In Norse folklore, mistletoe is blamed for the death of the beloved god of light, Baldur. His mother, the goddess Frigg, loved him so much, that she demanded a promise of every living thing that they would never harm Baldur. However, mistletoe, who was too young to yet make promises, was not required by the goddess to take this vow.
Many years later, the trickster god, Loki, who was very jealous of Baldur, discovered that mistletoe had never given the promise to not harm Baldur. So Loki (who made a spear from a branch of mistletoe) tricked Baldur’s blind brother, Haldur, into a spear throwing contest. When Haldur hurled the spear, it pierced Baldur in the heart and killed him instantly.
The gods, who were in such great despair over the death of their beloved god of light, banished mistletoe to forever live only at the tops of trees. It was then given to Frigg, both mother to Baldur, and goddess of love, to have charge over mistletoe for what it had done. It then became a symbol of love.
To the druids, who knew it as the golden bough, mistletoe was a symbol of power and protection, and reputed to be a powerful healing tonic (though it is known to be poisonous – so please don’t consume!). It grew on their most sacred of trees, the oak, and was believed to contain the soul of the tree. They would harvest the plant on the first new moon after the winter solstice, and would only cut it with a golden sickle. The branches must be caught, and not touch the ground.
As a protective plant, it was hung over doorways to protect from bad luck, and over cradles to prevent the faery folk from stealing babies (again, it’s poisonous, so not such a good idea now-a-days). It was carried by travelers to ensure a safe journey. As a fertility charm, mistletoe was hung in barns, or around the necks of the animals like an amulet, to ensure conception and healthy pregnancy of farm animals. Women, who hope to conceive, can carry a piece of mistletoe.
In Sweden, mistletoe, which is known as “thunderbroom,” was believed to protect from lightening and storms, and to the Romans, it was used as an amulet to ensure health, happiness and prosperity.
A plant of love, prosperity and protection, mistletoe is not just for the holidays anymore!
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