We alluded to a primordial Nordic tradition. It is not a myth, it is our truth. Already in the most remote prehistory, where positivist superstition believed right up until yesterday in ape-like cave-dwellers, there existed a primordial, unified, and powerful civilisation, an echo of which still resounds as an eternal symbol in everything that the past has to offer us.

The Iranians speak of the Airyanem-Vaêjô, located in the most extreme North, and see in it the first creation of the “god of light”, the origin of their lineage and also the seat of “splendour”—hvarenô—that mystical force typical of the Aryan race, and especially of their divine kings; they see there—symbolically—the “place” where the warrior religion of Zarathustra would have been revealed for the first time.

Similarly, the tradition of the Indo-Aryans knows the Shveta-dvîpa, the “Island of Splendour”, also located in the far North, where Narâyâna, the one who “is the light” and “who stays above the waters”, that is, above the causality of events, has his residence. It speaks also of the Uttarakura, a Nordic primordial race; by Nordic, what is meant is the solar path of the gods—deva-yâna—and the tern uttara includes the concept of all that is sublime, lofty, and superior of what in the figurative sense can be called ârya, Aryan—according to the concept of “Nordic”.

Again, the Achean-Dorian stocks are heirs of the legendary Nordic Hyperboreans: the most characteristic god and hero of this race—the solar Apollo, the annihilator of the serpent Python—would have come from here; Hercules—the ally of the Olympian gods against the giants, the annihilator of the Amazons and of elemental beings, the “fair conqueror”, of whom many Greek and Roman kings later considered themselves, so to speak, as his avatars—would have carried the olive tree from here with whose branches the victors were crowned (Pindar).

But in Hellas, this Nordic theme is, moreover, mixed up with that of Thule, the mysterious Nordic land, which sometimes becomes the “Island of the Heroes” and the “Country of the Immortals”, where the blond Rhadamanthus reigns, the “Island of the Sun”—Thule ultima a sole nomens habens—whose memory remained so alive that, convinced he had recognised it in Britain, Constantius Chlorus marched there with his legions, not so much for military glory as to reach the land “which is nearest to the sky and more sacred than every other region”, in the sense of anticipating in this way his apotheosis as Caesar.

Often, in the Nordic-Germanic traditions, Asgard, the home of the Aesir and departed heroes, is superimposed over another divine residence of the same kind; and the Nordic kings, who were considered to be demigods and Aesir—semideos id est ansis—and brought their peoples victory with their mystical power of “fate”, transferred the origin of their dynasty to that “divine” land.

In the Gaelic traditions, there is Avalon, from which originated the pure divine race of the Tuatha dé Danann, the heroic conquerors of prehistoric Ireland, among whom the hero Ogma corresponds precisely to the Dorian Hercules—Avalon, which, on the other hand, blends into Tir na mBeo, the “Land of the Living”, the kingdom of Boadag, the “Victorious”.

Even the Aztecs have their land of origin in the North—in Aztlan, which is also called the “White Land” or “Land of the Light”, which they left under the leadership of a god-warrior, Huitzilopochtli: hence, the Toltech also claim, as seat of origin, Tlalocan, Tollan, or Tula, that, like the Greek Thule, is also the “Land of the Sun” and fuses into the “paradise” of the kings and heroes fallen on the battlefield.

These are only some of the concordant references, traceable in the most diverse traditions as the recollection of a primordial Nordic civilisation and fatherland in which, in a more precise way, a transcendent superhuman spirituality unites with the heroic, royal, and triumphal element: towards form victorious over chaos; towards super-humanity triumphant over all that is human and telluric; towards “solarity” as principal symbol of a transcendent virility, as ideal of a dignity which, in the order of spiritual forces, corresponds to the sovereign, the hero, the ruler, on the material plane. And, while the traces of tradition can be referred back along a road from the North to the South, from the West to the East, which the races preserving this spirit have travelled, the larger formations of Aryan peoples, in more recent times, testify, by the purer nature of their values and cults, their most characteristic deities and institutions, typical of this force and this civilisation, as well as to the struggle against inferior southern races, which are bound to the earth and to the spirits of the earth, to the “demonic” and irrational part of their being, to the promiscuous, the collective, the totemic, the chaotic, or the “titanic”.

On the other hand—and the preceding references already show it—history became metahistory: while the “Land of the Living”, the “Fortress of the Heroes”, the “Island of the Sun”, contained on one hand the secret of the origin, on the other hand, they revealed the secret of the road towards rebirth, towards immortality, and towards super-human power: the road which can lead in large measure to traditional royal dignity. The historical factors thus became spiritual factors, the royal tradition became Tradition in the transcendent sense, and therefore something which stands above time yet is constantly present. Symbols, signs, and sagas tell us in underground ways of a unique Tradition, in order to show us a unique “orthodoxy”, where the correspondent pinnacles were always reached, where “solar” spirituality always towered over inferior forces.

Thus, in subsequent times already bound to the destiny of the obscuring of the “divine”—Ragnarok—among the peoples dissipated in their strengths and their leaders, the “Nordic” racial element, detaching itself from the “spiritual” realm to which it originally belonged, became a category, a general type of civilisation and of conduct toward the super-human, which can be found even where no memory exists of an ethnic correlation in the strict sense; a type which therefore can bring together their diverse civilisations when they reveal their spiritual formative force, in the same way as, within that primordial tradition, it influenced the lower elements and the multiplicity of matter.

