Sunday, December 25, 2016

Stories of Mistletoe

The mystical power of mistletoe and the tradition of kissing under this plant originated with the legend of Goddess Frigga, the Goddess of Love and her son Balder, God of the Summer Sun.

Balder dreamed about his death. Frightened, he told his mother of the dream. Frigga felt concern for her son and also for the life on earth. She knew that without Balder, life on earth would come to an end. Frigga appealed to every being in air, water, fire, and earth to promise her that they would never harm her son. Every animal and plant under and above the earth promised to keep her son safe.

Loki, the God of Evil, an enemy of Balder, knew that Frigga had overlooked one plant in her appeal. Known as mistletoe, it grew on apple and oak trees.

Loki made an arrow and placed a sprig of this plant at its tip. He beguiled Hoder, the blind brother of Balder and the God of Winter, and made him shoot this arrow at Balder. 

Balder immediately died and everybody worried as the earth turned cold and life became dreary. For the next three days, every creature tried to bring Balder back to life. Finally Frigga with the help of mistletoe brought him back to life. Her tears on the plant became pearly white berries and she blessed it so that anyone who stood under the mistletoe would never be harmed. They would instead receive  a kiss as a token of love.

The plant’s ability to remain lush and fruitful throughout the year led to its use as a symbol of fertility. The Greek goddess Artemis wore a crown of mistletoe as an emblem of immortality. The plant also played a role in the Druids’ celebration of the Winter Solstice. With a golden knife they cut it from the oak and made potions to boost procreation.

Mistletoe served as the magical ingredient in the kissing ball or kissing bough in Victorian England. This round frame trimmed with ribbons and ornaments often held a tiny nativity with mistletoe at the bottom. The ball hung from rafters or the ceiling. Guests at holiday parties, weddings and other festive occasions played kissing games beneath the ball. The kiss beneath the decoration was said to bring good luck and lasting friendship.

Washington Irving, wrote of a tradition in kissing beneath the mistletoe in Old Christmas From the Sketch Book of Washington Irving:

"The mistletoe is still hung up in farm-houses and kitchens at Christmas; and the young men have the privilege of kissing the girls under it, plucking each time a berry from the bush. When the berries are all plucked, the privilege ceases."

The custom of plucking berries for each kiss, and ceasing the bestowal of kisses once the berries are gone, has been left behind.  Still, the hanging of mistletoe and the custom kissing beneath it remains a popular tradition in Christmas celebrations.

Enjoy a mistletoe moment this Christmas day.

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