It’s a very funny thing how one’s Craft overflows. Of course, for someone like myself, it’s a mostly purposeful thing, I blog, I sell my wares, I teach others. But there is something that happens closer to home, and those who do not blog or sell their wares or teach, no doubt understand what it is, in our families, amongst our friends, our strange habits and ways, our odd collections seep into the every day life of more than ourselves. Very often it manifests as the strangest of offerings from the least expected place. The strange brown paper bag harbouring the Gods only know what that slides across the kitchen table over coffee “I saw it, and I thought of you, I don’t know what you would do with it, I mean, if it’s useless, just say, I just…” coupled with that odd look of almost mild disgust and bemusement. Inside something dead, something hard to come by, something rare and special, entirely unknown to the gifter. We smile, we measure our enthusiasm so as not to bore our friends and family with a treatise on the magical significance, the Lore, the correspondence, how hard it is to find, how only last week you had a dream in which you were directed by a spirit guide to this thing, and had no idea how to get it, breathing through the joy of the omen itself and internalising our squee. After all, they already think we are weird. If you’re lucky in your friends and family, even those who are not Crafters like ourselves, they will raise that eyebrow, smile at their own awesomeness and say “so, good then, I knew when I saw it, I don’t know what you plan to do with it, and I don’t think I need to know, you crazy bint…” And afternoon tea will continue.
I had that exact moment this week. The kind of moment that reminded me how lucky I am, how absolutely blessed I am in my family and friends. I have never had to hide or temper my crazy bint-ness. More than that, regularly in the mail, I receive a package full of such wonders gathered and collected by my most beloved family. It has always been this way. When I was very young on a school excursion, accompanied by my ever engaged Mum, I discovered a dead flying fox. I will never forget that same look of mild disgust and bemusement, but in the plastic bag it went, and bless her she carried it all the way home, awaiting my scalpel, my magnifying glass, my microscope. Yes, I would say such things were always encouraged, even by my dearest Mum, who doesn’t even like handling meat for dinner.
“Hey, Inga! Come look at this!” Is as clear in my mind as I type it as the countless times the phrase rang across the yard all my life. Something in the night sky, in a tree, a wildlife interloper, a strange bug in the soil. “What is it, Dad?”, “What is it doing, Dad?”, “Why is it doing it, Dad?” ” Is it this, Dad?”, “Is it that, Dad?”, “Is it eating?”, “Is it…?” “Is he?” My first turtle, who wandered into our yard sporting three holes where her shell had been drilled for a chain (Gods people suck!) was named Izzy, because of my day long observation and “Is he?” questions that no doubt drove my poor Dad to distraction. I was 5. My Dad was awesome. My parents have been licensed native reptile keepers ever since, and still several saved Eastern Long-neck, and one Murray Short-neck, turtles live very happily in an awesome run built by my Dad. My nephew carefully collects all the feathers he finds shed by either the wild natives that flock to the yard where my Mum feeds them, or the few pets that have come by way of my Mum’s inability to turn a blind eye to hard-luck case. Anything that might be used for a ritual tool or a icon finds itself carefully collected from the yard, a walk, and then to me. My Mum details what’s coming, from where it came, the species, her observations of them in the local area.
Last weekend was Jul, and I found myself musing on Mistletoe, as I so often do at these times. It’s one of those plants, steeped in the Lore of our European Ancestors. It’s one of those plants that North Americans have had no issue with transferring that same Lore onto the native species that occur there. It’s one of those things, it actually occurs all over the world, and Australia has 90 species, 14 of which are true mistletoes, all native. We have the largest, occurring in the arid zones of Western Australia. It is one of those things, it is here, as it is everywhere else. Doing what Mistletoe does.
Finding it is a bit of a bitch. But we know that. And currently not helped by being in the only state it doesn’t occur. But even if I found it (in another state), the chances of me being able to harvest it are not guaranteed. Unless it’s reachable from the ground, Aussie gums aren’t really climbing trees in the first place, and not really safe to climb since they drop whole branches even if you can negotiate the many metres to the first branch without a rig and an arborist anyway. These Aussie trees ain’t yo Mamma’s Old Country Oaks, that’s for sure! They are one of those things just as likely to kill you as anything else on the continent. And really, that is not a joke, and certainly not to be taken lightly. Gum trees do actually kill people, no weather event required.
And then, sure enough, over the Jul weekend, my Dad, from two states away managed the “Hey Inga, come and look at this!” Mistletoe had taken hold in the Peppermint Gum, and to preserve the medium sized tree, my Dad harvested the mistletoe. As my Mum retold on the phone, “he’s got a whole branch put aside, told me you had to make a rattle handle of it, it’s riddled with mistletoe, he is quite adamant about it.”
Internalise squee. Write blog post about awesome Dad.
It is likely people will wonder about the fact I was not able to harvest it according to the traditional ways of offering. It is very likely that the significance of both the Peppermint Gum and the Mistletoe are not understood in Craft and Occult terms by my Dad, I’d put money on it, but in terms of offering, of well harvested things in appreciation for the why and the role they play, and the fact this was done on Jul, I’m hardly worried about it at all. My Dad’s garden and yard have always been an extension of his person, he knows the ins and out of it like his own mind, nothing is careless, everything viewed in terms of the other things in the little ecosystem of life that surrounds the house. It’s likely he bled for it, knowing him, very likely. And I know these things because I’ve been coming to have a look for a very long time. The fact it happened on Midwinter Day, and he so carefully put it aside for me to use as a ritual tool, after musing about how I would like some, not lost even a little bit on me.
It’s a very funny thing how one’s Craft overflows.
Peppermint Gums, for those interested, are probably the most Mercurial of the eucalypts. They, like Eucalyptus nicholii, often have a willow or weeping aspect, smaller leaved, deeply fragrant, and distinct of the gums. Peppermint being already Mercurial in correspondence. The bark is very rough, ironbark-like. Their cream flowers are not as “fluffy” as other gums, arranged around an inner golden orb that flower in Autumn. The gum nuts they produce are the type with the cross (sometimes three pointed) or star pattern. A little but Lunar, a little bit Solar, a bit Martial, perfectly Mercurial.
Needless to say, if you come across Mistletoe, it’s a very lucky thing! If you come across it such that you can harvest it, doubly so! It does occur on a myriad of plant species, and knowing the supporting plant’s spiritual nature will inform the nature of wood and how best to use it. The broad-leaf Gums, obviously, are going to resonate best with Lore as we Europeans understand it linked as it is to the Oak, being most Jupiterian (and often called Oak, like Tasmanian Oak, Eucalyptus regnans, Eucalyptus obliqua or Eucalyptus delegatensis), followed closely by those more Mercurial in nature, like the Peppermint Gums.
A regional examination of the mistletoe host species inventory by Paul Owen Downey, Royal Botanical Gardens Sydney with examples of species and lists of host plants in ACT & NSW.
Mistletoe by Marion Jarrett, Australian Native Plants Society (Australia)
Mistletoe at The White Goddess a thorough summary of the Lore from Europe and America.
P.S. ‘M’ is for ‘Mistletoe’. This post participates with The Pagan Blog Project 2014.