This is why pagan Romanity must be considered as the last great creative act of the Nordic spirit, the last universal attempt, successful to a considerable extent over an entire cycle, to resurrect the forces of the world in the forms of a heroic, solar, and virile civilisation: a civilisation which was closed to mystical escapism; which was true to the aristocratic-Aryan type of the patres, the masters of lance and sacrifice; which was mysteriously confirmed by the Nordic insignia of the Wolf, the Eagle, and the Axe; which was alive above all in the Olympian-warrior cult of a Zeus and a Hercules, of an Apollo and a Mars, in the feeling of owing its greatness and its aeternitas to the divine; in action as rite and rite as action, in the crystal-clear and yet potent experience of the supernatural, which was acknowledged in the Empire itself and culminated in the symbol of Caesar as numen.

The fall of pagan Rome is the fall of the greatest traditional and solar bastion, and it is not difficult to recognise in the forces which mainly contributed to this fall, the same forces which paved the way for all the subsequent deviations and successive degenerations which have led to the current state of Europe.

In its frenetic crushing of every hierarchy, its exaltation of the weak, of the underprivileged, of those without birth and without tradition, its resentment against all strength, sufficiency, wisdom and aristocracy, and its intransigent and proselytising fanaticism, the Semitic wave, dark and barbaric, enemy of itself and of the world, was indeed a venom for the greatness of Rome, a galvanising substance for all the other Asiatic-Southern factors of decadence which then penetrated into the structures of Rome, and the greatest cause of the decline of the West.

In the Semitisation of the Greco-Roman and then the Nordic world, attributable to a large extent to Christianity, we have in fact the revolt of the lower strata of those races, by whose domination the Nordic-Aryans had attained their splendid civilisations. The spirit of Israel, which had already created the collective sense of “sin” and “expiation”, and which emerged mainly in the so-called “prophets” after the defeat and enslavement of the “chosen people”, burying the residues of the aristocratic spirit of the Pharisees, re-evoked the lower forces of Aegean-Pelasgian tellurism which the Achaean stocks had subdued. These can be equated to the castes of the shudras, the so-called “dark” caste—krshña—and the demonic caste—surya—above which the hierarchies of the three higher castes of the reborn—dvîja—up to the Brahmins and the king, understood as “a great deity under human form”, had stood in India, as form over chaos. Lastly, the forces which myth hands down to us under the forms of the Nordic Rinthursi and the military formation of Gog and Magog, whose way Alexander the Great barred with a symbolic iron wall.

These forces worked spiritually, through primitive Christianity, to destroy the European spirit. At first, they concealed themselves within the lunar spirituality which took shape in the Catholic church, that is to say, a spirituality whose type is no longer the sacred king, the solar initiate, or the “hero”, but the saint or the priest who bows before God, whose ideal is no longer the warlike, sacral hierarchy and “glory” but fraternal community and caritas. Later, in the Reformation and in humanism, there reappears the original, anti-traditional, primitive, anarchist, dissolute nature of these forces. Then, through political revolutions, liberalism, and the emergence of collectivism, one cause produces another, and one fall follows another. In all the forms of modern society—and also in science, in law, in the illusory power of technology and the machine—the same spirit, paradoxical as it may seem, appears; the same levelling will, the will of the greatest number, the hatred for hierarchy, quality, and difference prevails; the collective and impersonal bondage born of mutual insufficiency, typical of the organisation of a race of slaves in revolt, grows stronger.

There is more. Semitic-Christian mysticism combined Orphic-Dionysian pathos (which, already for Dorian-Nordic Greece, constituted a deformation of the ancient Olympian cult) with the popular mysticism of Isis, born out of the decline of the solar Egyptian tradition. In the same way, the identical element of “passion” and excitement produced, by means of messianism and millennialism, the promiscuity of the imperial plebs—in contrast to the calm superiority of the Caesars, the simple greatness of the Homeric heroes, the purified spirituality and the autarchic ideal of the pagan “philosopher” and initiate. Here is also the root of every modern deviation, in the romantic, irrational sense which craves a bad infinitude. After its secularisation, this mysticism leads us to the myths of “activism”, of “Faustianism”, of the contemporary superstition of progress, the Semitic mysticism of the instincts, and of the “élan vital”, the exaltation of the “experience” and of “life”; in short, up to the divinisation of the wild, sub-personal, collective element of man, which today seems less restrained than ever before—so as to push individuals and peoples in a direction which is far from that which they themselves wish.

Before the fall, the other force raised itself up once more against the Judeo-Christian tide, almost to present a decisive alternative for the further course of the Western history of the spirit. It was the tradition of the Aryans of Iran, and arose in the form of the warrior cult of Mithra, the avatar of the ancient Aryan god of the luminous heaven, the “Lord of the Sun”, the “Killer of the Bull”, the hero with the torch and the axe, the symbol of the one reborn “through power”, which a syncretic myth, no less significant for this, assimilates with the Hyperborean god of the golden age. But stronger forces impeded this “solar” possibility.

