One of them, which the author of Charicles has cited from Arrian, is this: "He has a bad father, but I have a good one, and that is the staff of

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