SO…WHAT’S UP WITH MISTLETOE?

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The white-berried Christmas mistletoe we hang so hopefully in places where our sweethearts will find us lingering, is just one of more than 1,300 species of mistletoe worldwide. Globally, more than 20 mistletoe species are endangered. Two kinds of mistletoes are native to the United States: the American mistletoe (the one commonly associated with our kissing customs) and the dwarf mistletoe. American mistletoe’s scientific name, Phoradendron, means “thief of the tree” in Greek. The plant is aptly named: it begins its life as a handily sticky seed that often hitchhikes to a new host tree on a bird beak or feather or on mammal fur. In addition to hitchhiking, the dwarf mistletoe also has another dandy way of traveling to a new host tree: the seeds of this mistletoe will, like tiny holiday poppers, explode from ripe berries, shooting a distance as far as 50 feet. One researcher said that if you put ripe berries in a paper bag and shake it, it sounds just like popping popcorn.

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From Candlegrove.com

 Also known as the golden bough. Held sacred by both the Celtic Druids and the Norseman. Mistletoe was used by the Druid priesthood in a very special ceremony held around this time…five days after the New Moon following winter solstice, to be precise. The Druid priests would cut mistletoe from a holy oak tree with a golden sickle. The branches had to be caught before they touched the ground.
The priest then divided the branches into many sprigs and distributed them to the people, who hung them over doorways as protection against thunder, lightning and other evils. The folklore, and the magical powers of this plant, blossomed over the centuries A sprig placed in a baby’s cradle would protect the child from faeries.

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<strong>THE KISSING PART</strong>
<blockquote>The Norse god Balder was the best loved of all the gods. His mother was Frigga, goddess of love and beauty. She loved her son so much that she wanted to make sure no harm would come to him. So she went through the world, securing promises from everything that sprang from the four elements–fire, water, air, and earth–that they would not harm her beloved Balder.Leave it to Loki, a sly, evil spirit, to find the loophole. The loophole was mistletoe. He made an arrow from its wood. To make the prank even nastier, he took the arrow to Hoder, Balder’s brother, who was blind. Guiding Holder’s hand, Loki directed the arrow at Balder’s heart, and he fell dead.

Frigga’s tears became the mistletoe’s white berries. In the version of the story with a happy ending, Balder is restored to life, and Frigga is so grateful that she reverses the reputation of the offending plant–making it a symbol of love and promising to bestow a kiss upon anyone who passes under it.

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One Comment on “SO…WHAT’S UP WITH MISTLETOE?”

  1. Robert Crenshaw Says:

    I didn’t realize how politically charged Christmas was until I made my CD Atheist Christmas. Now I’m coming across all of this great stuff. Two weeks ago I was in NYC doing an interview in Dave Marsh’s Sirius Kick Out The Jams show. It’s just across the street from FOX and we joked about how I might get a CD to O’Reilly, so I could officially get in the war. One can dream can’t he…


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