Then the last great reaction: the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation. The so-called “barbarians” were in reality races which were closely related to the Acheans, paleo-Iranians, paleo-Romans, and Nordic-Aryans in general, who had maintained themselves, so to speak, in a state of prehistoric purity. And if their emergence, in regard to the material aspect of the already Asianised and Semiticised Empire, seemed destructive, it still amounted, from a higher point of view, to a revitalising flow of heroic spirit, a galvanising contact with a force spiritually akin to that to which pagan Romanitas had originally owed its solar greatness. This is how the ancient Roman symbol rises again in the world, directly defended by the forces of the North.

The imperial, feudal, and universal civilisation of the Middle Ages, despite its purely nominal profession of Christian faith, must be appraised above all from this point of view. What is expressed through it is a Nordic-Roman spirituality; whose militia was the knights of chivalry; whose supra-political centre was the Imperial Ghibelline ideal; whose rite was the undertaking of the Crusades—much truer as the return to the pagan idea of the “mors triumphalis” than in its outer religious impulse. Its secret soul, opposed to Christianity and faithful to a higher and more ancient tradition, was what kept it alive, hidden in legends, myths, and warrior and chivalrous Orders, from the Templars to the Knights of the Grail and the Fedeli d’Amore.

After the fall of this medieval civilisation, after the destruction of this radiant European Spring in its first flowering, after the outburst of those forces which led to secularisation, particularism, and a disruptive humanitarianism, the paths to the final downfall were opened. The force of Tradition passed from the visible to the invisible realm and became an inheritance which was handed down in a secret chain from the few to the few. Even today some have a foreboding of it, in somewhat confused efforts, still tied to the human and to the material. They are those who, through an obscure instinct, as a mark of reaction, evoke the symbols of the Swastika, the Eagle, and the Axe. They are often unknown men, or men who blaze like tragic meteors such as Nietzsche, crushed under the weight of a truth too strong for them, which now awaits others who will know how to reassume it and impose it anew so that it rises up hard and cold against their enemies, in the great revolt, the great struggle: whether the West is proved right in its decline or rises up in a new dawn depends on it.

-Julius Evola, Pagan Imperialism

Carl Larsson : Midvinterblot - Midwinter Sacrifice, 1915

Carl Larsson : Midvinterblot - Midwinter Sacrifice, 1915

Dómaldi tók arf eptir föður sinn Vísbur, ok réð löndum. Á hans dögum gerðist í Svíþjóð sultr mikill ok seyra. Þá efldu Svíar blót stór at Uppsölum; hit fyrsta haust blótuðu þeir yxnum, ok batnaði ekki árferð at heldr. En annat haust hófu þeir mannblót, en árferð var söm eða verri. En hit þriðja haust kómu Svíar fjölment til Uppsala, þá er blót skyldu vera. Þá áttu höfðingjar ráðagerð sína; ok kom þat ásamt með þeim, at hallærit mundi standa af Dómalda konungi þeirra, ok þat með, at þeir skyldu honum blóta til árs sér, ok veita honum atgöngu ok drepa hann, ok rjóða stalla með blóði hans. Ok svá gerðu þeir.

Domald took the heritage after his father Visbur, and ruled over the land. As in his time there was great famine and distress, the Swedes made great offerings of sacrifice at Upsal. The first autumn they sacrificed oxen, but the succeeding season was not improved thereby. The following autumn they sacrificed men, but the succeeding year was rather worse. The third autumn, when the offer of sacrifices should begin, a great multitude of Swedes came to Upsal; and now the chiefs held consultations with each other, and all agreed that the times of scarcity were on account of their king Domald, and they resolved to offer him for good seasons, and to assault and kill him, and sprinkle the stalle of the gods with his blood. And they did so.

Snorri Sturluson wrote of Domalde in his Ynglinga saga (1225)

Hitt var fyrr
at fold ruðu
sínum drótni,
ok landherr
af lífs vönum
dreyrug vápn
Dómalda bar,
þá er árgjörn
Jóta dolgi
Svía kind
of sóa skyldi.
Segment from Ynglingatal (9th century) included for Snorri Sturluson’s account in the Heimskringla

The wizard (№ 241) from 1914. & Midvinterblot  (Kung Domalde. Study for Midvinterblot


In Italy there still remains a very old tradition related to the stag figure.  On the last Sunday of carnival, at Castelnuovo, an annual festival takes place known as the Red Deer Man ritual or festival.  It features four primary figures: the Deer man, the Deer Woman, the Fairy Wizard (the Martino), and the Hunter.  The Deer Man and Woman dress in hides, with the man wearing a set of antlers and both figures wearing a necklace of  cowbells.  The Martino is dressed in white with a cape and wears a conical hat.  He carries a wand and represents the fairy of the mountains.


In Italy there still remains a very old tradition related to the stag figure.  On the last Sunday of carnival, at Castelnuovo, an annual festival takes place known as the Red Deer Man ritual or festival.  It features four primary figures: the Deer man, the Deer Woman, the Fairy Wizard (the Martino), and the Hunter.  The Deer Man and Woman dress in hides, with the man wearing a set of antlers and both figures wearing a necklace of  cowbells.  The Martino is dressed in white with a cape and wears a conical hat.  He carries a wand and represents the fairy of the mountains.


