There is a form of mistletoe killing the spruce, on Monhegan Island in
Maine. Of course the spruce forests are not indigenous to Monhegan, so .
Leslie in Framingham, MA
From: Lawrence A. Parker [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Thursday, December 18, 2003 8:41 AM
To: ArtsEdNet Talk
While mistletoe sounds more like a foot condition than anything that would
inspire romance, you should probably count your blessings that all you're
getting is a kiss. Once upon a time, it was more customary to sacrifice a
bull or ox under the mistletoe.
Mistletoe is an interesting plant. It's a parasite; in fact it's the only
plant that is actually considered a true parasite because it sometimes kills
the hardwood trees it infests. Mistletoe grows slowly in trees, and doesn't
put roots in the ground.
This liberation from the earth made the ancient Druids believe mistletoe was
sacred. It was even considered bad luck to let any mistletoe touch the
ground. The Druids believed mistletoe could provide protection; promote
fertility, love, and health; and exorcise demons. Putting it in a baby's
crib would keep the fairies from whisking away your child. And some people
even believed that wearing it around your neck could make you invisible.
(But maybe only in the way that drinking a lot of mead could make you really
The tradition of kissing under the mistletoe probably got its start with the
Druids as well.
According to one explanation, the Norse god Balder was killed with an arrow
made of mistletoe. The rest of the gods were sad, so they decided to bring
him back to life. The Goddess of Love then dedicated the mistletoe to
Balder--and anyone passing under it must receive a kiss to show tribute to
this symbol of love.
Others point to the Druid tradition of laying down arms and exchanging
greetings under the mistletoe as the origin of the kissing tradition. They
credit the English for taking peace one step further by puckering up, then
plucking a berry from the bunch and discarding it. The kissing ended when
the berries ran out, inspiring people to find hearty bunches.
Lawrence A. Parker
Philosopher and Educational Consultant