Sunday, December 11, 2016

Legend of Mistletoe

Ah, mistletoe. It’s the sprig under which couples kiss at Christmas.


Ironically, mistletoe isn’t a plant but a parasite. It only grows in trees, but is known in more countries than America. It likes to grow on oak, willow, and apple trees, and it’s been around since the times of the ancient Druids who believed mistletoe to be a gift falling from heaven.

Mistletoe was said to have mystical powers of healing, good luck, and warding off evil spirits. It is also believed to have originated in Norse mythology as the sign of love and friendship. They’re the ones who supposedly are the origin for kissing under the mistletoe, but England is also given credit for that tradition. Originally, the custom was to pick off one berry for each kiss and when all the berries were gone, the kissing ended. However, most believe it originated in pre-Christian Europe because mistletoe was thought to have life bestowing qualities and aided in fertility.

This plant/parasite is evident in Norse mythology, but the Romans are said to have also used it in their Saturnalia festival in mid-December. In Scandinavia, the goddess of love Frigga is most closely associated with mistletoe in regards to her son, Baldur, god of the summer sun.

The legend says that Baldur dreamed of his death and told Frigga about it. As a mother, she became greatly alarmed because if he died, not only would she lose a SON, but the earth would be plunged into darkness through loss of the SUN. Frigga went into action and had all the elements of air, fire, water, and earth along with animals and plants vow to never bring harm to Baldur. However, Balder had an enemy unbeknownst to Frigga. The god of evil, Loki knew of one plant Frigga had overlooked. He used that plant, mistletoe, made an arrow with a tip made from mistletoe he had gathered and gave it to the blind god of winter, Hodor. Not knowing what he was doing, he shot an arrow that hit Baldur and killed him. The earth darkened and all mourned Baldur. However, Baldur was miraculously brought back to life.

In her joy, Frigga’s tears fell on the mistletoe plant to create its white berries. Now the plant no longer represented evil and became a symbol of love and peace. Frigga kissed everyone who passed beneath the tree on which it grew. The story ends with a decree that who should ever stand under the humble mistletoe should not receive harm but a kiss as a token of love.

At first, the use of mistletoe for decorations in churches was banned by Christians even though many still used it. It eventually made its way from paganism to Christmas in celebration of renewal and emergence into the “light.” 

From the days of myths and lore to modern times, we find kissing under the mistletoe to still be a custom.

In a less romantic light, we find the meaning and origin of the word. Mistletoe is derived from the Anglo Saxon words ‘Mistel’ which means dung, and ‘tan’ which means stick. So the meaning might be said as ‘poo on a stick.’ Not very romantic is it? Mistletoe is then spread on trees through bird poo. It attaches itself to the host, a tree, and grows on a branch.

It’s berries and leaves were once considered to be very poisonous to humans, but recent research has declared it not to be so. It's still a good idea to be cautious with live mistletoe and the juice from the berries. However, it is a great source of food for many animals and birds. Bees also get pollen from the mistletoe.

Have you ever been kissed under the mistletoe? 
Comment below and be in a drawing for a copy of my Christmas novel: Christmas at Stoney Creek

News reporter Tom Whiteman befriends a homeless man, Joe, and brings him home to Stoney Creek. Tom’s journalistic instincts suggest there’s more to the old man than appearances tell. A carpenter by trade, Joe works at odd jobs around town and makesmany new friends including Faith Delmont, a girl who grew up with Tom. Contradictions in the man’s manners and way of speaking whet Tom’s nose for news and raises even more questions. As he and Faith seek the truth, they learn that God’s love can turn tragedy and loss to triumph and true love comes to those who seek it.  


Martha Rogers is a free-lance writer and multi-published author from Realms Fiction of Charisma Media and Winged Publications. She was named Writer of the Year at the Texas Christian Writers Conference in 2009. She is a member of ACFW and writes the weekly Verse of the Week for the ACFW Loop. ACFW awarded her the Volunteer of the Year in 2014. Her first electronic series from Winged Publications, Love in the Bayou City of Texas, debuted in the spring of 2015.  Martha is a frequent speaker for writing workshops and the Texas Christian Writers Conference. She is a retired teacher and lives in Houston with her husband, Rex. Their favorite pastime is spending time with their eleven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. 


  1. Never have been kissed under a mistletoe. It's never been a tradition to have it as part of our decoration. Maybe I ought to change that, it's never too late, right??!! Thanks for the giveaway!

  2. I have been kissed under the mistletoe. As a teenager it was always a wish to find myself under the mistletoe with a special person and I did BUT the best experience was when my farmer husband came in from the field carrying a sprig behind his back. It truly was a special time!!
    Thanks for sharing and Merry Christmas!

  3. I've never been kissed under mistletoe. I do not remember having it as a decoration while growing up. I haven't heard to many say they are decorating with it this year, either. Thank you for shwaring. Chrsitmas at Stoney Creek sounds like a great book to read. I'm focusing on reading primarily Christmas books this month. Thank you for sharing and the giveaway. God bless. marilynridgway78[at]gmail[dot]com

  4. How interesting! Yes, my husband and I have kissed under the mistletoe. Thanks for sharing this great post and giveaway. Merry Christmas!

    texaggs2000 at gmail dot com

  5. Hahahaha! This is great! I HAVE to tell my family about the "Poo on a stick"! We always hang up mistletoe. I've been kissed under it many times over the years, always by my hubby or grandchildren. Thanks for sharing....and for the giveaway. Have a Merry Christmas!


  6. I have been kissed under the mistletoe, by my husband. :-) Merry Christmas!

  7. "Poo on a stick." huh? LOL Yes, I have been kissed under the mistletoe. Did you know it's Oklahoma's state plant? I have no idea why someone chose it instead of some of the beautiful flowers we have. I hope your family has a very merry Christmas!

    1. Yes, I did know about Oklahoma and mistletoe. I'm writing a novella about mistletoe and roses for Oklahoma in the state flower series.

  8. No, I have never been kissed under the mistletoe. Not sure I have ever seen it used in holiday decor around here.


  9. Kisses are a must under the mistletoe and my hubby and I take advantage every time we see it. I hope you and your family have a very Merry Christmas!

    mauback55 at gmail dot com

  10. Sorry I didn't send any replies yesterday. Yesterday were the final two performances of our choir's Christmas Celebration presentation and so I was not on the internet yesterday since I'm in the production. Thanks for all the comments. The only person I've ever kissed or been kissed by under the mistletoe is my husband.