Magnet - Summer is a cumen-in

LXVIII. The Golden Bough

Thus the view that Balder’s life was in the mistletoe is entirely in harmony with primitive modes of thought. It may indeed sound like a contradiction that, if his life was in the mistletoe, he should nevertheless have been killed by a blow from the plant. But when a person’s life is conceived as embodied in a particular object, with the existence of which his own existence is inseparably bound up, and the destruction of which involves his own, the object in question may be regarded and spoken of indifferently as his life or his death, as happens in the fairy tales. Hence if a man’s death is in an object, it is perfectly natural that he should be killed by a blow from it. In the fairy tales Koshchei the Deathless is killed by a blow from the egg or the stone in which his life or death is secreted; the ogres burst when a certain grain of sand—doubtless containing their life or death—is carried over their heads; the magician dies when the stone in which his life or death is contained is put under his pillow; and the Tartar hero is warned that he may be killed by the golden arrow or golden sword in which his soul has been stowed away.   
The idea that the life of the oak was in the mistletoe was probably suggested, as I have said, by the observation that in winter the mistletoe growing on the oak remains green while the oak itself is leafless. But the position of the plant—growing not from the ground but from the trunk or branches of the tree—might confirm this idea. Primitive man might think that, like himself, the oak-spirit had sought to deposit his life in some safe place, and for this purpose had pitched on the mistletoe, which, being in a sense neither on earth nor in heaven, might be supposed to be fairly out of harm’s way. In a former chapter we saw that primitive man seeks to preserve the life of his human divinities by keeping them poised between earth and heaven, as the place where they are least likely to be assailed by the dangers that encompass the life of man on earth. We can therefore understand why it has been a rule both of ancient and of modern folk-medicine that the mistletoe should not be allowed to touch the ground; were it to touch the ground, its healing virtue would be gone. This may be a survival of the old superstition that the plant in which the life of the sacred tree was concentrated should not be exposed to the risk incurred by contact with the earth. In an Indian legend, which offers a parallel to the Balder myth, Indra swore to the demon Namuci that he would slay him neither by day nor by night, neither with staff nor with bow, neither with the palm of the hand nor with the fist, neither with the wet nor with the dry. But he killed him in the morning twilight by sprinkling over him the foam of the sea. The foam of the sea is just such an object as a savage might choose to put his life in, because it occupies that sort of intermediate or nondescript position between earth and sky or sea and sky in which primitive man sees safety. It is therefore not surprising that the foam of the river should be the totem of a clan in India.   
Again, the view that the mistletoe owes its mystic character partly to its not growing on the ground is confirmed by a parallel superstition about the mountain-ash or rowan-tree. In Jutland a rowan that is found growing out of the top of another tree is esteemed “exceedingly effective against witchcraft: since it does not grow on the ground witches have no power over it; if it is to have its full effect it must be cut on Ascension Day.” Hence it is placed over doors to prevent the ingress of witches. In Sweden and Norway, also, magical properties are ascribed to a “flying-rowan” (flögrönn), that is to a rowan which is found growing not in the ordinary fashion on the ground but on another tree, or on a roof, or in a cleft of the rock, where it has sprouted from seed scattered by birds. They say that a man who is out in the dark should have a bit of “flying-rowan” with him to chew; else he runs a risk of being bewitched and of being unable to stir from the spot. Just as in Scandinavia the parasitic rowan is deemed a countercharm to sorcery, so in Germany the parasitic mistletoe is still commonly considered a protection against witch-craft, and in Sweden, as we saw, the mistletoe which is gathered on Midsummer Eve is attached to the ceiling of the house, the horse’s stall or the cow’s crib, in the belief that this renders the Troll powerless to injure man or beast.   
The view that the mistletoe was not merely the instrument of Balder’s death, but that it contained his life, is countenanced by the analogy of a Scottish superstition. Tradition ran that the fate of the Hays of Errol, an estate in Perthshire, near the Firth of Tay, was bound up with the mistletoe that grew on a certain great oak. A member of the Hay family has recorded the old belief as follows: “Among the low country families the badges are now almost generally forgotten; but it appears by an ancient MS., and the tradition of a few old people in Perthshire, that the badge of the Hays was the mistletoe. There was formerly in the neighbourhood of Errol, and not far from the Falcon stone, a vast oak of an unknown age, and upon which grew a profusion of the plant: many charms and legends were considered to be connected with the tree, and the duration of the family of Hay was said to be united with its existence. It was believed that a sprig of the mistletoe cut by a Hay on Allhallowmas eve, with a new dirk, and after surrounding the tree three times sunwise, and pronouncing a certain spell, was a sure charm against all glamour or witchery, and an infallible guard in the day of battle. A spray gathered in the same manner was placed in the cradle of infants, and thought to defend them from being changed for elfbairns by the fairies. Finally, it was affirmed, that when the root of the oak had perished, ‘the grass should grow in the hearth of Errol, and a raven should sit in the falcon’s nest.’ The two most unlucky deeds which could be done by one of the name of Hay was, to kill a white falcon, and to cut down a limb from the oak of Errol. When the old tree was destroyed I could never learn. The estate has been sold out of the family of Hay, and of course it is said that the fatal oak was cut down a short time before.” The old superstition is recorded in verses which are traditionally ascribed to Thomas the Rhymer:

While the mistletoe bats on Errol’s aik,
And that aik stands fast,
The Hays shall flourish, and their good grey hawk
Shall nocht flinch before the blast.

