Yesterday, I shared the story of Baldur, the Norse god who was killed by an enchanted mistletoe arrow. Perhaps until yesterday, you had gone your entire life without knowing the pagan origins of that Christmas mistletoe tradition. Well, that was but one of many fascinating things about mistletoe.
Did you know…
- that the word mistletoe is a compound Old English word combining “mistel” (which means “dung”) and “tan” (which means twig) because it looks a bit like bird poop on a stick?
- that mistletoe doesn’t grow on the ground; it only grows in tree branches as a parasitic plant that burrows into a tree for nutrition?
- that the berries of a mistletoe plant remain sticky after ingestion by birds so they have to scrape it off their legs onto tree branches, thus enabling a greater chance of being planted?
- that because it looks a bit like bird poop and is planted via bird droppings, people used to think that mistletoe grew from birds themselves?
- that the kissing tradition only lasts as long as there are berries on the mistletoe? With each kiss, a berry is to be plucked off and when they are all gone, no more kisses are to be stolen beneath the sprig.
- that druids used mistletoe in an elixir to cure infertility and a range of poisons?
- that a French belief suggested that mistletoe is poisonous because it grew on the tree that was cut down to make the cross upon which Jesus was crucified? Thus it was cursed and forbidden to grow upon the ground which is why it only grows in branches.
And now you probably know more about mistletoe than will ever be required of you. But knowledge is power, so enjoy it.
In case you think I made any of this up, feel free to check my sources:
- How Mistletoe Works | HowStuffWorks.com
- Mistletoe: The Evolution of a Christmas Tradition
- The Ritual of the Oak and Mistletoe