23 October 2012

Holiday Herbs Mistletoe

Posted by Jody under: Alternative Medicine .

Plants such as pine, holly, mistletoe and poinsettia are as much a part of Christmas as the food and gifts. Long before there was a Christmas, primitive Europeans hung evergreens above their doors at this time of year, believing that woodland spirits that were forced to wander around in the cold would take shelter there and bless them with good fortune and health. To the Druids, evergreens were sacred, ‘the plants that do not die,’ a symbol of life itself.

How did mistletoe, that parasitic shrub, come to be part of Christmas festivities with kissing underneath its waxy white berries and leathery leaves?

Within Norse mythology, mistletoe was sacred to Frigga, goddess of love and mother of the sun god, Balder. After Balder had a dream about his death, Frigga went to every element, animal and plant and drew promises from them not to harm her son. The only plant she overlooked was mistletoe, so Loki, the god of evil, saw a chance to destroy his enemy. Loki gave a mistletoe arrow tip to Hoder, the blind god of winter, who struck Balder dead. Without the sun from Balder, all life on earth would end, so all tried to bring Balder back to life.

Thanks to the power of love, Frigga succeeded in bringing her son back to life. The tears she shed for Balder turned into mistletoe berries. In her joy at Balder’s return, Frigga kissed everyone who passed beneath the tree on which the mistletoe grew. She decreed that mistletoe was free from Loki’s evil and anyone standing under it would receive a kiss, a token of love.

Druid sun worshipers revered mistletoe; it was considered sacred and never allowed to touch the ground. It figured prominently in their winter solstice ceremonies. They wore it or hung it above their doorways to ward off evil spirits. All who entered through the mistletoe doorway would receive a kiss of friendship. Ancient Greeks believed that mistletoe could ward off evil, and farmers fed mistletoe to cows that bore calves during the holidays. Sprigs of mistletoe were also hung over stable doors.

Long after the arrival of Christianity and dissipation of the polytheistic religions around the world, faith in mistletoe lives on. It’s thought to bring about a happy marriage, ensure children and cure sickness; to let it fall to the ground would be unlucky. It’s a symbol of Christmas joy.

A girl standing under it cannot refuse to be kissed, and one who goes unkissed cannot expect to be married the following year.

So, put up that mistletoe for health, happiness, and perhaps marriage and children in the coming year.

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