But when the root of the aik decays,
And the mistletoe dwines on its withered breast,
The grass shall grow on Errol’s hearthstane,
And the corbie roup in the falcon’s nest.
It is not a new opinion that the Golden Bough was the mistletoe. True, Virgil does not identify but only compares it with mistletoe. But this may be only a poetical device to cast a mystic glamour over the humble plant. Or, more probably, his description was based on a popular superstition that at certain times the mistletoe blazed out into a supernatural golden glory. The poet tells how two doves, guiding Aeneas to the gloomy vale in whose depth grew the Golden Bough, alighted upon a tree, “whence shone a flickering gleam of gold. As in the woods in winter cold the mistletoe—a plant not native to its tree—is green with fresh leaves and twines its yellow berries about the boles; such seemed upon the shady holm-oak the leafy gold, so rustled in the gentle breeze the golden leaf.” Here Virgil definitely describes the Golden Bough as growing on a holm-oak, and compares it with the mistletoe. The inference is almost inevitable that the Golden Bough was nothing but the mistletoe seen through the haze of poetry or of popular superstition.   
Now grounds have been shown for believing that the priest of the Arician grove—the King of the Wood—personified the tree on which grew the Golden Bough. Hence if that tree was the oak, the King of the Wood must have been a personification of the oakspirit. It is, therefore, easy to understand why, before he could be slain, it was necessary to break the Golden Bough. As an oak-spirit, his life or death was in the mistletoe on the oak, and so long as the mistletoe remained intact, he, like Balder, could not die. To slay him, therefore, it was necessary to break the mistletoe, and probably, as in the case of Balder, to throw it at him. And to complete the parallel, it is only necessary to suppose that the King of the Wood was formerly burned, dead or alive, at the midsummer fire festival which, as we have seen, was annually celebrated in the Arician grove. The perpetual fire which burned in the grove, like the perpetual fire which burned in the temple of Vesta at Rome and under the oak at Romove, was probably fed with the sacred oak-wood; and thus it would be in a great fire of oak that the King of the Wood formerly met his end. At a later time, as I have suggested, his annual tenure of office was lengthened or shortened, as the case might be, by the rule which allowed him to live so long as he could prove his divine right by the strong hand. But he only escaped the fire to fall by the sword.   
Thus it seems that at a remote age in the heart of Italy, beside the sweet Lake of Nemi, the same fiery tragedy was annually enacted which Italian merchants and soldiers were afterwards to witness among their rude kindred, the Celts of Gaul, and which, if the Roman eagles had ever swooped on Norway, might have been found repeated with little difference among the barbarous Aryans of the North. The rite was probably an essential feature in the ancient Aryan worship of the oak.   
It only remains to ask, Why was the mistletoe called the Golden Bough? The whitish-yellow of the mistletoe berries is hardly enough to account for the name, for Virgil says that the bough was altogether golden, stems as well as leaves. Perhaps the name may be derived from the rich golden yellow which a bough of mistletoe assumes when it has been cut and kept for some months; the bright tint is not confined to the leaves, but spreads to the stalks as well, so that the whole branch appears to be indeed a Golden Bough. Breton peasants hang up great bunches of mistletoe in front of their cottages, and in the month of June these bunches are conspicuous for the bright golden tinge of their foliage. In some parts of Brittany, especially about Morbihan, branches of mistletoe are hung over the doors of stables and byres to protect the horses and cattle, probably against witchcraft.   
The yellow colour of the withered bough may partly explain why the mistletoe has been sometimes supposed to possess the property of disclosing treasures in the earth; for on the principles of homoeopathic magic there is a natural affinity between a yellow bough and yellow gold. This suggestion is confirmed by the analogy of the marvellous properties popularly ascribed to the mythical fern-seed, which is popularly supposed to bloom like gold or fire on Midsummer Eve. Thus in Bohemia it is said that “on St. John’s Day fern-seed blooms with golden blossoms that gleam like fire.” Now it is a property of this mythical fern-seed that whoever has it, or will ascend a mountain holding it in his hand on Midsummer Eve, will discover a vein of gold or will see the treasures of the earth shining with a bluish flame. In Russia they say that if you succeed in catching the wondrous bloom of the fern at midnight on Midsummer Eve, you have only to throw it up into the air, and it will fall like a star on the very spot where a treasure lies hidden. In Brittany treasure-seekers gather fern-seed at midnight on Midsummer Eve, and keep it till Palm Sunday of the following year; then they strew the seed on the ground where they think a treasure is concealed. Tyrolese peasants imagine that hidden treasures can be seen glowing like flame on Midsummer Eve, and that fern-seed, gathered at this mystic season, with the usual precautions, will help to bring the buried gold to the surface. In the Swiss canton of Freiburg people used to watch beside a fern on St. John’s night in the hope of winning a treasure, which the devil himself sometimes brought to them. In Bohemia they say that he who procures the golden bloom of the fern at this season has thereby the key to all hidden treasures; and that if maidens will spread a cloth under the fast-fading bloom, red gold will drop into it. And in the Tryol and Bohemia if you place fern-seed among money, the money will never decrease, however much of it you spend. Sometimes the fern-seed is supposed to bloom on Christmas night, and whoever catches it will become very rich. In Styria they say that by gathering fern-seed on Christmas night you can force the devil to bring you a bag of money.   
