Sunday, December 10, 2006

Seasons Greetings to all visitors to our blog, regular or occasional! Gabrielle has been busy with bits of willow, holly, rosemary, bay, ivy, pinecones and other odds and ends to make some decorative wreaths and has also hung up some mistletoe outside the front door. The photo is of our neighbours, Alan and Carole, who, sighting the mistletoe, have been overcome with tradition, emotion or perhaps both!

The name “mistletoe” means “dung-on-a-twig” in Anglo-Saxon and comes from the ancient belief that mistletoe was propagated from bird droppings. We now know it is indeed spread by birds, either by seeds which had passed through their digestive tract or by birds wiping their bills on branches to displace the sticky berry seeds off their bills.

From the earliest times, it has been one of the most magical, mysterious, and sacred plants of European folklore: believed to bestow life and fertility, protect against poisons and an aphrodisiac. The mistletoe of the oak was especially sacred to the ancient Celtic Druids. Mistletoe was long regarded as both a sexual symbol and the “soul” of the oak. It was gathered at both mid-summer and winter solstices, and the custom of using mistletoe to decorate houses at Christmas derives from Druid and other pre-Christian traditions. Old traditions include hanging branches of mistletoe from ceilings to ward off evil spirits or over house and stable doors to prevent the entrance of witches. It was also believed that the oak mistletoe could extinguish fire. In parts of England and Wales farmers would give the Christmas bunch of mistletoe to the first cow that calved in the New Year to bring good luck to the herd.

Kissing under the mistletoe is first found associated with the Greek festival of Saturnalia and later with primitive marriage rites. In Scandinavia, mistletoe was considered a plant of peace, under which enemies could declare a truce or warring spouses kiss and make-up. If you want to do it properly, gents, the man should pluck a berry when he kisses a woman under the mistletoe, and when the last berry is gone, there should be no more kissing … and the mistletoe should then be burned on the twelfth night lest all the boys and girls who have kissed under it never marry!

Thanks to this site for the info.