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History & Folklore

The Greek naturalist Theophrastus (c. 371 – c. 287 BC) first described mistletoe in his writings about plants. It was known to the Celtic people, who dominated Europe in the first millennium BC, as “all- healer” or “cur e-all” and as such was treated as a sacred plant.  It is no wonder that it has become embedded in our rituals, folklore, and folk medicine.

The author Washington Irving recorded as a foot note in his description of ‘Christmas Eve’ the tradition of stealing a kiss under this intriguing plant:

"The mistletoe is still hung up in farm-houses and kitchens at Christmas, and the young men have the privilege of kissing the girls under it, plucking each time a berry from the bush. When the berries are all plucked the privilege ceases."

Today we seem to forget about the plucking of the berries and the cessation of such privileges. Traditionally one of the mistletoe boughs used during the festive periods was meant to be hung over the entrance to a home and or the cowshed towards off evil spirits and ensure good fortune for the coming year.

The name Mistletoe comes from the Anglo-Saxon Mistle meaning dung. It was noted that mistletoe grew where the Mistle Thrush deposited it’s droppings on the branches of trees. The Anglo-Saxon word for twig was tan, so a literal translation of the word Mistletoe from the Anglo-Saxon would be ‘dung on a twig’.

The link between mistletoe and the traditional use for love and good comes from old Norse Mythology. The Goddess Frigga had a son, Baldur the God of the summer sun. Baldur dreamt of his early death and his mother on hearing of the dream, not only feared for her much loved son, but also for all life on earth, that required the sun for it to flourish. To safe guard her son and life on earth she made all the elements, earth, air, water and fire along with all things on the earth and of the sky promise not to hurt Baldur and to protect him.

Loki, the God of mischief and jealous of Baldur’s favour, discovered that Mistletoe being not of air, or earth had been missed by Frigga whilst getting all things to promise not to harm Baldur. Loki, exploited this situation and made a dart out of mistletoe and poisoned the tip with extracts from the plants red berries. Loki tricked Baldur’s blind brother Hod to use this dart to kill Baldur.

Everybody was worried as the Earth turned cold and life became dreary. Every creature tried to bring Balder back to life for three days but it was finally Frigga who managed to revive her son with the help of Mistletoe. Her tears fell on the plant and changed the red berries to pearly white (the colour we see to day) and restored Baludr back to life.

From that day, forward, Frigga stated the mistletoe would never harm anyone again and made it a symbol of love and made the promise to bestow a kiss upon everyone who passed beneath it.

The History and Folklore surrounding mistletoe is extensive, if you are interested follow some of our link below to learn more about this fascinating semi-parasitic plant.

You are never too old for a Kiss

You are never too  old….!

Loki cons Hod into killing his brother Baldur

Baldur’s death at the hand of Hod with Loki in the background

There is a lot of information about mistletoe available on the very good website http://mistletoe.org.uk/homewp/

It is pointless for us to recreate what has all ready been done!

If you are looking for Fresh Mistletoe from Tenbury Wells, The Capital of English Mistletoe, consider:

The English Mistletoe Company


Kissme Mistletoe