Thus, on the principle of like by like, fern-seed is supposed to discover gold because it is itself golden; and for a similar reason it enriches its possessor with an unfailing supply of gold. But while the fern-seed is described as golden, it is equally described as glowing and fiery. Hence, when we consider that two great days for gathering the fabulous seed are Midsummer Eve and Christmas—that is, the two solstices (for Christmas is nothing but an old heathen celebration of the winter solstice)—we are led to regard the fiery aspect of the fern-seed as primary, and its golden aspect as secondary and derivative. Fern-seed, in fact, would seem to be an emanation of the sun’s fire at the two turning-points of its course, the summer and winter solstices. This view is confirmed by a German story in which a hunter is said to have procured fern-seed by shooting at the sun on Midsummer Day at noon; three drops of blood fell down, which he caught in a white cloth, and these blood-drops were the fern-seed. Here the blood is clearly the blood of the sun, from which the fern-seed is thus directly derived. Thus it may be taken as probable that fern-seed is golden, because it is believed to be an emanation of the sun’s golden fire.   
Now, like fern-seed, the mistletoe is gathered either at Midsummer or at Christmas—that is, either at the summer or at the winter solstice—and, like fern-seed, it is supposed to possess the power of revealing treasures in the earth. On Midsummer Eve people in Sweden make divining-rods of mistletoe, or of four different kinds of wood one of which must be mistletoe. The treasure-seeker places the rod on the ground after sundown, and when it rests directly over treasure, the rod begins to move as if it were alive. Now, if the mistletoe discovers gold, it must be in its character of the Golden Bough; and if it is gathered at the solstices, must not the Golden Bough, like the golden fern-seed, be an emanation of the sun’s fire? The question cannot be answered with a simple affirmative. We have seen that the old Aryans perhaps kindled the solstitial and other ceremonial fires in part as sun-charms, that is, with the intention of supplying the sun with fresh fire; and as these fires were usually made by the friction or combustion of oak-wood, it may have appeared to the ancient Aryan that the sun was periodically recruited from the fire which resided in the sacred oak. In other words, the oak may have seemed to him the original storehouse or reservoir of the fire which was from time to time drawn out to feed the sun. But if the life of the oak was conceived to be in the mistletoe, the mistletoe must on that view have contained the seed or germ of the fire which was elicited by friction from the wood of the oak. Thus, instead of saying that the mistletoe was an emanation of the sun’s fire, it might be more correct to say that the sun’s fire was regarded as an emanation of the mistletoe. No wonder, then, that the mistletoe shone with a golden splendour, and was called the Golden Bough. Probably, however, like fern-seed, it was thought to assume its golden aspect only at those stated times, especially midsummer, when fire was drawn from the oak to light up the sun. At Pulverbatch, in Shropshire, it was believed within living memory that the oak-tree blooms on Midsummer Eve and the blossom withers before daylight. A maiden who wishes to know her lot in marriage should spread a white cloth under the tree at night, and in the morning she will find a little dust, which is all that remains of the flower. She should place the pinch of dust under her pillow, and then her future husband will appear to her in her dreams. This fleeting bloom of the oak, if I am right, was probably the mistletoe in its character of the Golden Bough. The conjecture is confirmed by the observation that in Wales a real sprig of mistletoe gathered on Midsummer Eve is similarly placed under the pillow to induce prophetic dreams; and further the mode of catching the imaginary bloom of the oak in a white cloth is exactly that which was employed by the Druids to catch the real mistletoe when it dropped from the bough of the oak, severed by the golden sickle. As Shropshire borders on Wales, the belief that the oak blooms on Midsummer Eve may be Welsh in its immediate origin, though probably the belief is a fragment of the primitive Aryan creed. In some parts of Italy, as we saw, peasants still go out on Midsummer morning to search the oak-trees for the “oil of St. John,” which, like the mistletoe, heals all wounds, and is, perhaps, the mistletoe itself in its glorified aspect. Thus it is easy to understand how a title like the Golden Bough, so little descriptive of its usual appearance on the tree, should have been applied to the seemingly insignificant parasite. Further, we can perhaps see why in antiquity mistletoe was believed to possess the remarkable property of extinguishing fire, and why in Sweden it is still kept in houses as a safeguard against conflagration. Its fiery nature marks it out, on homoeopathic principles, as the best possible cure or preventive of injury by fire.   
These considerations may partially explain why Virgil makes Aeneas carry a glorified bough of mistletoe with him on his descent into the gloomy subterranean world. The poet describes how at the very gates of hell there stretched a vast and gloomy wood, and how the hero, following the flight of two doves that lured him on, wandered into the depths of the immemorial forest till he saw afar off through the shadows of the trees the flickering light of the Golden Bough illuminating the matted boughs overhead. If the mistletoe, as a yellow withered bough in the sad autumn woods, was conceived to contain the seed of fire, what better companion could a forlorn wanderer in the nether shades take with him than a bough that would be a lamp to his feet as well as a rod and staff to his hands? Armed with it he might boldly confront the dreadful spectres that would cross his path on his adventurous journey. Hence when Aeneas, emerging from the forest, comes to the banks of Styx, winding slow with sluggish stream through the infernal marsh, and the surly ferryman refuses him passage in his boat, he has but to draw the Golden Bough from his bosom and hold it up, and straightway the blusterer quails at the sight and meekly receives the hero into his crazy bark, which sinks deep in the water under the unusual weight of the living man. Even in recent times, as we have seen, mistletoe has been deemed a protection against witches and trolls, and the ancients may well have credited it with the same magical virtue. And if the parasite can, as some of our peasants believe, open all locks, why should it not have served as an “open Sesame” in the hands of Aeneas to unlock the gates of death?   
