Green Safeguards Against Bolts from the Blue

The reason lightning doesn't strike twice in the same place is that the same place isn't there the second time.
—Willie Tylor

Since Benjamin Franklin invented the lightning rod, most of us have felt pretty safe from lightning. But throughout human history, people have been justifiably afraid of fire from the sky. Here are some of the things they thought might make a difference. (Smile if you will, but please don't jog with your iPod during a thunderstorm!)

  • Houseleeks (Sempervivum tectorum). In Roman mythology, houseleeks (we call this plant hen-and-chicks) were sacred to Jupiter, and in Norse mythology, to Thor. Both gods were associated with lightning so people reasoned that houseleeks planted on the roof protected the structure against lightning and fire. Charlemagne decreed that these plants should be grown on the roofs of all the structures of his empire. To this day, you'll see houseleeks growing on roofs in England and Europe.

  • Mistletoe (Viscum album) was thought to have been planted in trees by bolts of lightning; hence, mistletoe hung over the doors and windows of a house would protect against lightning.

  • Holly (Ilex sp.) and hazel (Corylus avellana) In Norse mythology, holly and hazel also belonged to Thor the Thunderer, and were thought to protect people from his thunderbolts. Holly trees were planted a little distance from homes to attract lightning strikes away from the house. In Christian times, holly taken into the church for Christmas celebration (or hazel for Easter) was carried home and hung up to ward off lightning the rest of the year.

  • Hawthorn (Crataegus oxyacantha) was a sacred tree in the Celtic tradition and was later assimilated into Christian legend. It was said to have been used for Christ's crown of thorns. In Normandy, it was believed that lightning (which was the work of the devil) could not strike the plant that touched Christ's brow, so people used it to protect their homes. Hawthorn (often called thorn) was sometimes employed in house construction specifically as a lightning protector.

A natural means to preserve your house in safety from thunder and lightening: If the herb housleek or syngreen do grow on the house top, the same house is never stricken with lightening or thunder.
—Didymus Mountain, 1572