Friday, November 25, 2011
Supernatural Friday: Legend of the Mistletoe
Kissing under the mistletoe is more than just a chance to get your honey to kiss you. Besides the Christmas holly, laurel, rosemary, yews, boxwood bushes and, of course, the Christmas tree, mistletoe is an evergreen displayed during the Christmas season. It is symbolic of the eventual rebirth of vegetation that will occur in spring. More so than any other of the Christmas evergreens, it is a plant of which we are conscious only during the holidays. Mistletoe has long been regarded as an aphrodisiac and fertility herb. It may also possess abortifacient qualities, which would help explain its association with uninhibited sexuality.
Kissing under the mistletoe got its start in Celtic rituals and Norse mythology. In Gaul, the Druids considered it a sacred plant. It was believed to have medicinal qualities and mysterious supernatural powers. After preparing for a sacrifice and a feast under the oak, they hail the mistletoe as a cure-all, bringing two white bulls with horns that have never been bound before. A priest dressed in a white robe climbs the oak and with a golden sickle cuts the mistletoe,. It is caught in a white cloak. After sacrificing the victims, they ask the god to make the mistletoe propitious for them. There was belief that a potion prepared from it will make sterile animals fertile and that kit was an antidote for any poison.
Mistletoe and the kissing are traced back to ancient Scandinavia. It was also the plant of peace there. If enemies met by chance beneath it in a forest, they laid down their arms and maintained a truce until the next day. This ancient Scandinavian custom led to the tradition of kissing under the mistletoe.
But this tradition went hand-in-hand with the myth of Baldur. Baldur's mother was the Norse goddess, Frigga. When he was born, Frigga made every plant, animal and inanimate object to promise not to harm Baldur. But the goddess overlooked the mistletoe. Loki took advantage of this oversight and tricked one of the other gods into killing Baldur with a spear fashioned from mistletoe. The demise of Baldur, a vegetation deity in the Norse myths, brought winter into the world, although the gods did eventually restored Baldur to life. Frigga pronounced the mistletoe sacred, ordering that it should bring love rather than death into the world.