Now, too, we can conjecture why Virbius at Nemi came to be confounded with the sun. If Virbius was, as I have tried to show, a tree-spirit, he must have been the spirit of the oak on which grew the Golden Bough; for tradition represented him as the first of the Kings of the Wood. As an oak-spirit he must have been supposed periodically to rekindle the sun’s fire, and might therefore easily be confounded with the sun itself. Similarly we can explain why Balder, an oak-spirit, was described as “so fair of face and so shining that a light went forth from him,” and why he should have been so often taken to be the sun. And in general we may say that in primitive society, when the only known way of making fire is by the friction of wood, the savage must necessarily conceive of fire as a property stored away, like sap or juice, in trees, from which he has laboriously to extract it. The Senal Indians of California “profess to believe that the whole world was once a globe of fire, whence that element passed up into the trees, and now comes out whenever two pieces of wood are rubbed together.” Similarly the Maidu Indians of California hold that “the earth was primarily a globe of molten matter, and from that the principle of fire ascended through the roots into the trunk and branches of trees, whence the Indians can extract it by means of their drill.” In Namoluk, one of the Caroline Islands, they say that the art of making fire was taught men by the gods. Olofaet, the cunning master of flames, gave fire to the bird mwi and bade him carry it to earth in his bill. So the bird flew from tree to tree and stored away the slumbering force of the fire in the wood, from which men can elicit it by friction. In the ancient Vedic hymns of India the fire-god Agni “is spoken of as born in wood, as the embryo of plants, or as distributed in plants. He is also said to have entered into all plants or to strive after them. When he is called the embryo of trees or of trees as well as plants, there may be a side-glance at the fire produced in forests by the friction of the boughs of trees.”   
A tree which has been struck by lightning is naturally regarded by the savage as charged with a double or triple portion of fire; for has he not seen the mighty flash enter into the trunk with his own eyes? Hence perhaps we may explain some of the many superstitious beliefs concerning trees that have been struck by lightning. When the Thompson Indians of British Columbia wished to set fire to the houses of their enemies, they shot at them arrows which were either made from a tree that had been struck by lightning or had splinters of such wood attached to them. Wendish peasants of Saxony refuse to burn in their stoves the wood of trees that have been struck by lightning; they say that with such fuel the house would be burnt down. In like manner the Thonga of South Africa will not use such wood as fuel nor warm themselves at a fire which has been kindled with it. On the contrary, when lightning sets fire to a tree, the Winamwanga of Northern Rhodesia put out all the fires in the village and plaster the fireplaces afresh, while the head men convey the lightning-kindled fire to the chief, who prays over it. The chief then sends out the new fire to all his villages, and the villagers reward his messengers for the boon. This shows that they look upon fire kindled by lightning with reverence, and the reverence is intelligible, for they speak of thunder and lightning as God himself coming down to earth. Similarly the Maidu Indians of California believe that a Great Man created the world and all its inhabitants, and that lightning is nothing but the Great Man himself descending swiftly out of heaven and rending the trees with his flaming arms.   
It is a plausible theory that the reverence which the ancient peoples of Europe paid to the oak, and the connexion which they traced between the tree and their sky-god, were derived from the much greater frequency with which the oak appears to be struck by lightning than any other tree of our European forests. This peculiarity of the tree has seemingly been established by a series of observations instituted within recent years by scientific enquirers who have no mythological theory to maintain. However we may explain it, whether by the easier passage of electricity through oak-wood than through any other timber, or in some other way, the fact itself may well have attracted the notice of our rude forefathers, who dwelt in the vast forests which then covered a large part of Europe; and they might naturally account for it in their simple religious way by supposing that the great sky-god, whom they worshipped and whose awful voice they heard in the roll of thunder, loved the oak above all the trees of the wood and often descended into it from the murky cloud in a flash of lightning, leaving a token of his presence or of his passage in the riven and blackened trunk and the blasted foliage. Such trees would thenceforth be encircled by a nimbus of glory as the visible seats of the thundering sky-god. Certain it is that, like some savages, both Greeks and Romans identified their great god of the sky and of the oak with the lightning flash which struck the ground; and they regularly enclosed such a stricken spot and treated it thereafter as sacred. It is not rash to suppose that the ancestors of the Celts and Germans in the forests of Central Europe paid a like respect for like reasons to a blasted oak.   
