There’s certainly nothing wrong with a good snogging under the mistletoe, but just how did a bunch of poison berries ever become symbolic of romantic kissing at Christmas?
The Celtic Druids (those wily Druids who built standing-stone circles that baffle us to this day) regarded mistletoe as an aphrodisiac; one that bestows fertility, and even guarded against poisoning. It was the mistletoe of the sacred oak tree that they revered the most and considered the berries as “the soul” of that tree. It was used in ceremonies and also as decoration for houses during mid-summer and winter solstice celebrations. But the Celtic Druids weren’t the only ancients who held mistletoe is such esteem.
The Greeks thought mistletoe to have mystical properties capable of warding off evil. It was also associated strongly is Norse folklore with love. The Goddess Frigga, in her effort to save her son, Balder, from death sought a solemn promise from every plant growing in the earth and animal upon the earth to never harm her son, but she overlooked one plant; mistletoe, which grew upon the trees and not from the earth. Balder’s enemy, Loki, exploited this oversight and made an arrow tipped with the poisonous mistletoe. He gave it to the blind god of winter, Hoder, who shot the arrow. It struck Balder in the head, killing him. No element on earth could revive Frigga’s son. Only Frigga, herself, had that power. The tears she shed became the white berries on the mistletoe and they restored Balder to life. From then on, mistletoe was said to give life and symbolize the love Frigga had for her son.
Down through the ages, it continued to be used decoratively in celebrations and because of its supposed powers over life and fertility, was used in bunches to bless lovers with children. This evolved into the smaller sprigs hung in doorways throughout Europe where kisses were stolen and love declared. One bit of folklore states that a berry should be removed after each kiss until no more remain and then the sprig should be tossed out. It was considered bad luck to kiss under mistletoe that held no berries.
Whatever the original root of the legend, mistletoe, today, has become symbolic as good a reason as any to give and receive kisses. So go ahead. Find yourself a little sprig and smooch, pucker, and peck away! (Just remember to steer clear when your best friend’s drunken uncle is around! There’s always one at every holiday gathering.)
For more information on these classes, visit Kink.com. (Special thanks to Rain DeGrey).
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M. Gwynn has authored two books, Harvest and The Cat Who Wanted to be a Reindeer on Amazon.com .
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