The history of mistletoe

Mistletoe is often associated with Christmas but have you ever wondered why? This plant lives on the bark of trees and actually feeds of these trees. When trees lose their leaves, this plant thrives and it produces some of the most colourful berries and lush green foliage. Many years ago, the berries were thought of as aphrodisiacs but, today, we know better. These berries have toxic properties and are not suitable for consumption.

Ancient myths

Ancient cultures associated these berries with fertility. This is because the plant maintained a lush and fruitful appearance even during the coldest months of the year. It is also associated with the Greek goddess, Artemis. She wore a crown of mistletoe as a symbol of immortality. During the Winter Solstice celebration of the Druids, mistletoe plays a sacred role. It would be cut from the oak using a golden knife and it would be used in potions that were believed to help boost procreation.

In Ancient Scandinavia, anyone who came across an enemy beneath the mistletoe was ordered to put any weapons aside and hug one another. A truce would follow for the rest of the day. With this tradition in mind, it’s easy to understand where our modern kissing tradition comes form.

In Norse history, the legend of the god of the summer sun, Baldar is also associated with mistletoe. It is said that he dreamed of his death and his mother, Frigga, begged all the animals, plants and elements to protect him. She unfortunately forgot to speak with one plant in particular – mistletoe; and it was a poisoned dart made from mistletoe that resulted in his death. Frigga was filled with grief and, as she wept, her tears fell on the mistletoe berries. Baldar came back to life and the joyful Frigga kissed everyone who walked under the mistletoe.

Kissing underneath the mistletoe

Since the Victorian ear we have been decorating mistletoe with ribbons and hanging them throughout our homes during the holiday season. It is also tradition to remove one berry after each kiss. When all of the berries are gone, the plant no longer has it powers. It should be removed and replaced the next year. When a couple meets under the mistletoe, it is said to bring them good luck. If a girl does not get her kiss, it is believed that she will not get married for one year.

There you have it! They are not just pretty to look at. There is a rich and fascinating history associated with this bright berry-bearing plant. All the more reason to include it in your festive décor.