This explanation of the Aryan reverence for the oak and of the association of the tree with the great god of the thunder and the sky, was suggested or implied long ago by Jacob Grimm, and has been in recent years powerfully reinforced by Mr. W. Warde Fowler. It appears to be simpler and more probable than the explanation which I formerly adopted, namely, that the oak was worshipped primarily for the many benefits which our rude forefathers derived from the tree, particularly for the fire which they drew by friction from its wood; and that the connexion of the oak with the sky was an after-thought based on the belief that the flash of lightning was nothing but the spark which the sky-god up aloft elicited by rubbing two pieces of oak-wood against each other, just as his savage worshipper kindled fire in the forest on earth. On that theory the god of the thunder and the sky was derived from the original god of the oak; on the present theory, which I now prefer, the god of the sky and the thunder was the great original deity of our Aryan ancestors, and his association with the oak was merely an inference based on the frequency with which the oak was seen to be struck by lightning. If the Aryans, as some think, roamed the wide steppes of Russia or Central Asia with their flocks and herds before they plunged into the gloom of the European forests, they may have worshipped the god of the blue or cloudy firmament and the flashing thunderbolt long before they thought of associating him with the blasted oaks in their new home.    
Perhaps the new theory has the further advantage of throwing light on the special sanctity ascribed to mistletoe which grows on an oak. The mere rarity of such a growth on an oak hardly suffices to explain the extent and the persistence of the superstition. A hint of its real origin is possibly furnished by the statement of Pliny that the Druids worshipped the plant because they believed it to have fallen from heaven and to be a token that the tree on which it grew was chosen by the god himself. Can they have thought that the mistletoe dropped on the oak in a flash of lightning? The conjecture is confirmed by the name thunder-besom which is applied to mistletoe in the Swiss canton of Aargau, for the epithet clearly implies a close connexion between the parasite and the thunder; indeed “thunder-besom” is a popular name in Germany for any bushy nest-like excrescence growing on a branch, because such a parasitic growth is actually believed by the ignorant to be a product of lightning. If there is any truth in this conjecture, the real reason why the Druids worshipped a mistletoe-bearing oak above all other trees of the forest was a belief that every such oak had not only been struck by lightning but bore among its branches a visible emanation of the celestial fire; so that in cutting the mistletoe with mystic rites they were securing for themselves all the magical properties of a thunder-bolt. If that was so, we must apparently conclude that the mistletoe was deemed an emanation of the lightning rather than, as I have thus far argued, of the midsummer sun. Perhaps, indeed, we might combine the two seemingly divergent views by supposing that in the old Aryan creed the mistletoe descended from the sun on Midsummer Day in a flash of lightning. But such a combination is artificial and unsupported, so far as I know, by any positive evidence. Whether on mythical principles the two interpretations can really be reconciled with each other or not, I will not presume to say; but even should they prove to be discrepant, the inconsistency need not have prevented our rude forefathers from embracing both of them at the same time with an equal fervour of conviction; for like the great majority of mankind the savage is above being hidebound by the trammels of a pedantic logic. In attempting to track his devious thought through the jungle of crass ignorance and blind fear, we must always remember that we are treading enchanted ground, and must beware of taking for solid realities the cloudy shapes that cross our path or hover and gibber at us through the gloom. We can never completely replace ourselves at the standpoint of primitive man, see things with his eyes, and feel our hearts beat with the emotions that stirred his. All our theories concerning him and his ways must therefore fall far short of certainty; the utmost we can aspire to in such matters is a reasonable degree of probability.   
To conclude these enquiries we may say that if Balder was indeed, as I have conjectured, a personification of a mistletoe-bearing oak, his death by a blow of the mistletoe might on the new theory be explained as a death by a stroke of lightning. So long as the mistletoe, in which the flame of the lightning smouldered, was suffered to remain among the boughs, so long no harm could befall the good and kindly god of the oak, who kept his life stowed away for safety between earth and heaven in the mysterious parasite; but when once that seat of his life, or of his death, was torn from the branch and hurled at the trunk, the tree fell—the god died—smitten by a thunderbolt.   
And what we have said of Balder in the oak forests of Scandinavia may perhaps, with all due diffidence in a question so obscure and uncertain, be applied to the priest of Diana, the King of the Wood, at Aricia in the oak forests of Italy. He may have personated in flesh and blood the great Italian god of the sky, Jupiter, who had kindly come down from heaven in the lightning flash to dwell among men in the mistletoe—the thunder-besom—the Golden Bough—growing on the sacred oak in the dells of Nemi. If that was so, we need not wonder that the priest guarded with drawn sword the mystic bough which contained the god’s life and his own. The goddess whom he served and married was herself, if I am right, no other than the Queen of Heaven, the true wife of the sky-god. For she, too, loved the solitude of the woods and the lonely hills, and sailing overhead on clear nights in the likeness of the silver moon looked down with pleasure on her own fair image reflected on the calm, the burnished surface of the lake, Diana’s Mirror.