ON THE NEAREST FULL MOON to the winter solstice, I was kneeling on wet moss beneath an old maple tree, covering two medicine bottles with earth. A vivid image of a bear appeared, walking over the ground in front of me.
This was the final stage of a traditional gypsy remedy, passed down through uncountable generations, a "Heal-All Tonic" made from mistletoe. The mistletoe had to come from oak trees, as it is from the oak the medicine derives its strength.... The harvest had to be timed to the closest full moon of Winter Solstice, when the best energies are available for the plant to share - and under no circumstances should the plant come in contact with any metal but gold. So, on the night of the solstice, I stood with a friend in front of a large mound of mistletoe, the scent filling our bodies as we broke the branches into small pieces: a deliciously sweet, dark resin thickly coating our fingertips. Preparation took most of the night. Finally, the bottles had to be buried one foot deep in the earth for a full moon, with the neck of the bottle pointing East. There, hands in the earth, pondering the reasons for this, the bear had appeared - the animal most associated with knowledge of healing herbs. It was a magical moment: the solstice sun and moon, the ground covered with oak leaves, the mistletoe and the bear. Reminder:- The leaves and stems have been used in herbal remedies for thousands of years, but the berries can be poisonous.