WHAT IS MISTLETOE?


Mistletoe has always been a bit of an enigma, and although it is a plant that parasitises some of our native deciduous trees, it holds such a serene beauty that it has captured the imagination of European cultures throughout the ages.

Today mistletoe is strongly related to the Christmas celebration, notably used by men as an acceptable excuse to kiss any woman they can by encouraging, persuading or tricking them to stand underneath it.

The traditions that surround the parasitic mistletoe are steeped in European myth, many of which have been passed on generation to generation through centuries of our history. The earliest stories we know of about date back to the Druids, Celts and the Norse who believed that mistletoe possessed strange and magical powers.

It was down to the mystery of the mistletoe's method of reproduction, along with its ability to remain evergreen while over-wintering on dormant,and leafless hosts, that led many cultures to link this plant to spontaneous generation, fertility and aphrodisiacs.

The druids in particular venerated it, especially when found it attached to oak trees. It's believed that they would cut the mistletoe ceremonially from these 'sacred' oaks with a golden knife. After which it would then be used to create medicines which they thought would cure sterility and counteract poisons.
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A popular practise in medieval England involved women wishing to conceive. They would wrap mistletoe around their waists and wrists to increase fertility. However in Brittany, Northern France, the plant is known as Herbe de la Croix because it's thought that Christ's cross was made from mistletoe wood. The story goes that mistletoe once used to be a tree in its own right, and it was wood from this tree that was used to make Christ's crucifixion cross. As a punishment for its role in the death of Christ, the mistletoe was cursed, no longer welcome to a place on Gods earth. This led the mistletoe to return as it's seen today, as a parasite dependent on other trees for its life.

In ancient Scandinavia, Norsemen saw the mistletoe as a plant of peace. They revered it so much that if they happened to engage in battle beneath it they would laid down their weapons and maintain a truce until the following day.

It's believed that the tradition of kissing under the mistletoe arose from these Northern European legends which went hand-in-hand with another notable Norse story, the myth of Baldur.

Baldur's death and resurrection is one of the most fascinating of all the old Norse myths and is believed to be at the conception of mistletoe being regarded as a "kissing" plant. Baldur's mother was the Norse goddess Frigga, and when he was born she made every plant, animal and inanimate object promise not to harm him.

For some unknown reason she overlooked the fated mistletoe plant and the mischievous Norse god of the Norse Loki decided to take advantage of this. In a tale of treachery the malevolent trickster Loki discovered her oversight and fashioned a dart made from the plant. Then, in a cruel trick, placed it in the hand of Baldur's brother Hodor - the God of Darkness - and offered to guide his hand while teaching him to shoot darts. As he did so, he guided the dart directly into Baldur's heart. Frigga's tears of mourning were so wretched that the hapless mistletoe took pity on her. From that time on it bore milky white berries that were formed from her tears. This was the demise of Baldur- a vegetation deity in the Norse myths - and it was the sadness of his death that brought winter into the world. Eventually other Norse gods took pity on her and benevolenty restored Baldur life back to him. Overjoyed, Frigga pronounced the mistletoe sacred and ordered that it should be used to bring love into the world instead of death. Complying with Frigga's wishes, any two people passing under the mistletoe would now celebrate Baldur's resurrection by kissing underneath it.

Over time these myths transposed themselves into eighteenth-century England when at Christmas time a young lady standing under some mistletoe could not refuse to be kissed. Such a kiss could mean deep romance or lasting friendship, but if the girl remained un-kissed then she could not expect to marry until after the following year. In some parts of England the tradition is slightly different believing that anyone who kissed underneath mistletoe would be cursed never to marry. Here the tradition is to burn the mistletoe on the twelfth night as this will break the curse.

Elsewhere in England the mistletoe is still hung up in farm-houses and kitchens around Christmas time, and the young men have the privilege of kissing the girls under it. For every kiss they pluck a berry from the bush, but once the berries are gone the privilege ceases.

For more information click onto:
Gardening Jobs For December
How Does Mistletoe Grow
How to Grow Mistletoe from Seed
How to Propagate and Grow Mistletoe
How to Prune Raspberries
How to Take Cuttings from Bamboo
Jack Lantern
Poinsettia History and Tradition Story
Recipe for Christmas Pudding
Saffron
The Bat Plant
The History of Mistletoe Tradition
The History of the Christmas Tree
Traditional English Christmas Pudding Recipe 
Types and Varieties of Christmas Tree
What is a Papple?
What is Persimmon?

For more information on the history of plants click onto:
Charles Darwin's Greatest Experiment
Christmas cactus
Dahlia 'War of the Roses'
Euphorbia pulcherrima - The Poinsettia
Hever Castle, Viscount Astor and the Worlds Greatest Pleasure Garden
Historic Roses - Rosa Mundi
History of the Globe Artichoke
How to Grow the Sago Palm from Seed
How to Plant Bamboo
Lost Tulips of the Dutch Golden Age- Semper Augustus and Viceroy
Marrakesh Gardens
Merry Christmas - From Where I Live
Old Dutch Tulips - Tulip Duc van Thol 'Rose'
Old English Plants - Polyanthus 'Gold Lace'
Poinsettia History and Tradition Story
RHS Wisley Gardens - A Photographic Walk Through
Sissinghurst Gardens - a secret history
Stories, Myths, Legends and the Folklore of Hellebores
The Garden of Eden
The History of Mistletoe Tradition
The History of the Jack O'Lantern Hallowen Pumpkin
The History of Rhubarb
The History of the Pineapple
The Legend of the Jack O'Lantern Tradition
THE PIG FACE FRUIT - Solanum mammosum
The Saffron Crocus - Crocus sativus
The Story and History of Common Box
Tulip History and Popular Varieties
What has the Christmas cactus got to do with Christmas?
What is an Agave?
What is an Aphrodisiac?
What is Bamboo?
What is Christmas?
What is Frankincense and Myrrh?
What is Mistletoe?
What is a Parterre?
What is a Prune?
When is Christmas?
Where is the Location of the Garden of Eden
Zafran
photos care of http://www.apsnet.org/publications/apsnetfeatures/pages/mistletoe.aspx and
http and http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2008/dec/09/plants-christmas://www.art.co.uk/products/p10114960731-sa-i5893608/posters.htm

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