Wednesday, December 16, 2009

THEME THURSDAY: HISTORY

THE HISTORY OF MISTLETOE





Given that the celebratory Christmas season is upon us, it seemed fitting to explore the history of a time honored tradition, as well as an interesting decoration, to mark Theme Thursday this week. So, I chose to delve into the peculiar history of mistletoe.

Mistletoe’s historical origins in America can be traced back to the 17Th century, but its genesis and tales of discovery and mystical stories of tragedy and redemption have much more ancient beginnings.

One of the earliest associations with mistletoe can be found in Norse history through mythology. The lore begins with Frigga, Goddess of beauty and love. When her son, Baldur was born, she sought out all the species in the plant kingdom, save one, mistletoe, to insure that her son would never be harmed. Due to her neglect, the god of evil, Loki, found Baldur and killed him with a mistletoe-laced spear. In Fridda’s despair, she wept tears of tiny white berries comparable to the ones found on mistletoe. When Baldur was eventually brought back to life, Fridda made a vow that she would kiss anyone who walked under the mistletoe.

( Druids Cutting Mistletoe)

The second association is found in the history of the ancient Druids. When the warring clans would come in contact with mistletoe, they would cease to do battle and call a truce, if only momentarily. Some historians suggest that this act of peace, instead of the Norse account, may have actually been the precursor to traditional associations with kissing when standing underneath the balls of berry -laden greenery.

Though some cultures have made the association of mistletoe with marriage, when a man kisses a woman while standing underneath, most merely see a person there as stumbling upon the chance encounter for a kiss and an embrace.



On a much less romantic note, mistletoe’s botanical history reveals that not only is the plant poisoness, but it is in fact viewed as a “partial parasitic plant”. It can actually survive on its own, through photosynthesis, and will attach its roots into trees, robbing them of nutrients.

I don’t know about you, but I certainly prefer the romantic Norse or Druid ‘Histories’ to the Botanical one…

20 comments:

ChaChaneen said...

Again, I learned something new for Thursday and I agree that the romantic Norse is so much better! ha ha

That Norman Rockwell painting is just sweet. He was great wasn't he?!

Bachelor said...

Rebecca,
Thanks for the history lesson on mistletoe. I had no idea that it is poisoness. And I agree with you; I like to think of the romantic themes it intales.
The Bach

...mmm... said...

Oh, you are clever, Rebecca, focusing on the history of one particular subject. Now why didn't I think that? Mine was rather lame, I'm afraid. ...Anyway, yes, I knew that mistletoe can grow on its own and is a parasite--Something my mother told me for some obscure reason when a boy. Maybe it was to stop me from kissing the girls? I don't know. Well, that never happened anyway, I was more likely to protect them from being kissed!

Yes, I'm with you, the romantic version beats out the lovely sounding Frigga. Yesh, "Goddess of beauty and love" is THE first thing that pops to mind when I hear that name. LOL.

Great TT.

Protege said...

I so enjoyed reading this! I have heard the story of Baldur before.;)
And I was just going to add that it is actually a parasite, but you did mention that in the end of the post;) I have seen many mistletoes while traveling in France, hanging in big bunched of trees lining the highway.;)
xo

Brian Miller said...

you know i think that the poison of the mistletoe travels with the kisses as well...leaving us smittne for those brief moments. need to go get me some mistletoe...happy tt!

Alan Burnett said...

That is fascinating and history at its best. My cousin tried to implant my apple tree with mistletoe earlier this year, I am glad to say it didn't take. Theme Thursday greetings.

Stephanie said...

Nice post!

Roy said...

Nice piece on Mistletoe! As a Pagan myself, it's nice to see other people writing about these things.

Wings said...

I like the romantic take, as well! Thanks for a timely lesson!

JeffScape said...

Less romantic note? I think mistletoe being poisonous is both romantic AND appropriate!

Kisses can be poison, after all. Heh.

Lizzie said...

Rebecca...loved your little history post on the mistletoe. I LOVE history. This was fun and quite romantic. :)

Betsy said...

Ok...I learned something new! Never knew the history..very interesting. I've always loved that Harrison Fisher painting of the kiss...sigh..reminds me of Rhett and Scarlet.

willow said...

Fascinating post, Rebecca. I knew absolutely nothing about mistletoe. Fabulous Norman Rockwell painting!!

Kris said...

Frigga is easily my favourite Goddess!

e said...

I never fail to learn something new visiting your blog. Interesting and informative. Thanks and happy TT!

Bachelor said...

Rebecca,
I want to thank you for sharing the Celtic Woman cd with me. I found it at Walmart!! It is fantastic. All the songs are great! Thanks for adding to our holiday festivities. The Bach

Rebecca said...

Brian,

Now, that's an interesting thought!

Rebecca said...

You're very welcome, Bach....I saw them in concert over the summer and it was a spectacular performance..What voices!

Dreamhaven said...

Have always enjoyed Mythology. I even took a course in it in college, includins the story of mistletoe. Happy TT

LadyCat said...

I enjoyed learning about mistletoe...very interesting.
Have a very Merry Christmas Rebecca!