All things in earth and air
Bound were by magic spell
Never to do him harm,
Even the plants and stones:
All save the mistletoe,
The sacred mistletoe!
Who doesn’t like to kiss? And who doesn’t appreciate the help of the Christmas tradition of kissing under the mistletoe? As mistletoe etiquette goes, when a man kisses a woman under the mistletoe he removes a berry from the sprig hanging above and eats it and when all the berries have been consumed, it is not permitted to continue the kissing. It is also believed that if a girl places a sprig under her pillow she will dream of the man that she would marry. Many enamored delight in the chance to catch their crush under the mistletoe to give them a passionate kiss yet the story behind the mistletoe existed long before Christmas and long before it was used to steal some smooches during the holiday season.
To the Druids the mistletoe was known as ‘Omnia Sanantem’ which means ‘All Heal’ and since ancient times the mistletoe has been known for its healing properties and while this parasitic plant drains the life out of other living organisms, it is still revered as a powerful component in medicine in both western and homeopathic. In modern times it has been used to treat epilepsy, apoplexy, palsy, tuberculosis, stroke and even cancer. In fact, it was the Roman Pliny the Elder who had discovered it’s potent use against epilepsy, ulcers and poisons while the ancient Greeks understood its therapeutic benefits against menstrual cramps and spleen disorders. Yes, ladies; even in ancient times girls were seeking relief from period pains!
It is believed that its romantic connection could come from the belief through the different traditions that the mistletoe was regarded as a plant of fertility as the Druids noted how this plant bloomed even through the frost and snow which led them to view the mistletoe as a holy symbol of vivacity and administered it to both humans and animals.
Another ancient story from Norse Mythology tells us how Balder, the son of Odin, was prophesied to die which prompted his mother Frigg, the Goddess of love, to visit all the animals and plants of the natural world to secure an oath that they would not harm him. Unfortunately, she forgot to consult the mistletoe which inspired the naughty god Loki to create an arrow from the plant in order to kill the otherwise invincible Balder. In a more positive version of the chronicles of the Norse gods, the gods were able to resurrect Balder which in turn inspired Goddess Frigg to bless the plant and declare the mistletoe a sacred symbol of love and that she would kiss all who passed beneath it.
Mistletoe in Greek is ixos, and, in one of the towns of Rhodes, Apollo was worshipped under the title of Ixios-Apollo–Mistletoe-Apollo. Is it not possible that, in Apollo, fairest and goodliest of the Olympians, Apollo the northerner, Apollo of the mistletoe, we have but the counterpart of the young Baltic divinity, Balder the Beautiful?
The mistletoe was also referred as a symbol as peace as is the olive branch. Enemies would meet under a mistletoe bearing tree, laying down their weapons and embracing each other and agreeing to a truce until the next day. This may contribute to why mistletoe is such a prominent component in Christmas traditions as the motto of Christmas is ‘Peace to the World’.
Today we hang mistletoe above cradles and in doorways as it is believed to ward off evil spirits and pertaining to Jesus, it symbolizes everlasting life because it is an evergreen plant and purity because of its pure white berries.
However you wish to celebrate the sun festivals of the winter I wish you blessings and lots of kisses!
Caution: The white berries of the mistletoe plant are highly toxic when eaten in large quantities.