December Traditions - Mistletoe

There's a lot of talk now about the "War on Christmas" and "Happy Holidays" vs. "Merry Christmas". I had a thought this morning about taking some of our traditions and looking at how they came into being. I'm not trying to say "We invented Christmas" or "You stole our traditions" more so trying to show that this time of the year is indeed an amalgam of traditions from various parts of the world mixed together in this big ole melting pot we call humanity.

Today let's talk mistletoe.

First what the heck is mistletoe anyway? Mistletoe is a semi parasitic plant that lives within bushes and plants. Mistletoe has a large family of plants in it with up to 900 species. The berries of the Mistletoe are poisonous. The berry juice is extremely sticky and when eaten by birds, they pass through their system and are then deposited on tree branches as the birds perch. The word Mistletoe is from the Anglo-Saxon word, Mistel for "Dung" and Tan for "Twig" which translates to "Dung on a Twig". The ancient Druids honored mistletoe as a sacred plant. Some would place the plant over a baby's cradle to prevent the child from ever being kidnapped. In much the same treatment as the Yule Log, a branch of mistletoe was kept year after year, burning the previous year with the new harvest to bless the next years harvest.

The tradition of "Kissing under the Mistletoe" is thought to come from Scandinavia where it was said that if you were out in the woods and you found yourself standing under the mistletoe and you encountered a foe, you both lay down your weapons until the next day. This is thought to have come from old Norse Mythology. Balder was son of Odin (King of the Gods) and Frigga. Frigga fearing for her son's safety asked every thing to promise not to harm her son. This included animals, stones and trees. Frigga missed out on the mistletoe plant which allowed Loki the God of Mischief to use the plant to create a spear and trick Hod, Balder's brother into throwing it and killing Balder instantly. The Gods eventually restored Balder to life and Frigga proclaimed the plant to be sacred and that two people passing under it should celebrate Balder's resurrection by kissing.

Here's Amy Winehouse with "Mommy Kissing Santa Claus".

Wishing everyone, a wonderful holiday season.

Namaste & Blessed Be

***Please note, I am sure all traditions much like most magic and lore have a varied background, meaning this posting is only one view of the legend or myth around the specific tradition. I am not claiming that this is the be all end all of this tradition.

1 comment

Alexis Kennedy said...

oh this is just too awesome!